Don’t ask people to correct your French
I know this might sound like a strange piece of advice, but I’ve been there … You have some French acquaintances, and you think it would be great to practice your French with them.
But then you add “Oh! and please, correct my mistakes!”
Why? Because this might destroy any self-confidence you have in French. Especially if you are a beginner or intermediate student.
Learning a language is tough. It takes time. You cannot be perfect right away and it’s likely that you’ll make mistakes. Many mistakes. You want the basic ones to be corrected, but it’s a rare skill to be able to know which mistakes are bad and which ones can fly, according to the student’s level and ability.
Most people are very bad at making this distinction. They can end up being over-zealous, demanding teachers, correcting your every word, spending hours on the pronunciation of one single sound…
Furthermore, your acquaintances are your friends. You want to relax with them, not be in ‘classroom mode’.
It might put you both in an uncomfortable place: you being constantly reminded of your mistakes, and them being embarrassed because they will not always be able to explain why it is a mistake. They are not teachers after all, but may feel that they ‘should’ know.
I have witnessed people guessing (usually incorrectly), or inventing reasons when they don’t know why it should be said like that. This is useless and frustrating for both parties: you may learn wrong things, or end up feeling there are absolutely no rules behind the French language (and actually, there are many).
Believe me, if you want to practice your French with friends, OK, it can be a great idea, and a good way to progress, but choose wisely who you decide to practice with. It’s not for everybody. Your friends don’t need the hassle of correcting you, nor do you need the constant embarrassment.
If you want someone to correct you in a constructive way, take a lesson!
1. Parlez-vous français, via Beauty* in Everything
2. French class, Sarah Blood
3. Man, via French Today
I wish this were my problem! Instead of “choosing” whether or not French friends correct me, they are often quick (sometimes too quick) to jump on my every mistake. They tell me it’s to help me, and though I appreciate it to an extent, you are definitely right in that it kills your confidence!
Don’t worry – if I had the choice on whether or not my French friends would correct me, my choice would be “non, merci!” (That’s a right I feel is reserved for certified teachers, thank you very much!)
Great post, Camille. I was also going to say that the French certainly aren’t shy about correcting anyone. On the bright side, they also correct *each other* a lot, so nobody should feel badly about being corrected by a French person!
Another nice thing is that they do seem very appreciative of anyone who *tries* to speak French, especially in Paris in tourist areas. People will be glad to chat with non-native speakers, even if their French is rudimentary, and it’s a great way to have fun while traveling. They are also rather generous with the compliments when you do manage to speak well 🙂
Ooh, do I know how bad this can be! I studied French at a school in Antibes, came home all confident and was promptly deflated by my French-Canadian husband. I believe it caused the worst fight we’ve ever had. Suffice it to say I don’t speak French around him or my in-laws. Such a shame really.
I live in an area of the US with many Hispanics and am always encouraging their language skills. I know how it feels to lose confidence in speaking.