When I first arrived in France the only French I could muster was ‘Bonjour’, ‘Merci’, ‘S’il vous plait’ and ‘Au revoir’.
If anyone wanted to pursue a conversation I would get the impulse to run in the opposite direction and hurriedly say “Je ne parle pas français”. TV, signs, menus and conversations were all foreign to me.
Thankfully, I had my French partner to help me out and translate when necessary. Despite his help, it was very frustrating trying to follow conversations or do things on my own.
So, how did I overcome these challenges? It was time to find the best way to learn French in France…
Going to a language school in Toulouse helped a lot. At first it was very tiring, concentrating constantly to understand what was being said, but as time passed it got better and better. To be able to understand and be understood was very reassuring. However, when I was with a large number of French people I still found it hard to follow and express myself.
I remember the first time I ordered a sandwich by myself. I had practiced 100 times in my head what to say. It went well until the lady asked me if I wanted a boisson; a question I had not expected. It put me off balance, but luckily the lady spoke Spanish too, and I was able to place my order. Though I couldn’t do it all in French, I felt accomplished to be able to try.
Meeting international students actually helped a lot. We all wanted to practice and improve, so we would get together to speak French. We were all at the same level, which made it easier for everyone to follow conversations and express ourselves without feeling pressured if we made mistakes. As a result, it gave us all the confidence to do it in our daily lives.
Reading books in French, listening to the radio and adding French subtitles to the TV helped me to learn new words and expressions, to reinforce my knowledge on phrase structure and to improve my written and listening comprehension.
More and more I feel confident to speak in French. I can take part in conversations, I’ve done interviews, and I’m able to understand what goes on around me.
Still, my French skills are far from perfect. I’m still scared of phone calls and there are words I can’t pronounce. Yet making the French language part of my daily life made it less foreign and has made my stay in France a more enjoyable experience.
What have been the biggest challenges or best moments when you were learning French? Let us know in the comments section below.
1. Je parle français by Gipperntarp.
2. Do you speak english by Jeanne Aelia via Blogspot.
3. Bonjour via French for Beginners.