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5 bizarre (but very effective) methods for learning French

MyFrenchLife™ - learning french

Most of us remember learning French at school. There was always a big emphasis on learning the grammar by heart, without any interesting activities to complement it.  

But perhaps the most valuable lesson is the one learnt outside the classroom: that learning French is anything but boring, and should never be a chore.

With this in mind, we’ve collected five of the most unusual – and therefore decidedly not dull – methods of learning French.

1. Watch a soap opera

MyfrenchLife™ - learning French - watch soap operasAlthough this does not feel like work, there may be no better way to pick up a language than to get yourself addicted to it – in the form of a soap opera.

Not only will you quickly absorb the day-to-day vernacular, watching a soap will also drive you to learn quicker, if only to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the show’s nuances…

And as Maria Rainier from Omniglot points out, watching someone speak a language is infinitely more useful than hearing someone speaking a language. It enables you to pick up body language and facial expression, allowing you to infer meaning more effectively.

2. Change your phone settings

This may seem far too simple, but changing the working language of your phone into French has been proven an excellent way to intensify your learning experience.

It forces you to learn a great deal of new vocab – if you don’t, you won’t be able to operate your phone (unthinkable in this digital age!).

And although the vocabulary you might encounter on your phone may seem a bit too niche to be helpful, you’ll be surprised at the amount of words you’ll find indispensable.

Luke Spartacus also suggests using the notes tool on your phone to jot down any phrases you hear out and about – then if your phone is in French mode, the autocorrect should help you get the spelling right!

MyFrenchLife™ - learning French - update your phone

3. Try not to translate

Although it might feel the most logical, constantly translating to and from English can be counter-productive while learning French – it can massively slow matters down.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis suggests instead of doing this, you learn by associating vocabulary to images instead of their translations, theoretically allowing your brain to make associations quicker, and stop you from freezing up.

For example, instead of learning ‘j’ai faim’ as the translation of ‘I’m hungry’, instead imagine being hungry (this should also stop you making the all too common ‘je suis faim’ error).

MyFrenchLife™ - learning French - read poetry

4. Practice some poetry

We love this method of learning French as it reminds us why we love French in the first place. Beautiful and lyrical, the French language really should be enjoyed out loud, and reciting or listening to poetry is the ideal solution.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis argues the benefits – that it’s catchy and therefore more fun, and you can learn the language while simultaneously immersing yourself in the culture.

It may be a far cry from learning grammar rules, but as MyFrenchLife™ correspondant Sarah Taylor found out, it’s a lot more enjoyable, and therefore an effective method nonetheless.

5. Play on your iPad

This, again, may not feel much like working, but there are a multitude of apps designed to help you learn French.

Whether you’re learning French alongside your children and need to find a way to engage them, or even just looking for a way to keep up your learning during down-time, these can be an excellent way to casually absorb the language.

Have we missed any unconventional ways to learn a new language? Add your suggestions in the comment box below.

Image Credits:
1. Learning by Colleedregress360, via Flickr. 
2. French TV crew filming, by David McSpadden via Flickr. 
3. & 4. Unsplash.com.


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1 Comment




  1. Carmen Alger
    3 years ago

    These are helpful tips, thanks! I watch the french news24. It’s easy to follow as one is already familiar with what’s going on in english 🙂