Fun Ideas for Improving Your French
French is a beautiful language with a rich literary history. But unless you are one of those rare people with a gift for languages, it’s challenging to learn.
But in spite of the effort involved, it is sooooo worth it. Even if your French isn’t perfect, French people really appreciate it when you make the effort to speak their language. They’ll chat with you, ask you questions about yourself and where you come from, and offer their opinions on anything and everything. Such fun! Being able to break through the language barrier opens up a new world with new perspectives.
There are plenty of ways to learn French, from classroom work to apps like Duolingo, and Rosetta Stone. Those are great for giving you the basics, but what if you want to progress to a real conversational level, or read something beyond a few simple paragraphs? Let me share with you some helpful ideas on how to accelerate your progress and have fun doing so. And you might enjoy the intriguing question I ask at the end.
French Language Partners
Let’s say you’ve covered the basics of French grammar and have built up a small vocabulary, but you have trouble actually using it. What you really need to do now is talk, and talk a lot. There’s nothing like talking to a native French speaker, so why not find yourself a French language partner?
It’s easy, right?
No. Sure, you may find people who will engage with you for a few minutes, but you need hours and hours of conversation. Why would a French person want to talk to you so much, you who is still struggling with their language? The average français would not be thrilled, but there are some who would be delighted.
Who? Those who want to learn English. Not only do they have exactly the same problem as you (in reverse!), but just like you, they also need someone who will be patient with them and correct their mistakes.
I’ve used a number of language partners on my way to learning French. I’ve figured out how to find them, what makes a good partner, and how best to work with one. Let me share what I’ve discovered so far…
Reading in French—You Can Do It!
I didn’t begin studying French in earnest until I was in my late 40s. I improved little by little and today, a dozen years later, I can speak the language comfortably. And one of the things that has helped me is reading.
When I first started, I could only read the short handouts I got from my French teacher. Eventually, I tried newspapers and magazines, and finally made it to simple books. Now I’ve enjoyed a number of French novels, including some of the classics.
Spoken French can sometimes be too fast to understand, but reading allows you to go at your own pace. Reading helps you improve your vocabulary as you learn the new words you come across. And it can help your pronunciation if you read out loud.
Reading can be useful whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Let me tell you how to get started and where you can find great resources no matter what your level.
Try a Graphic Novel for Easy French Reading
When native English-speakers think of illustrated stories, comic books like Batman and Spiderman usually come to mind. These are considered ‘kid stuff’ rather than something an adult would read. Sure, there is the occasional graphic novel that reaches an adult readership, like Persepolis, but those are exceptions.
Not so in France.
No, in France the bande dessinée (BD) is a serious and respected art form.
And while comic-book-style BDs are popular, those dealing with adult themes are also widely read. And they are a great way to read in French because the text is limited and the illustrations help you understand the story.
BDs aren’t limited to any one kind of subject matter. Instead, they cover a lot of ground, including history, autobiography, classic French novels, contemporary social issues, humor, and more. Let me introduce you to a few—you might find that they are a great way to ease yourself into French reading.
A Fun Question
You’ve probably read some books by French authors, whether in English or in French. So, let’s ask the question: What is the greatest French book of all time?
Can the question even be answered? I think not—we all have different tastes in literature, which makes it impossible to pick one book as ‘the best’. But that hasn’t kept people from trying!
I was curious so I did some research on the subject, reviewing various lists and survey data. What I found out might surprise you!
Do you have suggestions for fun ways to improve your French? Let us know below in comments.