I recently wrote a blog post about how I’ve started to feel much less like a beginner and a lot more proficient in my use of the French language and I want to share some of the simple reasons for this. This is part 2 of what I think will be a much longer series!
One of the most common problems I faced as a beginner was that I was able to learn phrases perfectly, but as soon as someone spoke back to me, I would panic. Without even really listening, I would say, “je ne comprends pas” or just revert back to English. Obviously this was never going to help me to develop my language skills and made it so obvious that I was just beginning my language learning journey.
It’s taken a lot of work on my part, but I am now able to listen and understand most of the things that French people say to me. One reason for this is that I actually started to listen. At first it can be difficult to hear every word that is said, especially if the person speaking to you is a native speaker and speaks relatively quickly. To start with, pick out keywords and use the context of the conversation to fill in the blanks.
However, most people want to progress beyond this point and to really understand what is being said to them. In order to do this, I have spent hours watching YouTube videos with both French and English subtitles, often watching the same video repeatedly until I can understand it without the subtitles. Repetition is key in language learning and this is one of my top tips for anyone wanting to improve their French listening skills.
Watching films is a great option, but can be a little overwhelming at first and it may be better to transition to watching films by watching shorter videos first. However, if you do want to start watching films straight away, I would recommend starting with a film you already know so you focus on the language and not the story. My preferred films to watch in French so far are the early Harry Potter films!
Watching French You Tube videos, with subtitles, is super convenient and you can usually watch one or two during your lunch break. I have found this Ted Talk on language learning to be particularly motivating and especially love Sébastien Roger de Nuñez’s point that you only need to know one word of a language in order to start speaking it. Learn French with Alexa also has some great interviews, which in true Alexa style are as amusing as they are informative.
Reading and listening to French at the same time has been the most effective way to help me really understand the French language. As in all aspects of life, listening skills are just as important as speaking skills and improving them is another step towards full fluency.
Let me know how you’re getting on with learning French. What are you tips for learning to understand spoken French?