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Chapter 4  French Speakers

You cannot learn French effectively through just one tactic. Rather, you need to use a combination of tactics. One important tactic is to have access to somebody who already speaks French fluently, so you can practise your conversation skills and they can correct your pronunciation and grammar. In this chapter I discuss some of the options available for gaining access to people already fluent in French.

4.1  French Tutors

If you decide to hire a French tutor, then it is important to choose one who is on the same wavelength as you. Or at least one who is willing to change her or his teaching style to match your preferred learning style, whether that be conversation-oriented or reading- and writing-oriented. If you are not sure yet what is your preferred learning style, then, through experimentation, you will discover what suits you best.

One way to find a local tutor is to check advertisements in the French Department of your local school or university, at your local library, in local newspapers, and so on. Some tutors advertise on website such as www.tutors4me.co.uk.

If you have an irregular schedule or if you cannot find a tutor in your neighbourhood, then you could visit www.myngle.com to find an Internet-based tutor with whom you communicate using Skype (a telephone service that runs over computer networks).

4.2  French Clubs

A French club is a gathering where its members meet regularly in a relaxed environment to practise speaking French and learn more about French culture. If there are no French clubs in your neighbourhood, then you could form one with your friends and neighbours. Your club members can meet up anywhere—in your home, in cafés, parks or museums—and you can organise trips together. You can invite people who speak French fluently to help you with pronunciation, and answer any questions you might have.

In such a club you can exchange language learning ideas and French learning materials. When learning with friends, you help each other. For example, if you are good in pronunciation, but bad in spelling, while someone else is the other way round, then you can barter tutoring in your respective skills.

Here are just a few ideas for your French club.

Also, you can play French board games. Regardless of your age, playing jeux de société (board games) provides a way to learn while having fun. A lot of vocabulary is repeated during a game, thus giving you an opportunity to learn those words and phrases very well. In addition, you normally play such games with at least one other person, so it improves your conversation skills.

Many board games that are popular in England are also popular in France, and some of these have similar or even identical names in both countries. Examples include Scrabble, Monopoly and Pictionary. Chapter 2 provides suggestions on where you can buy these, and other, French-language games.

4.3  Host a French Person

You could host a French native speaker in your home for a few months or a year. This will enable you to practise and improve your French daily, and you will also learn about French culture. Check with your city council, local library, local school or university if there are any foreign exchange schemes in your town. Alternatively do a Google search to find out other possibilities, such as www.homestaybooking.com.

4.4  Study or Work in France

You can boost your oral French skills by studying or working in a French-speaking country. You can find language courses and volunteer work abroad through websites such as www.cactuslanguage.com. Alternatively, perhaps your employer takes part in a work exchange scheme. If you are a university student, you can go on a student exchange organised, for example, by the British Council (www.britishcouncil.org/erasmus).

If you decide to work or study in France, then make the most of the opportunity. While there, take the effort to hang around, or share a house, with native speakers instead of taking the easy option of speaking English with other English people. If you think you might miss speaking English, you can offer private tuition in English and make some extra money too. Alternatively, you can barter English lessons for French ones. For advertisements on this topic, see local newspapers and shops, local libraries and schools, or just ask around.

The best thing about being in France is that you are surrounded totally by French sounds. By talking to local French natives, you will pick up a regional accent along with the slang terms you are dying to know but cannot get from a language course. Both the regional accent and the slang will help you sound more fluent.

Above all, relax and take in as much as you can without being obsessed with your linguistic progress. Here are a few language acquisition ideas for you to take on board while abroad.

What can be more carefree and yet educational? Window-shopping, of course. You will certainly never forget the conversation you might have with a shop assistant when you want something in a particular size and colour. Never mind if you do not get the item you want; it is still a good opportunity to improve your vocabulary. Did you know that if you buy a gift in France, you can have it gift wrapped for free?

By talking to French natives, you learn more about their culture and traditions. Following the saying When in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in France, do as the French do. Try to blend in with the locals, instead of standing out. Here are a few cultural ideas for you to consider while abroad.


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