Hello! I'm about to be a freshman in college and I'm minoring in French. A little background about my experience with French in high school - I actually took Spanish 8th grade and 9th grade, but switched to French after freshman year because of an issue with the teacher. I skipped the 8th grade year and took French in 10th grade with the freshmen, and ended up skipping the 10th grade year because of good progress. I took the state exam after my 11th grade year and received a 98 and scored the
highest in my grade. I took college French last year, my senior year, and got an A both semesters. I am really good at writing, but I am very nervous about minoring. I plan to study in Paris sophomore year and I am not great at speaking and understanding. I’m an overachiever and will work really hard to learn better, but I’m scared that I won’t be fluent enough. Do you have any tips for reaching fluency within a year or so? I really want to be a great speaker when I go. Thank you! :)
Sadly, the only tip I have is to practise! You should take it step by step. First, try to focus on understanding without stressing about speaking.
The best thing for that are French movies, watch them with French subtitles so you can link the sound to the word. It’s very efficient because the way actors speak is much more natural than documentaries or training videos. It makes you confront yourself to idioms, accents, which are the most difficult things I think. It’s a good way to improve your skills because this is something you can do very often, like three or four times a week. It’s actually how I started to become fluent in English. I had a little notebook in which I was writing the things I didn’t understand while watching the movie, and after I went online to check their meanings. Then I rewatched the movie and since I had worked on it, everything seemed much clearer.
Read out loud. It may sound crazy but reading out loud improves your speaking skills. It makes you feeling confident about your skills because at home, nobody will judge your mistakes or look at you. You can repeat the same words you’re having trouble with over and over again, until you personally think you’re doing great. It’s very efficient regarding pronunciation.
You can find online short articles about different themes (very good to learn new words in contexts) and read it five to ten times in a row. It’s good to choose very short articles, this way you’ll be able to repeat it a good bunch of times before feeling bored or tired. The key point is the repetition! The more you repeat the same words, the more you’ll feel comfortable with and the more you’ll know how to say them in front of a French speaker.
Also, I don’t recommend poetry for that kind of exercise because the punctuation is not natural, neither the structure of the sentences.
Do it very often. I think it’s necessary to do a “French session” at least every two days, for one or two hours. Give priority to shortbut frequent sessions than one very long once a week.
If you want to take it a step further, you can find a penpal to speak French with on skype or on the phone. You can also try to find “polyglots parties” in your cities. It would provide you a place to confront yourself with natural speech.
However, I know this can be hard to find. I’m thinking about doing group speaking sessions on the blog but it requires a lot of organization and preparation on my part so for the moment, I’m just wondering about it..
Fyi, you can find recommendations for newspapers, movies and music under the “Recs” tag on the blog (on the right side)