Fun Ideas for Improving Your French

French is a beautiful language with a rich literary history. And 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.

Read all about it in My French Life!

Understanding French Culture

France has a distinctive culture, reflecting its long and proud history as a great nation. And it has its quirks–for example, the French kiss each other when other people might hug or shake hands. Their driving habits are different than those other countries. And arguing is one of the country’s national sports.

Want some insights into French culture? Then check out this article in My French Life!

Resources to Help You Read in French

One of the best ways to improve your French is by reading. Unlike spoken French, which can sometimes be too fast to understand, reading allows you to go at your own pace. It adds to your vocabulary and can help your pronunciation if you read out loud. No matter what your level of French, reading is a fun and effective way to get better at this beautiful language.

But where to start? I’ve put together a list of excellent resources for readers at any level, from debutantes to advanced. It’s never too late to get started!

Check out my article at My French Life to find some fun things to read!

The Gift of Gab

In a recent issue of Living France Magazine, Lucy Shrimpton examines the science behind the benefits of learning a second language, which is especially helpful as we get older. Then she shares some practical advice on how to learn French, including interviews with some *ahem* mature French learners. I was one of the interviewees and I thought you might enjoy the various perspectives of those interviewed.

You can read all about it in Living France!

Reading in French–How to Get Started

French is a beautiful language, but like any foreign tongue, it can be intimidating. I remember the first time I was in Paris and a local spoke to me. I froze because I had no idea what she’d just said! It was so embarrassing. Let me tell you how reading in French can help you, as it helped me, no matter what your level.

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. I subscribe to a French newspaper and watch French news. 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—my first one is very popular with 12-year-olds!

Now I’ve enjoyed a number of French novels, including some of the classics.

I offer my tips for getting started with French reading in My French Life.

Try a Graphic Novel for Easy French Reading

Let’s say you know some French and would like to try reading something more challenging that a magazine article. Here’s an idea for you: a bande dessinée, or BD, what we call a graphic novel in English.

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 or Maus (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), but those are exceptions.

Not so in France.

No, in France the BD is a serious and respected art form, with an annual festival in Angoulême that attracts hundreds of thousands. And while comic-book-style BDs are popular, those dealing with adult themes are also widely read. And they are a great way for a French learner to read in French. The text is limited and the illustrations help you understand the story.

I’ve written an article on the advantages of BDs for French learners, along with an explanation of the different kinds that are available (history, humor, contemporary social issues, and more.) You can read all about it at My French Life!

Improve Your French With a Language Partner

People sometimes ask me how I learned to speak French and I always tell them that the key was when I discovered language partners.

There are plenty of ways to learn French, such as traditional classroom courses, apps like Duolingo, and listening to podcasts. But while these can teach us the basics, what we really want to do is communicate. We want to be able to make our way around Paris and Provence on our own. We want to connect with the locals and learn about life in la belle France. And for that we have to speak, which can be scary. Which is where a language partner comes in.

A French language partner is someone who speaks French and is trying to learn English. You get together regularly and speak one language and then the other, encouraging and correcting one another.

Unlike a classroom where the opportunity to speak is limited, a meeting with a language partner gives you plenty of time to talk, listen, and ask questions. It allows you to learn not only formal French but also real-life French, with all of the slang and nuance that French people use in everyday conversation. And because you’re working with someone who is also learning a new language, you skip the usual embarrassment because you are both making the same kinds of mistakes. It’s relaxed and informal and downright fun.

Want to know more? Check out my article in Frenchly!

New Rules for Sex in France

Sex permeates French society, including the language. All nouns have genders—either masculine or feminine—though it’s sometimes unclear why a word is one or the other. Chemise (shirt) is feminine, for example, while chemisier (blouse) is masculine. Go figure.

And just when you think you’ve figured out the gender rules, somebody goes and changes them. That somebody is the Académie française, the arbiter of all things having to do with the French language. And the new rules they just announced are such a big change that some consider them “true barbarism.”

Only in France!

Read all about it at Frenchly!

Never Argue With Your French Teacher

My wife Val and I live in California but spend several months every year in St-Rémy-de-Provence. When we first started doing this some years ago, Val spoke basic French and I spoke next to none. So we each took classes in the US to improve our French and then, after a few years of this, started private lessons in Provence with a professor named Geneviève.

I was nervous about starting a weekly class of just Val and me. On the one hand, it would really help me improve because I’d get lots of attention from the professor. On the other hand, Val’s been studying the language a lot longer than me and all that attention would make abundantly clear how much better she is. But part of learning any language is accepting occasional (or in my case, frequent) humiliation so I’ve resigned myself to it.

The first time we had a class with Geneviève, she pulled a book off a shelf and asked us to each read a few paragraphs to test our pronunciation.

We failed.

I knew we were in trouble as soon as Val started. As she spoke, Geneviève began writing notes on a pad of paper. After a few sentences, she started grinning. Then she started giggling. When it was my turn she put down her pen and started laughing out loud and wiping her eyes.

You can read the rest of the story at Perfectly Provence. It is adapted from my new book Are We French Yet?

Top 100 French Blogs and Websites for Francophiles

I’m thrilled to announce that this website, Life in Provence, has been named by Feedspot as one of the Top 100 French Blogs and Websites for Francophiles. Many thanks to all of you who read and share my stories.

The Top 100 list includes plenty of terrific sites and I encourage you to check it out. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Perfectly Provence. If you want news and stories about Provence, don’t miss this one! Food, travel, sights to see, recipes, current happenings–it’s all here.

My French Life – Ma Vie Francaise. Lots of interesting stories about French culture, lifestyle, language, history and more. Check out the French book club, an online group that reads and discusses a different French book each month.

Frenchly. News, art, style, culture and all things French, including plenty of funny stories.

The Good Life France. This is one of the best websites out there for things to do and see in France. Plus it’s entertaining as Janine Marsh tells us about life in her little corner of France, along with her dozens of ducks, geese, chickens, cats and dogs.

The Provence Post. Another great site about Provence, with lots of information for those planning to travel to this beautiful area.

France Travel Tips. Janice Chung has been to France dozens of times, tracking down fascinating but lesser-known places to see. Here she shares her tips with us.

Oui in France. Diane moved to France with her French husband and shares stories of life as an American expat in France.

French Word-A-Day. Follow the adventures of an American expat in France and learn French while you do!

The French Village Diaries. Entertaining stories about life in a small French town, plus frequent reviews of books set in France.

A French Collection. Funny stories of a family that somehow splits its time between France and Australia.