I have a particular interest in politics and international affairs and I have found a few podcasts that I have been using a lot since I began learning French in Montpellier at the EasyFrench Language School. The radio stations FranceCulture and Géopolitique (FranceInter) release daily emissions in areas that I find fascinating and it has helped me stay abreast of the prominent events and debates occurring all over the world. Having found something like this I was eager to absorb as much as possible and I was listening to it almost continuously; walking to and from school, working in my bedroom, cleaning, running……..almost continuously.
After a while I started to get a feel for the type of language they were using and although some of the vocabulary still went over my head I was starting to really understand the grammar and structure of the dialogue. Also, I’m very into documentaries so I had been watching lots of French productions and again the language seemed quite accessible. As the language used in both of these types of media is quite complicated and intellectual I figured that if I am getting good at understanding this the more casual language used in day-to-day conversations would be easy. Unfortunately, my unwarranted confidence was revealed in a couple of ways.
I have been working in a bar since I came to learn French in Montpellier and it has been great for my language immersion. After starting to feel like I was really getting to grips with the media I have described above I was confused because I was still really struggling to follow the conversations my French colleagues were having with each other. Also, I tried watching a few French movies and there was this completely different form of speech that I hadn’t seen much in the realm of documentaries or topical podcasts.
Why is Variance Important For Learning French?
I realised that there were several things involved here. Although the language used in informative media can be rather complex it is also very formal and structured. It is also normally spoken by professional broadcasters as well who are trained in spoken delivery and use acute pronunciation, emphasis and clarity. The dialogues might involve multiple people but there is definitely a tendency of one person speaking for a significant length of time and then being responded to. If you contrast this with the more relaxed approach to speech that is normal in daily conversations and the back-and-forth nature of dialogue in dramatic series you can start to see the pitfall I was falling into.
I was only acclimatising myself to one form of speech; a nice, flowing, well-spoken monologue and I was foolishly thinking this would prepare me to understand all forms of dialogue just as well.
Endowed with this revelation I has since changed my tactics and I have dramatically enhanced my progress on my French language stay. I have begun to listen and watch different types of media that I think will give me a different side of spoken French. This way I can build a more rounded repertoire of understanding and be more agile in my oral comprehension.
I now seek out podcasts or radio stations that might be aimed at different target audiences particularly the youth. This poses a big challenge as the language is completely different and the amount of slang used is high, they also speak very energetically and with the goal of entertaining so rather than taking everything literally like with a documentary you are on the lookout for double meanings and turns of phrase. It is completely different.
I have also found some television shows as well that again provide casual language spoken very quickly and with that machine gun exchange between groups of people and it really keeps you on your toes. I still consume a fair bit of media like I did before because this is what interests me the most and I want to keep myself motivated. Often in an attempt to keep myself disciplined I use it as a bargaining chip, as the more casual forms of speech are more difficult for me I reward myself after a good stint of listening to it with some of my old favourite podcasts.
This combination has worked really well at rounding my French immersion experience and I can see the benefits in my lessons at the EasyFrench Immersion School. Focusing on one without the other will leave you with blind spots and when people veer away you’re your comfort area you will be left in the dark. Give it a go and compound you French learning here in France.