When contemplating learning French in France a big concern for people is whether or not they will be able to cope. People experience lots of different anxieties about taking an immersion course and these are perfectly normal. They do however chip away a bit at your enjoyment of the experience and it can be a little trickier if you don’t know what to expect. So here I would like to discuss some of the common pitfalls experienced by French students to get you ahead of the game. If you do it right French is not only well within your reach but an exciting, fun process.
Often the first thing in people’s minds when wondering how hard French will be is the pronunciation. The vast array of unusual sounds and the combinations between them can sometimes feel like a constant flow of beautiful but totally incomprehensible music. French uses quite a lot of vowel sounds and unfortunately that includes some of the nasally sounds that the English speaking mouth is not used to making. That combined with constant contractions and the flow of one word to another does make the pronunciation tough for a bit.
The main antidote for this is just practice. This can really fell a lot of peoples’ attempt to learn French because it can sometimes feel like you are not making any progress which fuels the ‘I’m never going to be able to do this’ demon on your shoulder. If you repeat your listening over and over again trust me eventually you will see improvements, they may not be as quick as others but inevitably anyone who sticks at it picks it up. No exceptions. So the key skill here is resilience and discipline. You don’t need to be Bruce Lee but just committing a bit of time DAILY to practising your listening will lead to improvement. So being vigilant in committing just a bit of time and resilient to the pessimistic thoughts that will naturally flow your way when you make a few mistakes are two of the biggest strengths that will lead to successfully learning the French language.
Technical Tips To Help You On Your French Immersion Course
Verb conjugations is another thing that can cause alarm. Relative to English there are a lot of verb conjugations and the vast array of tables can seem a little daunting. A big point to remember though is that spoken French is a lot more similar than written French and three or four different conjugations can have the same pronunciation so that practically halves what you have to remember. You may be talking correctly a lot quicker than you think and if you are writing you normally have more time for some contemplation or a quick google. After a while you will be able to predict virtually all the new conjugations of a new verb automatically. A little tip here is to use technology to help you out. Typing up messages on your phone or laptop (if you change the language, which you should!) will mean you can use the predictive text function and when you write the article (je, tu, il, elle….) the device will choose the most likely form and there you have it. This is very handy for learning, it saves you time and it makes you look good too!
One final thing that is often frustrating for people taking French immersion courses is the gendering of words. If you come from an English speaking country this is likely to be new for you but if you are from another European country it will be completely natural. For those of us in the former category it’s important to remember that this is not going to be a problem in terms of making yourself understood. Getting the wrong gender when you say a word will never stop you being understood, an unusual pronunciation is more probable to cause difficulty but still ‘c’est pas grave’. The gendering of nouns for me is one of the things I love as I feel like it personifies things and adds character, so enjoy it and don’t worry!
Keeping these things in mind will give you a definite edge on your French course for adults. Lots of students feel overwhelmed at times but I have never met someone who stuck at it and didn’t eventually get there. After all you are learning French in France so the tactic is patience and perseverance.