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7 tips for improving your French that don’t involve language books

PUBLISHED: 16:13 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:20 16 October 2018

Dive into the French language with films, music, radio shows and even instructions in French Pic: RossHelen - iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dive into the French language with films, music, radio shows and even instructions in French Pic: RossHelen - iStock / Getty Images Plus


Want to take your French language skills further? These tips will have you chatting and joking away with the locals in no time!

So you want to learn how to speak French like a local. Maybe you’ve just bought a house and are planning to move to France or perhaps you’re already there but struggling a little. Language-learning books and courses are great and very useful for having a good base. But are you still not always understood by the boulanger or your neighbour?

Pas de panique, here are some useful ways to get the lingo while in France from an expat teaching English as a second language in Paris. And remember, making mistakes is how you learn so don’t be embarassed to try anyway!

1. Dive into the language soup

Listen to the radio, watch the television, listen to announcements on public transport, and read everything in sight.

2. Start lowbrow

Supermarket leaflets, station adverts, books for toddlers and comic strip (bande dessinée) books are great places to start, as they also have visual prompts. Also magazines often contain interviews which are essentially reported speech, so you are picking up speech patterns.


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Watch films in English but with French subtitles Pic: FrancescoCorticchia - Getty Images/iStockphotoWatch films in English but with French subtitles Pic: FrancescoCorticchia - Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. Watch shopping channels, news and weather forecasts

Shopping shows use repetition to hammer the point home, so are great for picking up language. Plus, as they are demonstrating the product, you have visual prompts.The news is about specific subjects that you may already be aware of the details of, and the weather forecast again uses a lot of repetitive language and has strong visual aids.

4. Listen to French music

Chérie FM radio is great as it tends to play old-school French songs. Although French radio does play some popular English songs, the amount of airplay given to foreign music is restricted by law.

5. Watch films in English, with subtitles in French

This is the opposite of what most people do, but in fact the brain takes in information better when it is in a passive state. Listening in your native tongue takes little effort and your brain is able to read the subtitles and make the links between what it sees and hears.


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Try following a recipe in French Pic: DragonImages - Getty Images/iStockphotoTry following a recipe in French Pic: DragonImages - Getty Images/iStockphoto

6. Read aloud

This engages another part of the brain and facilitates learning. I actually learnt a lot about pronunciation walking through the beautiful cemeteries in Paris and reading the names on the tombs out loud, with my husband correcting me.

7. Try to follow instructions

I began with very simple recipes then subscribed to a monthly cookery magazine. You can do 
the same with gardening, photography or DIY projects.

What are your tips to learn French? Let us know!

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