Alright, guys, it’s ya gurl Elena and I’m back and ready for another post on linguistics and languages.
French is my strongest language. I’ve spoken it since I was six, worked in Paris, and studied in Nice twice. French is the easiest one for me to practice because it doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Mostly it’s just me listening to podcasts, studying advanced vocabulary, and binge watching Les Revenants.
If you’re like me, and are wanting to refresh your French language skills, learn new vocabulary, and just improve it all together, check out this list below for my French study tools! But if you’re new to a language, a lot of these work too! I’m a firm believer that you can learn a language at home.
Since I live in Southern California, I’m always in my car, because we have little to no public transportation. Anytime that I want to go anywhere, you know I gotta hop in my VW Jetta (I love you Evie.) Although I do love listening to show tunes, K-pop, and Angèle they get old after a while. That’s when I turn to podcasts. In English, my favorite are My Favorite Murder, Stuff You Should Know, and Armchair Expert. If you haven’t listened to them, you should give them a try.
One of the easiest ways to study French is to just work on your listening comprehension. Whether you’re listening to French music, news stations, or podcasts, you’ll be learning something. Here are a few that I recommend:
- France 24
- Voyage, Mode d’Emploi (Budget travelers, come hither!)
- Affaires Étrangères
- Les Femmes, Toutes Une Histoire (Feminists, come hither!)
French (Or French-Speaking YouTubers)
I really relate to my favorite YouTubers, Damon and Jo. We have three (probably more) languages in common, love solo/budget travel, are hard-core caffeine addicts, and we’ve even had the same host family in Sorrento at one point. I came across their channel a few years back when I found a video on how to sound cooler in French.
Upon further inspection of their channel, I realized they posted a lot of videos in languages besides English, like French, Portuguese, Italian, and German. AND they had a ton of travel videos. So, yeah… I love them.
They’ve inspired me to travel to cities (like Rome) and study languages (like Italian) that I never thought I would. But watching their videos in French has helped me speak at a more casual and native level, which is very important when speaking a language. It’s the French that you learn by actually living in a French-speaking country and not the kind you learn in a high school French class in California. I repeat: This is very important!
I’m a die-hard book nerd. Sci-Fi, fantasy, historical fiction, you name it, I’ll read it. I just recently read Handmaid’s Tale (wow) and Kafka On The Shore (double wow) and I will be damned if I don’t read at least one book in French a month.
I never read anything too heavy, like Crime And Punishment, in French. That would make my brain explode out of sheer boredom and confusion. But I will read adorable children’s books like La Cabane Magique, or as the English-speakers call it, The Magic Treehouse. If you’ve ever read the books, you know that they’re not too complex, fairly short, and teach you a bit about history. Reading these books in French will be a cinch and you’ll feel very accomplishment closing the book.
Besides that, I use websites like Le Monde and France Culture for current events and history, The French Experiment for classic children’s stories (which you can also listen to) and Talk In French for random articles on subjects like texting. They can be really entertaining!
Language Learning Websites and Apps
I spend so much time on my computer that my vision is starting to go out. Not so much a brag, as a sad fact. (Side note: you can use blue light glasses to shield your beautiful, beautiful eyes.) My point is that you can use websites like Duolingo, FluentU, Memrise, and BUSUU to do online exercises and courses. If you like a more structured learning regime, you’ll probably like these. You can also download a lot of these as apps on your phone!
TV Shows and Movies
Of all my French study tools, vegging out and watching TV has to be the easiest. Binge watch shows like Les Hommes de l’Ombre (a thrilling political drama) and Les Revenants, or watch award winning French movies like La Vie d’Adèle (not for kids) to get a look into French culture and vernacular. If you need a little help, just turn on the subtitles!
If you enjoy writing as I do, you’ll probably benefit from writing in French (or any language, for that matter.) I have filled dozens upon dozens of notebooks, diaries, and dream journals and they are written in more than five languages, French and English making up the majority.
If you can take just ten minutes of your day to write down something fun you did or how you’re feeling about a particular aspect of your life, you’ll find that, over time, you’ll get better and better at expressing yourself and writing in that language. It also helps with new vocabulary because, when you don’t immediately know a word, you can simply look it up and then put it to use! This is helpful on more levels than one.
But, in the end, learning a language is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to feel like a chore. Do whatever suits you and your learning style when maintaining a language. I also recommend switching it up. If you spend a month listening to news podcasts, it will probably get boring. Try a little bit of everything to keep you on your toes. You got this!