Once your language learning is well under way, the challenge can be putting your skills into real-life practice.
Speaking French is all about confidence and that only comes from practice.
The best way to improve is to use every opportunity to use what you have learned.
Conversation is - in my opinion - the most important part of getting to grips with a language and should be the focus of the majority of your learning.
Oral communication is the part of language learning that you will use most so the more practice you can get, the better.
However, this can be easier said than done so here are some tips to help you manufacture situations where you can practise your conversation skills.
1. Language cafes
If you are living in or near a French city, there will be plenty of events for language learners.
Language cafes are common - this involves meeting with French native speakers who want to improve their English, having a coffee or a drink together and speaking in both languages to allow each person to practise.
This is a great free way to work on your speaking skills while also socialising in a more relaxed environment.
These events can usually be found on Facebook groups or by simply searching on Google.
2. Language speed dating
This is a speaking exercise I use with my students that works very well every time.
If you have a group of friends who are also learning French, this exercise would make a good event and a different way to practise languages together.
The point of this exercise is to get used to speaking on the spot without thinking. The repetitive nature allows you to gain confidence in saying the same phrases and then builds a base to expand on as the conversation continues.
It works as you can imagine - two lines of chairs facing each other. People speak to their “date” for two minutes before one line moves along a chair.
You can either be yourself and talk about real-life situations - which may be helpful if you are an early learner - or you can invent a whole persona if you are a more advanced learner and want to challenge yourself.
Don’t worry if you end up saying largely the same thing to most of your dates - the point of this is to develop confidence in speaking and confidence comes from repetition.
You can make it more challenging by trying to say the same thing differently each time you speak to someone new.
3. Join a local class or club
You may well be part of a language class, but joining another type of club is a great way to practise your language skills.
Even in small towns, there are all sorts of activity groups to suit your interests.
Things like walking or running groups are a great way to increase your speaking opportunities at a low intensity.
The beauty of a class or club is that it revolves around the activity rather than the conversation, which takes a lot of the pressure off.
A bigger group also means that you can contribute to the conversation when you feel able to or focus on listening to the conversation going on around you if you don’t feel ready to chat.
As well as allowing you to improve your conversation skills, you might even make some French friends - which is ultimately the best way to improve your French.
ShareAmi is a platform first started during the pandemic by the charity Oldyssey to try and combat the isolation felt by older people due to the various lockdowns.
It links young language learners with French senior citizens in a mutually beneficial scheme.
Not only does it help the young learners’ language skills, but it promotes intergenerational friendships and offers a sense of purpose to both parties.
Discussions take place on Zoom, with many participants having forged strong bonds with their “buddy”.
You can find out more here: https://www.shareami.org/