In a previous article, I discussed why stopping the habit of translating in your head will turbo charge your progress while learning French in France. I then went on to write an article about how to achieve this alongside your French immersion classes and covered the basics. Here in this article I would like to detail one of the less obvious tactics and tricks you can do to try and reduce this habit. Stopping it entirely is possible but it’s a long-term commitment but it’s a case of the less the better so if you’re doing a French language stay for the DELF exam preparation this is an essential skill but still, if you are only in France for a few weeks it is still a worthwhile habit to adopt.
Use a Mono-lingual Dictionary for Your French Classes
I have found this to be a bit of a revelation during my time learning French in France and I’m never going back. A mono-lingual dictionary is one that only explains the words you are researching in French as opposed to the bi-lingual dictionaries most of us use when learning a new language. You are probably already throwing up all kinds of protestations about this and I made many myself when I first heard this tip. The first thing you’re likely to think is well that’s all well and good if I want to find the meaning of a French word I’ve learnt but what if I want to translate a word from English, or whichever language you’re using into French. This is a very valid question and it’s true sometimes this is necessary in certain situations but we jump to it far too easily.
When we are in class for example I hear students all the time revert to blurting out the word in English as soon as they arrive at one they don’t know immediately. With this example, you have the option of trying to describe the words you are looking for and using your teacher’s expertise, after doing this you have formed an explanation in French for what that word represents rather than just the English word for it. This is the principle behind this tip. Forming foundations for what you’re learning with what you have already learned, just like children do when they are first learning the language. Yes, there will be times that a translation will be necessary for the sake of speed or maybe the explanation for the word is just as incomprehensible as the word itself. If you see translation as a back-up however, rather than the first port of call you will have taken a big step.
If you are not at the language school talking to your French teacher it may seem a bit harder but there are plenty of options available to you. First and foremost, if you want a hard copy of a dictionary just carry both. Not every dictionary is the size of a medieval copy of the bible; you can get a small copy of each that are convenient and just reach for the mono first. If you are more interested in the techie side of things you probably already know how many apps and websites there are for translation and there are just as many if not more for straight French dictionaries. Download them both and again just view the French explanation as your primary resource.
You will be surprised how easy it is to understand. Often the words mostly commonly used for an action or noun have a less common but more understandable synonym that will be placed alongside it in the dictionary. These synonyms are part of another aspect that makes this a good habit during your French studies. If you use a French dictionary you will have an explanation in French for what it means, synonyms, other formulations, expressions and so on that create this rich tapestry of meaning you can attribute to the word and it’s all in French! As opposed to just learning the translation and then substituting all the meaning you have for the word in your own language. It pales in comparison.
You don’t have to wait until to get to the B levels or anything like that, you can start right away and the sooner the better. Set good foundations and this will seem effortless to you as opposed to waiting for ages and then having to undo all the bad habits you’ve engrained. If you are serious about learning French in France then get to a book/app store and start learning like a pro. Your French immersion experience in Montpellier will be change forever, welcome to the fast lane.