One of the great things about doing a French immersion course in France is the fact that you are constantly surrounded by the language. You speak to people day-to-day who you meet in shops, cafés, bars or wherever as well as your professors and other students at the French language school. So, with all this French you are automatically going to pick it up. I believe this is true to an extent, you will naturally make progress and things will stay in your mind and if you want to cruise along that’s fine. If, however, you want to get serious, to make the most out of your language stay in France and be a beast of the linguistic world we need to step things up. You need to be stop being passive and start being proactive by taking steps to create a French language bubble around you and tirelessly manning its defences; it’s only a bubble and it’s delicate so you need to be on point.
The first hurdle you normally need to deal with is the other students. With the variety of native languages and levels of French it can be very easy to revert to a common language; most commonly English or Spanish. I know this is tempting because you might want to communicate in a deeper way than your French will allow but it’s a case of the more the better. If you are at the higher levels it’s easier because you can have meaningful interesting conversations with people in French, the only thing that is holding you back is your decision to act, or lack of. Do it now! Find someone or some people at a similar level to you and surround yourself with them. Talk French when you go to lunch, when you go out to bars, when you text etc. There will be times when you get tired and your discipline falters a little and that’s fine but just keep in mind THE MORE THE BETTER. You have done the hard part and spent enough time talking about basic concepts to have earned the ability to learn French whilst you do things you enjoy with your friends. Use it.
For the students in the earlier stages of their development the same rule applies. I appreciate it is different however and that being able to even communicate basic things might be beyond your French skills right now but soon it won’t and that moment will come sooner if you’re vigilant. So, say as much as you can with what you know. You’ll be surprised how much you can communicate with a tiny bit of French and some good old fashion ingenuity. Set challenges, play games and speak to students at higher levels; this last one particularly needs emphasising as higher-level students are a fantastic resource and if you try and communicate in French with them they are often very accommodating. It gives them an opportunity to practice as well, to go over things maybe they haven’t revised in a long time and generally just deepen their French studies so it’s a two-way street even though it might feel a bit intimidating.
French-Up Your Media Whilst in France
A huge leap in your development will be when you start to be able to mix your entertainment with your French studies. When you get to the stage where you can read a little bit or follow the main themes of films you have virtually no limit to the amount of French you can pump into your life. With the near infinite availability of podcasts, films, music and literature available in French as soon as you are in the mood to relax and entertain yourself you can do so whilst still continuing your development. You don’t have to push yourself, just focus on things that interest you and let your curiosity guide you. You can watch some French news with your cereal in the morning, listen to French radio on the way home from school or relax in the evening with a charming French film; of which there are thousands.
This combination of how you interact with the people around you and the media you consume during your time studying French in France has the potential to create an airtight bubble where all you hear is French. It can be difficult at times but you will be on the fast-track and you will be the superstar of your French immersion course in Montpellier. Get on it, it’s SO worth it.