People have all sorts of different experiences in the run up to their French immersion course in France. Some people are nothing but excited and can’t wait to get started, some people are worried about all sorts of potential problems; some of them are valid and some aren’t. Most of us fall somewhere in-between with some excitement and worry combined to create the bitter-sweet cocktail that is very common when people take on new challenges. Don’t misunderstand me, learning French in France will be a challenge for sure but there are things you can do to stay on top of things and not be defeated. Bon courage!
Manage Your Expectations and Change Your Outlook
One very important thing to work hard at is to make the process emotionally satisfying for yourself. If you do something with no reward it’s very likely you will eventually burn out and give up; it’s possible to push past this of course but it will be a big old slog and it just doesn’t have to be. If you are a happy content student your mind will be more agile, receptive and hold on to more for longer. So how do you go about this? Something very important is to be realistic and manage your expectations. Even doing an immersion course in France at a great language school this process takes time and patience. If you are doing a language stay in France and you are expecting to be fluent in a couple months, even if you spend every waking hour working you will find it frustrating. I have tried to rush before when learning French and it actually slowed me down. One thing that is inevitable is that you will make mistakes, another thing that is inevitable is that you will make the same mistakes again, and again and again. When I experienced this with the mind-set of becoming fluent as quick as possible every single time I repeated an error it really hurt. My confidence and hope slowly diminished and putting in the extra hours became tougher and tougher. Also, the strain on my brain and my belief that I could do it so quick made my ability to take in new information weaker.
When I changed my approach, and started appreciating the little victories my progress completely changed pace……for the better. Taking it step by step meant that each day I reached my smaller goals I was filled with satisfaction and that spurred me on for the next day. I made a schedule and knew exactly how much work I needed to do each day so I was still pushing myself but once I had finished a certain amount I felt proud rather than constantly thinking I could do more.
Get in the Ring and Speak, Speak, Speak
Lots of people want to wait until they have achieved perfection until they go out speaking to people in French. This is impossible. The more effective way is to start speaking from day 1, start thinking of your language as a tool and gradually you will become more effective at using that tool but the only way to do that is to practice. Seeking perfection before you expose yourself is a paralysing practice and will seriously slow you down. Trying to communicate with people without knowing the language well has the potential to be a really fun experience. Think back to playing charades with your family when you were a kid, it was fun right? That’s why it was a game! You didn’t play it to get all nervous and embarrassed, you did it because expressing things in different ways than you usually would is hilarious.
I know it’s not the easiest thing to change an outlook but if you can you will profit a lot and your French immersion course will be a tranquil pleasure full of laughs and satisfaction. Learning French in France is such a worthwhile thing to do as it is an amazing skill to have and a joy to do so why wouldn’t you want to do it!