I had an epiphany recently about my approach to learning French. I found a great batch of videos on Youtube that described succinctly grammatical concepts in French and each videos was about 5-10 minutes long. Brilliant I thought! I can listen to all of them while I walk around and enjoy Montpellier and drastically improve my learning alongside my Immersion Course at ILA French language school. I even did this a few times as I thought then it would sink in but when a conversation arose where it was appropriate to use some of these French concepts……. Well, they seemed as distant as what I learned in my first year at university. I realised I wasn’t learning these concepts, I was just hearing them. It was so much easier to just hear someone talking about the ideas than actually put them into use; I think I was subconsciously avoiding this because that meant making mistakes.
It is natural to not want to make mistakes because that highlights what you don’t know. It is great to feel like you are progressing and I was creating the illusion that is what I was doing by ploughing through these videos.
It is Best to Know Where in your French Immersion Course you are Struggling
It is tempting to move on from a topic you’re finding hard work and we can often do this subconsciously, it’s very hard to detect procrastination when you use other French topics as the distraction. Ever feel yourself sigh when it’s time to work on a certain skill? For me it’s listening exercises, my classmates seem to pull out so much information from the first listen while I’m still trying to figure the date they said at the very start of the recording. It is uncomfortable yes but it IS good. I know it is a weak point of mine in my French studies so I know I need to work on it and that isn’t going to change no matter how many written grammar exercises I do. Your time is a limited resource and using it efficiently means spending more time on the things you find tough and less on the stuff that makes you feel like a boss.
Every mistake you make in your French immersion course in France reveals more of your path to progress but if you aren’t aware of where they lie they have the potential to continuously trip you up and the more time that passes the more they can act as a barrier to your understanding.
Do you Know When You are Making a Mistake in your French studies?
It would be great if each time we are corrected that was the last time we ever made that mistake but alas, this is not how our brain works. We will make the same mistake over and over until each time it approaches in our writing, speaking or whatever we anticipate it, sling it in and revel in our success. Normally whilst basking in our pride we make several different mistakes in the process. This is why the immersion approach to learning French is so great, it keeps you focussed the whole time. As soon as one thing becomes natural three things arise to take its place. Learning French at an immersion school like ILA in Montpellier sometimes feels a bit like doing battle with a Hydra but when you can start self-correcting you have taken a huge step towards success. The more mistakes you make and become aware of the more knowledge you have to do this.
The Process of Learning French is Ongoing
Learning French is a life-long process and you will probably always be able to improve. Accept this fact and stop investing all your happiness in being completely perfect. I have found enjoying the little improvements here and there to be a far more sustainable and pleasurable way to learn French and is a better way of measuring success daily. I feel a lot less frustrated and stagnant and as long as I get say a couple of subjunctives used in a day I finish up satisfied.
Being willing to be vulnerable turns every opportunity to speak French with someone from a source of anxiety into a chance to progress and use the latest additions to your arsenal.
I hope this encourages you to make the most of your time in France. During a French immersion course in Montpellier there is an infinite supply of opportunity and all you need to do to tap into it is become successful at the art of making mistakes.