I have written a lot about the benefits of trying to stop translating in your head and think in French. It has so many benefits and is the quick way to supercharge your progress whilst learning French in France. Your French immersion course is the perfect environment for learning French but when you leave the classroom it is not as easy to maintain this constant flow of new grammar, vocabulary and conversation even though you are doing a language stay in France. One of the things I have found particularly useful is speaking to myself in French. This may sound a little odd at first but hear me out.
Describe What’s Around You in Your Daily Life Whilst Learning French in France
The first tactic to try is just to describe what is around you in your daily life. This is so simple but many students don’t do it, the stuff you are surrounded by daily is the stuff you are most likely to use regularly. This is great because when you learn stuff that is relevant you feel like it’s worthwhile and you are more likely to use it yourself but people around you are more likely to say it as well. Being able to pick out words from rapid French conversations is great and the words that are more likely to be said in daily life are the things you are surrounded by. Don’t just keep it at nouns, say the actions you see people doing or yourself. I promise if you look around yourself right now you will see plenty to describe even if you are alone. Are you in a room? What objects are around? What do you normally do with those objects? And so on. You can do this anywhere at any time and if you get to a word you don’t know make sure you note it rather than just hop over to the next, it’s easy to want to rush on to the next word but this is bad practice. Get into good habits and eventually it will become second nature and less of an effort.
Create Conversations Based on Your Experiences in France
You may have seen on your French immersion course or in an exercise book that they often do oral performance exercises that are very relevant to daily life: buying a ticket at the train station, taking a bus tour, going to the doctors etc. The ILA French Immersion School where I am doing my language stay goes one further and the listening exercises they do often relate to something within the region which adds a very nice touch to my studies. You can carry this on! Say you go into a shop to buy groceries just think about the different situations that could happen in the store: someone could ask a staff member where a certain type of product is and then it turns out they don’t have any left, maybe someone needs to return something etc. Just little things like this get your creative juices flowing and if you make them funny you are more likely to remember what story you have been creating.
When you get to things you don’t know make sure you look them up or make a note to do so later (in your mono-lingual dictionary I hope!) and watch your vocabulary build every day. For the sake of the story you’re creating try and talk around things or approaching them in a different way.
These are great things to do in your head but even better if you can say them out loud. The more you practice speaking the better even if you are alone. Speaking and listening are different skills and speaking on your own is still great practice and you are free to take your time with difficult sounds with no pressure.
If you get into the habit of doing this you will rapidly expand your vocabulary in a very natural way and you will notice you’re speaking will become more confident. Also, as you are learning words and phrases you are likely to come into contact with while you are learning French in France you are more prepared to pick them out and thus your oral comprehension will be improved too. It’s a great thing to get into and you will reap the benefits on your French immersion course.