I discussed in a previous article why I think it’s a good idea to make a conscious effort to stop translating in your head when you are learning French in France and the benefits doing that can have for your French immersion course in Montpellier. In this article, I want to give you some applicable tips you can use to get as close as possible to achieving this, most likely you’ll never stop doing it entirely because it’s a natural thing for anyone learning the French language. If you make some effort to counter this though you will see a drastic improvement in your development.
I will start with some of the more obvious tactics that you have probably already thought of but that need emphasising.
Listen, listen, listen. This is essential to keeping your mind in ‘French mode’. It’s a bit of a simplistic way to describe the infinite complexity of language acquisition but it is helpful nonetheless to think of learning a language as similar to trying to lose weight; it takes more time to progress than it does to regress. If you start listening to other languages like English you will be gradually losing a bit of that agility you build up during consistent French immersion like that in your classes at your language school. So, try finding practice partners who want to speak French outside of your immersion course and keep it up when you have lunch or go out in the evenings. Keep in mind that the more proactive you are the better so, rather than just chatting in French to these people try setting challenges for yourselves like using 5 words you learnt in your classes that day or to use the subjunctive as much as possible in a conversation. Vigilance is necessary because even if you are talking in French outside of the classroom it’s easy to stay nice and safe within those comfort zones.
This extends to the media you listen to as well. If you are making the effort to talk all the time in French but then go and listen to English speaking podcasts on your phone you will still lose a little something. I’m not saying listening to a few songs in English is going to erase your mind of every bit of French vocabulary you have learnt that week but it won’t be as fresh in your mind. There are so many options available in terms of French podcasts, music, radio and audiobooks etc. that you can use to stay on form.
Read, read, read. Again, a bit of a no brainer but it’s amazing how many people don’t do this. There are so many options available to you and if you employ a bit of a can-do attitude you will easily find a way to read daily. For example, if you are at the higher levels you have an infinite amount of media you can consume irrespective of what you enjoy. If you are at a medium level you can find plenty of books that have both a page in French and then the same page in English. So, you can just ‘throw an eye’ (as the French say) across a few centimetres every time you get stuck.
I often hear the students in the lower levels say that it’s not possible to do any reading until you get to the higher levels because even with the translation right there it’s just too complicated. I don’t agree, using children’s books is a very useful tactic. What is true is that you might not be able to read stuff that is as interesting to you like news in French but you can always find stuff to read that is at you level, always. Children’s books also come with pictures which is perfect because you are already associating images with the words rather than just the translation from your own language.
These are just the basics but they are very worth highlighting because they will have such a huge impact on your development if you maintain them daily. Your progression will be easier, faster more enjoyable and more educational and your time learning French in France will be given a dramatic boost. There will be times during your French language stay where you are just a bit tired of French and that’s fine of course but just try and do as much of the above as possible and experience true French immersion.