AMA: “Any tips on learning French for those of us stateside?”

Bonjour! I think it’s great that you want to learn French. Becoming fluent is on the top of my personal goals this year. I’m not there yet, but can get by enough to have afternoon tea in French with my friend Laureen, for example. Here are 5 tips I’ve gathered along the way.

  1. Do what you do, but do it in French
    Behavior change is hard. Instead of changing the everyday activities you do, try changing the way in which you do them. This is great advice from my American colleague Rob (who’s probably the best example of French fluency in our office). So, for example, if you read the news every morning, read it in French. Same goes for radio, movies, etc. I’m currently reading the Harry Potter series in French and watching Bachelor, Le Gentleman Célibataire (guilty pleasure revealed).
  2. Find French-speakers
    If, like me, your Tahitian family lives too far away to practice with on a regular basis ;), try to find French-speaking communities in your neighborhood. You may have to search more diligently depending on where you live. In Seattle, I attended The Seattle French Conversation Meetup. Franglish is also offered in major cities like my other home, San Francisco. They’re both friendly spaces often filled with Americans who once studied abroad or French people who’ve moved to the US. If you have the resources, you can even take a trip to France to meet native French speakers. My Japanese penpal Hisako travels to the US to practice her English- she made a friend in me!
  3. Meet with French-speakers on a regular basis
    Meet-ups like Franglish are nice, but given the short amount of time, you don’t get to have very long conversations. I attend just to see if I click with people. When I do, I get their contact info and meet again. For example, Mikhael and I do longer “Franglish” meals where we switch between English and French every 15 minutes. It’s good practice for the both of us.
  4. Take classes
    If you prefer a more structured way of learning, enroll in a class at your community college, senior center, etc. My mom does group lessons and also has a private tutor. There are also plenty of apps out there- Ty’s mom uses Duolingo for example. Luckily for me, Microsoft provides us with tutors who come to the office or teach us over the phone- super convenient.
  5. Seek out other learners
    It’s more fun and motivating for me to learn with others. At work, I gather all the French-learners for a “parlons francais” lunch every MWF, where we eat with some French colleagues (volunteer professeurs) to practice. If you have friends who are also learning the language, learn and share resources together. They’ll keep you accountable.

Bonne chance!


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