It’s the rentrée this month, back to school time. For learners of all ages, September is a time to register for tennis club, art classes, and of course, French classes. This week we are featuring a post by our own Jennifer Rowell-Gastard, Renestance’s Activites and Excursions Coordinator. Jennifer is a French teacher and fully bilingual. For those of you who may have studied a few years of school French, err, decades ago, try Jen’s top five tips on learning French at any age!
1. FIRST AND FOREMOST – MOTIVATION AND FUN!
Already living in France? Motivation to master the language can be found everywhere! Maybe you want to discuss the grape harvest with local wine producers? Re-negotiate your insurance policy without fumbling? Make new friends? Meeting new people and becoming an integral part of the French community is a truly fun way to improve your skills.
If basic survival skills weren’t enough motivation, don’t forget that research now suggests that learning a new language as an adult is good for brain health, potentially even delaying the onset of dementia. Learning French is the equivalent of taking our brains to the gym.
While adults learn differently than children, the biggest barrier for older individuals learning a new language is self doubt. You’ll want to channel your inner-child and forget all the mental barriers that get in the way. We all learn by making mistakes, so go with it and learn to laugh at yourself !
One-on-one and group French courses can be very helpful when beginning your language learning journey. 1-2 hours per week can provide guidance and correction, helping you learn the basics and practice, practice, practice. Whether you are still dreaming of your French retirement, or already here in the Languedoc, contact us at Renestance for recommendations for French teachers available face-to-face or by Skype. Don’t forget to see if there is an Alliance Française in your local area to learn more about local resources.
Once you have kicked off your training and gained the confidence you need, it is time to step it up to the next level. You will not become fluent by taking a class once a week. That’s just not going to happen. You’ve got to dive in head first…
3. FULL IMMERSION
Learning a new language is so much easier when done in context. Soak it all in!
• LISTEN to French radio or music (print out the lyrics and read while you listen).
• WATCH original version of French films and television and turn on the subtitles in French so you can read and listen at the same time.
• READ online or print media. Starting with short stories or even children’s books is a great way to improve writing skill and learn new vocabulary.
• TASTE: Wine, cheese, pastries…what more could one need to be motivated?
• SPEAK: to yourself (really, practice in your head), to the baker, neighbors, friends…every chance you get.
If you aren’t in the Languedoc yet, consider spending a week-long immersion course in the area, an excellent way to take in the sites while bumping your French up to the next level. We will be offering immersion French courses in the future so please join the Renestance mailing list to stay in the loop.
Mark Manson, author, thinker, life enthusiast as well as polyglot insists that “intensity trumps length of study”. I couldn’t agree more! “…studying a language four hours a day for two weeks will be more beneficial than studying one hour a day for two months. This is one reason why so many people take language classes in school and never remember anything.”
Exercising our brains to learn a new language is like doing sports and eating well to maintain our health. If it doesn’t happen every day, it’s not going to work!
It’s not the price of your language study that counts!
There are several free tools, virtual or real, that can compliment your language learning routine, providing opportunities to learn new vocabulary, perfect your pronunciation or brush up on grammar.
• Free and fun: conversation exchange! It’s easy to set-up either within your local community or online. We often do half an hour in English and half an hour in French with friends and neighbors so both get a chance to practice.
Jennifer was Renestance's Activity & Excursions Coordinator between 2015 and 2020, a bilingual American from Vermont who's been loving her life in France since 1998. She was passionate about sharing her knowledge and allowing you to discover all of the scenic, cultural and culinary wealth of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
All articles by: Jennifer Rowell-Gastard