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How we improved our French

“Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.” - Kara Goucher

“You have to speak French, right? How’s that working out?” That’s definitely one of the most frequent questions we get about moving here. And yes, we all speak French on a daily basis. While our language skills definitely remain a work-in-progress, all four of us have improved quite a bit over the past few months. But we’ve put a lot of effort into that. In a previous post, I already shared how we prepared the children. Now that Belgium is in lockdown again, I’d like to inspire you and share how Maarten and I updated our own French language skills.

But first, a little context: Maarten and I started with a totally different approach. Maarten is less language-sensitive and needed to be able to speak French in a professional environment. I studied languages, which already gave me a firmer foundation. But I wanted to be able to cope better, especially in everyday conversations.

French courses: indispensable or a nice extra?

Maarten took several courses in Antwerp. The language course at Linguapolis turned out to be very valuable and, to be honest, indispensable in his development. But of course, that was before the lockdown… Alternatively, there are a lot of online courses to polish your language skills, such as Coursera, MOOC francophone of Fun MOOC.

Another interesting platform is LingQ. This platform offers a lot of subjects to learn from, but you can also upload your own texts and videos from channels as YouTube or Netflix. LingQ provides a transcript in which you can indicate the words you don’t know and translate them. You can also make your own flashcards of these unknown words to practice and expand your vocabulary. This way you can take control of your own development. And you get to choose your own content. For instance, reading newspapers is certainly a challenge in the beginning but LingQ makes it a lot more accessible. We even used LingQ to practice with our eldest son Daan.

Vloggers to the rescue?

No time or desire to take an extensive French language course? I didn’t take a course myself, but I did like to watch the vlogs and listen to podcasts from innerFrench. In his vlogs on YouTube, Hugo talks about popular subjects and brings up a few words or expressions to improve your language skills. His podcasts are a bit more elaborate. You can also subscribe to his more extensive languages courses a few times a year.

A bit more relaxing, but also certainly fun is Gregsway. You can follow him on his journey around the world with his van Henri. I discovered him through a vlog from innerFrench. Who knows, you might also find a favorite among these 6 tips:

6 vloggers to learn French – innerFrench

Movie night?

In an earlier post, I already mentioned how we regularly watched series and films in French with our children. Admittedly, watching a dubbed English film is not very appealing. However, I recently discovered that some Disney films have beautiful voices in French. There are also quite a few interesting French movies and series. I’ll share some favorites, but of course, there are many more. Want more tips? Or have you seen a great French series or movie yourself? Let me know in a comment below.

  • The Hookup Plan (Plan Coeur) on Netflix about 2 friends hiring a gigolo to help their girlfriend get over her ex.
  • Dix pour Cent on Netflix of France 2 about artist agency ASK and their special clients and their own drama.
  • Jour J (Wedding Unplanned) about a man who accidentally gets engaged and gets his one-night stand as a wedding planner on top of it.
  • Demain tout commence about a party animal who suddenly has to take care of his newborn daughter.
The hookup plan - fun, quilty pleasure and a french serie
copyright Netflix

Tools I wouldn’t recommend

Apps like Duolingo and Babbel are great at the start, but – in our own experience – difficult to keep up with. If you really want to elevate your language skills to a higher level, you’ll need to do more. It’s also important to find a tool that suits you and that you can maintain over a longer period. But maybe they worked for you? Or you might have other interesting apps to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Practice makes perfect

It’s supercliché, but learning and maintaining a language takes time. Hugo from innerFrench compares it with preparing for running a marathon. Set yourself a (feasible) goal and determine how much time you can and want to spend on it. And quite frankly: things are really accelerating since we live here. I still notice every day how I’m better able to express myself than the day or week before. If you can, make sure you have someone to talk to and practice with. Last but not least: don’t be afraid of making mistakes. When everything seems to be lost in translation, online translator Deepl comes to the rescue.

Good luck!

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