Updated: Feb 2
I just published a podcast episode about finding little pleasures in life, and in French learning. And as I said (in French), “when you learn a language, or when you have learned a foreign language but do not use it on a daily basis, you can feel lots of little pleasures. (...) These moments, when we finally find a word we were looking for, or when we understand someone who speaks in the language, these are very simple moments of happiness, which motivate us to continue, which help to stay motivated.”
Learning French should never be a chore. It is not supposed to be hard work, hours over hours of learning conjugation by heart, struggling to remember spelling, trying to understand which “article” to use before this noun and that one.
Learning French, as in learning any foreign language, should be fun. Yes, fun. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy and quick. It just means that you can combine French learning and joy. And if you ask me, that’s the best way to learn!
Those fun ways can be really different from one person to the other. For example, I love grammar exercises. I know, it sounds weird and even a little bit disturbing (don’t worry, I feel good!). And when I learned German and Hebrew, I could do “fill in the gaps” for hours. But I am aware that grammar usually doesn’t rhyme with pleasure. Therefore I’m going to give you some other advice on how to actually enjoy learning French - and you’ll choose what is best for you.
Enjoy your hobbies in French / Exercise in French / Buy in French / Cook in French / Challenge yourself in French / Watch French speaking movies & listen to French music
Enjoy your hobbies… in French
We all have hobbies. Mine have changed throughout my life: I used to paint and draw, and play the piano. Now I like to go for long walks in nature, and I enjoy reading very much. Maybe you share some of those. And you probably don’t see the link to you learning French. Well, it’s actually quite simple. Many studies - but also common knowledge - have shown that the best way to learn a language is immersion. Since it is pretty unlikely that you leave everything to go live in France for a few months, then bring the immersion to YOUR life, wherever you are. Find a way to practice your hobbies in French.
Here are some examples:
Take an online course in watercolor painting in French
Watch a music tutorial in French on Youtube (for example learn how to play on the piano the song “Comptine d’un autre été” by Yann Tiersen - the soundtrack of the movie Amelie)
Follow a French knitting blog to get some knitting patterns - the first articles may be difficult, but you’ll see some improvements very quickly since it is mostly the same vocabulary all the time). Tricotez-moi is a good one - but I’m not a professional at all!
Read articles about trips in France and other countries - I personally enjoy le Blog de Sarah, but of course there are plenty of vlogs in French!
You get it, right? Search your hobby in Google - in French, and find the best option for you!
Exercise… in French
We all need exercise (no matter if you like it or not). So, why not combine your favorite sport with your French learning? You may not know the vocabulary in French, but here again it’s pretty much the same words and expressions again and again. Besides that, you already know what to do in your own language, AND sport is very visual.
So, no matter what sport you practice, do it in French! Check yoga and Pilates workouts in French on YouTube, download running audio training in French, check French YouTube videos about cycling… If you don’t know where to stary, here are some of my favorites workout channels:
Lucile Woodward (if you are interested, she also has a very interesting blog on her website)
Buy… in French
Here again it’s some kind of an “immersion trick”. Most of the international online chains are available in France too, which means… They have a French-speaking version. Don’t worry, you will still get the product you bought to your
address. The only difference is that the whole buying experience (looking for items, choosing, checking for return policy, payment…) will be in French. Believe me, it is very efficient if you wish to revise your vocabulary (clothes, make up, tech products etc.) - and maybe save some money (using the French version of the website will be much tiring at the beginning, which means that you may finish shopping sooner than expected, and save money as a result… Don’t thank me ;-)
So, next time you’re about to shop online, replace the “.com” by “.fr” on the website address!
Cook… in French
That one is quite obvious. How not to cook in French? And watching a cooking channel on YouTube, or a French cooking reality program on TV is not only entertaining. You will learn so much: food vocabulary, those (damn) articles, quantities, cooking techniques, French food, French culture, French geography (I’m not kidding!)… And the next time you’re in charge of the weekly dinner with friends, you’re going to impress them with delicious French specialties!
Here are some of my favorite YouTube cooking channels:
Les Carnets de Julie (You’ll be travelling around France as well!)
Challenge yourself… in French
What does that mean? Well, this means you’re going to pick a specific part in your learning process in which you feel you need to improve, where you’re struggling a little, and set a challenge about it.
For example, let’s say you learned some time ago about food, but you don’t remember that much besides café, lait, pizza, and fromage. Well, set a goal about food in French. Let’s say, you will only eat food you know how to pronounce in French. Don’t remember how to say “cookies” in French? Well, switch your snack and eat a “tomate”. Believe me, if you’re not trying to lose weight, it will really motivate you to learn & revise food vocabulary.
Do you want another example? Well, let’s say you want to be able to talk about simple daily activities. Then write down on some little pieces of paper activities we do in different places at home (in the bathroom: take a shower, brush your teeth, put make-up on… / in the living-room: watch TV, read the newspaper, rest, chat with friends, practice yoga… / in the bedroom: sleep, read, put clothes on…). Each time you enter a specific room, say what you’re doing out loud (at the beginning you can check the little pieces of paper of course).
One last example ? Let’s say you’ve tried to learn numbers, but you start mixing everything up around 15, and then you still don’t get the 70s, 80s and 90s. First, listen to numbers by the dozens (you can find many videos on YouTube for that). And then, challenge yourself to say out loud EVERY number you see during your day: on the clock, at work, at the supermarket, in your car… Increase the level: start saying figures - 149764305 will be 1, 4, 9, 7, 6…. Then move on to the dozens: 14, 97, 64, 30… Then bigger numbers: 149, 764, 305 etc etc. You get it.
Watch French speaking movies & series, listen to French music
Well, obviously I couldn’t write an article about combining French learning and fun without talking about movies, series and music. BUT, I already published a post with my recommendations about French series. Check it out here!
As for music, you definitely don’t need me to look for ways to listen to French music, and there are so many kinds of music!
No matter if you’re just a beginner or you’re trying to refresh some old high-school knowledge, remember to actually enjoy it! Combine the fun parts of your life - hobbies, shopping, movies, music - to your French learning, and make it enjoyable! You will gain in both domains. And if you wish to receive updates and tips about classic and unconventional ways to learn French, subscribe to the newsletter.