Tips on speaking (that’s right, I said SPEAK not learn) French


A few members of the French My Way community have been asking me to speak about language learning and methods to learn faster.

Let me share a few words about my own history. I always thought of myself as someone who loves languages. No questions asked, I am a language teacher, I studied linguistics, I love to talk about languages for hours. But a few months ago when I attended the first Polyglot Conference in Budapest, I realized there is a huge difference between language learners and language speakers! 

I am an introvert, kind of shy and a linguist, you get it! The perfect combination to find every kind of excuses not to speak. So I love learning languages, looking at the grammatical structures and differences between languages, the etymology of each word and the culture behind it.

But speaking it? Not without knowing every verb tense for every verb that exists even the ones that native speakers don’t use and worrying non stop about my pronunciation. Sounds familiar, welcome to the “perfectionists club”.

Benny, also known as “Benny the Irish Polyglot”, on the other hand, is someone who loves speaking but claims he does not like learning (and I believe him). He is no stranger to a lot of you as I have already shared his website and TEDx talk with the members of the “Mot du Jour” community. 

I would like to stress a few key points of his philosophy and way of learning a language: 

“So on day one, 

1. I will grab a phrasebook, (To add to Benny’s advice I would say, pick something simple and grammar free at the beginning) 

2. Learn the essentials for a couple of hours, 

3. Jump on Skype or 

4. Meet up with a native in person and then use them. 

Will they be wowed by my abilities to debate Kantian philosophy? No. Will I be able to ask what their name is and tell them mine? Yes, I do believe you can learn this simple dialogue in less than a few hours. “

I challenge all of you to do just that today, specially if you are a beginner, learn one or two simple French sentences, if you are in Geneva (or any francophone cities) go out there and find someone to speak to. If you have no one to practice with (say you are in the middle of Afghanistan) than write to me! And share with us how you felt when you spoke French! 

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