While you may make it through a week or two when on holiday, you can’t build a life in France without learning to speak the language. Conversational French is a great start and it will certainly be helpful during your first few weeks in your new country. Yes, you’ll pickup some language skills once you move there permanently, but before you relocate you’ll want to know how to communicate with every individual and organisation that’s going to be part of the moving process. Also, if you need to hire contractors to renovate your home, it’s better to hire French workers in order to get on the good side of your new community.
Once you’re settled, doing things like communicating with your bank, handling your taxes and following complicated directions will require more than a basic understanding of French.
Here are a few ways to learn French both before and after you relocate.
Download an iPhone App
There are a host of iPhone apps that can help you to teach yourself French. Here are four apps that cater to a variety of goals:
1. Bravolol Limited: This is a great app if you’re a complete beginner or if you’ve just arrived in France and have no idea how to order a cup of coffee, ask for directions or answer a simple, “How are you?” You’ll learn 800 common, useful words and phrases, giving you a good base to build on. Choose from different topics and record your voice to check your pronunciation.
2. Duolingo: Duolingo teaches a number of languages, including French, for French speakers at any level. Complete a series of “tests” each day – they get harder as you go along and the lessons build on each other, combining listening, speaking and writing skills.
3. 6000 Words – Learn French Language for Free: Let’s say you’re doing pretty well when it comes to conversational French but you struggle with comprehension when you read things like signs and menus. This app has 6,000 common French words to help you build your vocabulary. Words are broken down into 15 categories and are accompanied by illustrations and pronunciation recordings. There are also language games to help you build your skills.
4. Le Conjugueur: One of the most difficult aspects of the French language is conjugating verbs. This app has 9,000 French verbs and the guidance you need to conjugate them in every tense.
Attend a Language School
If you didn’t have time to learn the language before you moved or if you have enough conversational French to get by but are looking to advance your skills, signup for classes a language school to teach yourself French. You’ll learn all aspects of the French language from a professional, which is essential if you’re going to be working in a French-speaking workplace.
Swap Language Sessions with a French Friend
If you befriend someone who is interested in learning your native language and who also speaks fluent French, consider swapping services. By befriending someone who speaks French and showing an interest in their language, you make it easier to meet new people. This could even be the start of a new circle of friends. Don’t be embarrassed by your limited language skills in the beginning – locals will respect and like you simply because you’re trying.
Immerse Yourself in the Language
Even if you don’t have a core group of friends yet, you can surround yourself with French every day to teach yourself French. Read a French newspaper and keep a translation dictionary nearby to look up the words you don’t understand. Watch a French movie with English captions turned on to catch the words you can’t make out.
One of the best ways to learn a language is to be surrounded by it. Since you’re going to be relocating to France, you’re already in a great position to become fluent in French. Even if you frequent places where English is spoken or you get involved with the expat community, practice your French as often as you can. The more you use it, the easier it will become.
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