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I'm a newcomer to France, I've have never had a formal education in French at school (being raised in South Africa), and i'm really trying to improve my French by:

  • Taking lessons once a week,
  • Reading comics (Tintin, Blake et Mortimer),
  • Reading books (currently Harry Potter but started with books for small children) every day,
  • Listening to Podcasts (Learn French by Podcast, Daily French Pod) while travelling,
  • Watching 30 minutes of French TV a day.

Despite this, i think i've hit a plateau and i'm not really improving any more. I still struggle to understand news-readers, people on the phone, etc. One-on-one in person is best, but still not very good.

My question is what have you found to be the best resource (of any nature) for learning to speak French? I work from home so i get very few opportunities to actually speak to people - which i think would be the best tool!

PS. I do plan to ask more questions in French but this one particularly aimed at other Anglophones! :) PPS. This is probably better as a Community Wiki? SE is telling me this will likely be closed as it is subjective (which it is) but any answers would still be very useful to me and hopefully others.

Thanks!

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The automatic question evaluator is working well. Please read the answers on this question. This isn't a useful question (and CW is irrelevant). –  Gilles Aug 24 '11 at 22:16
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Thanks for your response @Gilles - i agree that it's not necessarily "on-topic" but it's certainly useful (to me anyway!). As a (i guess :)) Francophone i can also see why it's not useful to you - but useful to other non-native speakers? Happy to delete it if the consensus is that it doesn't belong here. :) –  alpian Aug 24 '11 at 22:20
    
This has nothing with how useful answers would be to me personally. This type of questions has proved not to generate useful sets of answers on Stack Exchange. It's also awfully open-ended, and not particularly specific to French to boot (consider how much you'd need to change if you were learning Swahili). See also this meta question. –  Gilles Aug 24 '11 at 22:33
    
@Gilles - My answer doesn't work for Swahili. –  mouviciel Dec 16 '11 at 8:25
    
@Gilles What blah-blah-blah are you talking about? Such annoyance, why are your comments here? –  Liviu Jan 21 at 12:42
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8 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

For understanding I suggest (besides the obvious time spent listening) to listen specifically to children's audio books and to "bad" movies.

The reason is that in these settings there are over-emphasized phrases that are "over-pronounced" and this is one of the ways to actually get your auditory brain to decide what kind of new sounds are important before putting in dumb exercise time.

For speaking nothing really replaces speaking which is conspicuously absent from your list. Do you have the opportunity to set up skype tandem sessions with someone who wants to learn your language in turn?

Another thing that somewhat helps with speaking is to form lots of sentences in your head. For example, in the metro, I would look at the ads and speak any number I saw in French in my head, and my number-to-French conversion has indeed become automatic very quickly. Or I play shopping conversations in my head while going to the shop.

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Thanks @thei - i actually mentioned that speaking is the best tool but i live in a fairly isolated part of France - the skype-chat idea is something i'll investigate. I tried children's audio books (Le Petit Chaperone Rouge) but found it hard to follow with all the "put-on" voices! Maybe i'll give it another go now i'm more advanced... :) –  alpian Aug 24 '11 at 22:27
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@alpian I am thinking more about fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contes_de_la_rue_Broca –  Phira Aug 24 '11 at 23:46
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You can use this website, it is so helpful http://www.busuu.com

This website http://www.francaisfacile.com/ (http://www.tolearnfrench.com/) also is so good (for advanced level)

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Amongst the plethoric offer of free online courses, this BBC website offers a nice introduction to French (http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/, +40 other languages).

There are also some free apps to either learn (Learn French) or test your vocabulary (Science XL)

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This is maybe not a tool to begin with, but it helps a lot when it comes the time to write a sentence with maybe, some medium skills. When I'm writing a text in french, I usually use this online tool: http://bonpatron.com/en/. It is easy to use and gives you reason of why you made a mistake somewhere.

Although I speak French all day long, this tool always helps me with my errors: such as masculine and feminine, conjugation, punctuation, verbs. So I think it can help everyone when it comes the time to write something and understand why it should be written like this or like that.

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In big cities in France, you can take lessons at L'Alliance française. Many foreigner friends of mine found that this is a great experience, not only because of the high quality of lessons but also because of the social events with all the students and french as the only common language.

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Sorry, but where can I found more informations about the courses on the site you provided? It seems more like a corporate advertising site, I can't found anything useful. –  Liviu Jan 21 at 13:34
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@Liviu Unfortunately, you are correct. At the time I wrote my answer, the site was more useful for students. –  mouviciel Jan 21 at 14:25
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Immersion helped my French extremely and attempting to be friends with French. Don't be shy, attempt to talk to everyone.

Also, try to learn the tenses for some important verbs.

ex. to go aller irai (future, je) je vais aller (near future) I'm going je suis allé (past tense) i went

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I'd strongly suggest finding a local group that speaks French socially, and going along!

Meetup.com is a good way to do this, but it isn't the only way to find groups. (It just so happens to be very strong on French language groups near where I live, which is why I know about it).

Once you've located a nearby group that welcomes people at your level, go along and practice. I find it's a very different feeling talking during a weekly class, more relaxed and often with a wider variety of discussions on things that interest you. It's a great way to pick up vocab and confidence, for both speaking and listening. The only possible downside is that people are usually fairly forgiving of small errors at that sort of event, so you'll want to still do some classes so you've got a teacher to pick up your mistakes!

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http://www.memrise.com/ has a French flashcard system for English speakers. I haven't tried the French version, but I find the Mandarin version very good, so I expect the same for French.

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