"A la decouverte de France"
We start our journey discovering France from Paris, one of the most beautiful and romantic city in the world.
1. KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING IT
This might sound obvious, but if you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated over the long-run. Wanting to impress English-speakers with your French is not a very good reason; wanting to get to know a French person in his or her own language is another matter entirely. No matter your reason, once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit.
2. DIVE IN
It’s crucial to practice your new language every single day. It’s about actually putting what you’re learning into practice – be that writing an email, speaking to yourself, listening to music, listening to the radio. Surrounding yourself, submerging yourself in the new language culture is extremely important. Remember, the best possible outcome of speaking a language is for people to speak back to you. Being able to have a simple conversation is a huge reward in itself. Reaching milestones like that early on will make it easier to stay motivated and keep practicing.
3. FIND A PARTNER
Having any kind of partner to join you on your language adventure, will push both of you to always try just a little bit harder and stay with it. You also have someone with whom you can speak, and that’s the idea behind learning a language.
4. KEEP IT RELEVANT
If you make conversation a goal from the beginning, you are less likely to get lost in textbooks. Talking to people will keep the learning process relevant to you. You’re learning a language to be able to use it. You’re not going to speak it to yourself. The creative side is really being able to put the language that you’re learning into a more useful, general, everyday setting – be that through writing songs, generally wanting to speak to people, or using it when you go abroad. You don’t necessarily have to go abroad; you can go to the French restaurant down the road and order in French.
5. HAVE FUN WITH IT
Using your new language in any way is a creative act. Think of some fun ways to practice your new language: make a radio play with a friend, draw a comic strip, write a poem, or simply talk to whomever you can. If you can’t find a way to have fun with the new language, chances are you aren’t following step four.
6. ACT LIKE A CHILD
The key to learning as quickly as a child may be to simply take on certain childlike attitudes: for instance, lack of self-consciousness, a desire to play in the language and willingness to make mistakes.
We learn by making mistakes. As kids, we are expected to make mistakes, but as adults mistakes become taboo. Think how an adult is more likely to say, “I can’t”, rather than, “I haven’t learned that yet” (I can’t swim, I can’t drive, I can’t speak Spanish). To be seen failing (or merely struggling) is a social taboo that doesn’t burden children. When it comes to learning a language, admitting that you don’t know everything (and being okay with that) is the key to growth and freedom. Let go of your grown-up inhibitions!
7. LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Willingness to make mistakes means being ready to put yourself in potentially embarrassing situations. This can be scary, but it’s the only way to develop and improve. No matter how much you learn, you won’t ever speak a language without putting yourself out there: talk to strangers in the language, ask for directions, order food, try to tell a joke. The more often you do this, the bigger your comfort zone becomes and the more at ease you can be in new situations:
You must learn to look before you can draw. In the same way, you must learn to listen before you can speak. Every language sounds strange the first time you hear it, but the more you expose yourself to it the more familiar it becomes, and the easier it is to speak it properly. We’re able to pronounce anything, it’s just we’re not used to doing it. The best way to go about mastering that is actually to hear it constantly, to listen to it and to kind of visualize or imagine how that is supposed to be pronounced, because for every sound there is a specific part of the mouth or throat that we use in order to achieve that sound.
9. WATCH PEOPLE TALK
Different languages make different demands on your tongue, lips and throat. Pronunciation is just as much physical as it is mental. One way – it might sound a bit strange – is to really look at someone while they’re saying words that use that sound, and then to try to imitate that sound as much as possible. If you can’t watch and imitate a native-speaker in person, watching foreign-language films and TV is a good substitute.
10. TALK TO YOURSELF
When you have no one else to speak to, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself. It might sound really weird, but actually speaking to yourself in a language is a great way to practice if you’re not able to use it all the time.
This can keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind and build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.
(Bonus tip) RELAX!
You are not going to annoy people by speaking their language poorly. If you preface any interaction with, “I’m learning and I’d like to practice…” most people will be patient, encouraging and happy to oblige. Even though there are approximately a billion non-native English-speakers around the world, most of them would rather speak their own language if given a choice. Taking the initiative to step into someone else’s language world can also put them at ease and promote good feelings all around.
You can travel abroad speaking your own language, but you’ll get so much more out of it being able to actually feel at ease in the place you are – being able to communicate, to understand, to interact in every situation you could possibly imagine.
1. Saoul comme un Polonais | To be very drunk
Nobody likes to stereotype, but let’s face it, the Eastern Europeans can drink. A lot. Hence, “to be as drunk as a Pole.”
A: Why is Johnny dancing half naked, with a banana skirt around his waist, on the hostel’s front desk?
B: He just had a glass of white wine, he is “saoul comme un Polonais.”
2. Pour une bouchée de pain | For cheap
Talk about being obsessed with bread! Back when a “tartine” was not a bloody luxury (One euro for a baguette?! I still remember when it only cost 0.80 Francs, and I’m only 28) you could compare anything cheap with “a mouthful” of the stuff.
A: How much did that plane ticket to Paris cost you?
B:“Une bouchée de pain!” Seattle to Paris in a cramped coach seat: $1,700! What a deal!
3. Comme une lettre à la poste — Easy peasy
We are very fond of our postal services in France. It works well, it’s relatively cheap, and La Poste even doubles as a bank! You buy a stamp and make a deposit on your savings account: one stone, two birds.
A: I was scared that the French border agents were going to pull me aside and interview me for hours about my four-week stay in France.
B: The US Immigration Services have deeply traumatized you, haven’t they? Don’t worry, Charles de Gaulle is a joke of an airport, so everything will go just as smoothly as “Une lettre à la poste.”
4. Jeter l’argent par les fenêtres — To spend money irresponsibly
All that drinking has made a big dent into your travel budget, so if you don’t want to spend the night on the streets with your backpack as your pillow/mattress, stop “throwing your money out the window.”
5. Être sur la paille — To be broke
In the olden days when there was no money for a hostel bed and no backpack to lay on, one would “sleep in a bed of straw.” That’s a sure way to say to the world that you’re penniless.
A: We should take the train from Paris to London. It’s less than a three-hour ride!
B: I can’t, “J’suis sur la paille.” I guess I’ll go visit the beautiful Parisian suburbs while you have fun in Jolly Old England.
6. Travailler au noir — To work under the table
You need to replenish that very thin wallet of yours? Working “in the dark” is not a euphemism for prostitution, but it’s the best way to make money without a work visa and not being caught…
A: How did you make all that money?
B: “J’ai travaillé au noir” cleaning the hostel’s bathrooms for one week.
A: Yuck, I think I’d rather have opted for the whoring gig.
7. En voiture Simone — Let’s go!
Who cares who Simone is? She’s “getting in the car” and so are you! It’s time to hit the road and have some fun around the million roundabouts France is plagued with.
8. Mettre les voiles — Leaving in a hurry
Your adventure in France was a blast, but if you don’t want to be accused to overstay and be nabbed for working as an illegal maid, you’d better “sail away”.
A: Is that a cop car outside the hostel?
B: Enough of France, I think it’s time to “mettre les voiles”