By Chantal Roberts
I hope to improve my French in advance of KC MOlière: 400 in 2022’s festival. The Board wants to invite the French glitterati, and I’d like to be able to speak with them in their native language (if only to rub elbows with the Rich & Famous). However, I, like most people stuck in the middle, encounter several problems whether they are real or imagined when thinking of my abilities in a foreign language.
I dislike speaking French because I’m embarrassed by my accent, and I become frustrated when I don’t know a word. Let’s unpack the first part: when you speak with someone who is not a native English speaker, you do not mock her accent, do you? So, it stands to reason the person you are speaking with in French thinks your accent is as charming as you find hers. The second piece of advice was offered by Pierre, a French teacher. He suggests you speak aloud to yourself in the language you want to learn. This has two benefits: first, you overcome your embarrassment of speaking, and second, you realize what words you don’t know. You can then look them up, write them down, and practice them.
Another method to help you overcome your shyness for spoken word is to read aloud a French book. Pierre suggests a young adult novel since it would have easier words; however, if you like whodunits, read those!
Podcasts are excellent listening comprehension tools if you’re concerned you will be unable to understand French when it is spoken.
If you prefer to watch your French, Netflix has several current French TV shows, which are beneficial for learning new vocabulary and slang. I’m currently enjoying Call My Agent (Dix Percent) and C’est du Gâteau! (the French version of Nailed It!). If murder-mystery is more your style, you may like La Mante. Watch with French subtitles so you can learn pronunciation and vocabulary. Although I can figure out what is happening based on the action and the subtitles, I find it often beneficial to watch the series with English subtitles at a later date.
I devote an hour a day, four to five times a week, to studying French—which is sometimes a combination of a podcast and a TV show or sometimes a grammar lesson from one of my old university books. I’ve yet to get bored—even when reviewing grammar! Perhaps I’ll pluck up enough courage one day to go to The Kansas City French Connection[iii], a group who works solely on their spoken French.
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