Imagine: Yesterday you had the opportunity to speak with French-speaking people. And it was a disaster!
You are now at home, in your best chair, completely frustrated. But since you don’t want to admit defeat, you analyze the situation.
Why was your meeting with these Francophones a linguistic failure? You realize that you have made 5 mistakes.
Mistake number 1: Not having the right mindset
You went to this meeting with the idea (perhaps unconscious) that you were going to perfectly apply what you learned in French. And that had to be enough. Also, since you’re a good student, it obviously had to work. Finally, you thought you were not entitled to the error, otherwise the others would judge you.
Your mistake is not to have gone to this meeting with the right mindset. You had to consider this meeting as an ideal time to learn more, to test what you have learned, to make mistakes and to learn from others.
If you wait until you are perfect in French before speaking French to a French, you will never speak French. And do not take it too seriously, learning French, trying to put it into practice must be a game, a pleasure.
Mistake number 2: Forgetting the essential basic interactions
You also made a big beginner’s mistake. Perhaps out of shyness. But you forgot to introduce yourself, to say hello to everyone. People, then, didn’t pay you much attention.
To link a conversation in a foreign language, it is essential to first establish the basis of social ties. Go beyond your comfort zone, get in front of people, say hello and introduce yourself.
Mistake number 3: Wanting to speak French as you speak your mother tongue
When you had the opportunity to say something, you immediately wanted to tell something in the same way you would have done in your native language: with beautiful complicated phrases. Disaster! You got confused, you couldn’t finish your sentence.
Why complicate your life when you can keep it simple, especially when you do not yet master French. Make short sentences, use simple words, don’t be afraid to use tricks that make communication easier at the beginning (see my previous email with 7 Tips to Survive a Conversation in French).
Mistake number 4: Forgetting the context
You thought you could get away with your vocabulary and grammar. But in the end it was very difficult. In addition, you didn’t always understand what you were being told because you were only focusing on the words of your interlocutors.
And the context in all this! Your environment, what has been said before, what has been shown, all this context can help you understand a conversation or at least survive in such a moment. Let go of the words a little, go to the feeling that is very often related to the context.
Mistake number 5: Forgetting to check that the communication is good.
You tried to follow what your interlocutor was telling you, but from a certain point on, you weren’t too sure you understood. But you didn’t do anything. And in the end, you were completely lost.
Then you had the opportunity to say something. You were focused on what you were saying. And you didn’t bother to check that the other party understood you.
We have to make sure that the communication is good, on both sides. Make sure you understand, for example by repeating part of a sentence from your interlocutor with an interrogative intonation. And if you are the one speaking, you can from time to time make sure that your interlocutor understands you by asking him / her: « N’est-ce pas ? » (Isn’t it?), « Vous me comprenez ? » (Do you understand me?)
you can turn these 5 errors into 5 strategies to succeed in a conversation in French, or more simply to succeed in speaking French. These 5 strategies and the 7 tips mentioned in a previous article are part of a set of 14 French communication strategies sheets that I wrote. Then I told myself that if I added the vocabulary of basic needs (eating and drinking, sleeping, dressing, health, communicating and moving, security, meeting people), I could offer more to learners who want to get out of their comfort zone in their learning of French. I could offer useful tools to survive in French, in a situation of travel or vacation in a French-speaking country.
And even if it is not a question of survival, these 14 strategies sheets and these 7 basic needs sheets should make it easier to progress in French proficiency.
If you have any questions about the French Survival Kit, feel free to ask me quickly, I will answer you.
À bientôt, Jérôme