You must have already experienced this situation: you are new to a group of acquaintances who speak the language you are learning.
You understand most of what is being said, but you don’t feel strong enough to open your mouth.
And when you’re being questioned, right away, you feel uncomfortable, you start a clumsy sentence, and because you’re having trouble finishing the second sentence, someone picks up the conversation on their own.
If only you had had a little more confidence! If only you had known how to master a few tricks to be able to finish this second sentence!
Here are 7 tips that could help you in such a situation.
Don’t forget to use transparent words. There are a large number of French words that closely look like words in your own language. Make a list of them and memorize them.
It is not easy to learn, for example, all the vocabulary related to the house. Then learn hyperonyms, words that could be used as a label to name a set of words: room (living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc.), furniture (table, chair, armchair, wardrobe, buffet, etc.).
And if you really do not know a word to designate a thing, use the word « chose» (thing) or this one, much more common in spoken French: « truc » (thing).
Then you can describe the unknown word with simple words you know. Just use tips 2 and 3 and add a few basic adjectives such as size (petit, grand) or color (blanc, noir, bleu, rouge, vert, etc.) or material (en bois, en fer, en plastique). Because, you can do that!
The description can help you invent words. And yes, why not! You are not here to speak academic French, you are there to communicate. And sometimes, this communication can take on a survival character! There are different ways to invent words in French. One of them is to describe the practical destination of the object you want to talk about. « C’est un meuble pour dormir. » (It’s a sleeping piece of furniture). Oh yes, you want to talk about a bed (un lit).
Also use negation. It allows you to double your ‘power’ in French. How to say that you hate something in French? And you don’t know the word « detester » (to hate)? No problem, say you don’t like it : « Je n’aime pas. »
The ultimate trick is not to use language, but sounds to replace an unknown or just forgotten word. Imitate the sound of the hen if you no longer know how to say ‘hen’ in French (un coq). And don’t make the mistake of believing that you will be ridiculous: thinking you’re ridiculous is one of the worst mistakes you can make in a survival situation. I’ll tell you about it in a future e-mail.
If you want to find more tips (and much more), I have prepared a set of sheets that I have titled FRENCH SURVIVAL KIT. To find out more, click here.
A bientôt, Jérôme