Learning A Foreign Language: My French Journey

Learning a language is no easy feat. People start learning for multiple reasons- for fun, for work, family/partners or living arrangements. It requires memorising, pulling apart sentences and learning how to reconstruct them and putting aside your pride to speak with errors with a native speaker.

My French learning started in high school with compulsory foreign language classes. Once I knew that we had to pick a language, my mind went straight to the Eiffel Tower. For 12 year old me, I had the stereotypical images in my mind of sophisticated women with red lipstick carrying baguettes walking down a street with their dogs, surrounded by red flowers falling from balconies.

And so started my journey! You can read about my journey in French here.

My first French teacher was an air of inspiration and would waltz into the room with a huge bonjour tout le monde. She had some much poise, was always wrapped in a colourful scarf and had on bright lipstick to match. She was the epitome of chic. She was also tri-lingual teaching Indonesian as well so compared to all the other teachers, she was the typical creative arts teacher.

Learning at school was a bit of a blur in the 4 years with 4 different teachers with varying teaching styles. I remember having to listen to scratchy french tapes, repeating verb conjugations as a class and dreaded speaking exams. When time came to selecting the subjects for the final 2 years of high school, I felt so behind on French that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable having to bet my high school score on it. So I made the choice to leave it aside.

I didn’t study French again until I was at university. I felt like I wanted to study it again and to learn something outside of my degree. I dabbled between classes at Alliance Française and at another local university. The teaching styles were quite different. Alliance Française was more structured with topics pre-set according to the curriculum and stricter adherence to the European Framework of References for Languages. The local university class was more fluid. We learnt different vocabulary across all topics within one class and the atmosphere was more relaxed although perhaps too unstructured for me. I also tried out conversation exchange during this time and found it ok but you really spend so much time trying to find someone who you will click with.

After my first degree, I started a doctorate degree which meant my time was consumed by science. I had to get to know a new research area so felt that there wasn’t quite enough brain space for a foreign language. I restarted French again once I started working full-time. It was the perfect way to feel like I was doing something for myself. Back to Alliance Française I went to complete classes until B2 level. By the last term of B1, I could really feel that I was lacking in some areas compared to my classmates and thought that if I kept going I would really struggle.

As such, I decided to take a break (which in hindsight was a bad decision!) and start learning Spanish instead! Learning Spanish was and still is on my radar so thought that my hiatus in French would be the time to dive head first into another foreign language. A year passed learning Spanish but at the back of my mind, I was still thinking about French. Given where I was last at in French class, I thought that the next logical step was to get a private tutor. I was thinking that I should probably get something out of all these years learning French so decided that I would sit the Diplome d’Etude en Langue Française (DELF) B1 exam.

This worked well as I now had something to aim towards. I was speaking a lot more and trouble shooting my grammar and writing. As I had an upcoming exam, I was on overdrive with my studying too. I was listening to French at every waking moment and found this method actually really effective at fine tuning my brain to pick up words and get the brain ‘thinking’ in French. I was also doing mock DELF exams with my tutor and reading more complicated articles across a wider range of topics.

The exam came around. I was so stressed! It would be the first exam I’d taken since being at university. I’ll go into more detail in another blog post but the day went by so quickly.

After my exam, I did some more private lessons but just felt aimless now that I didn’t have a goal to achieve. My tutor had accidently given me a practise DELF B2 exam and I could definitely tell that there was actually a really large gap between B1 and B2 level. B2 would obviously be my next aim but after noticing this huge gap, I really would need to dedicate so much more time to french. Undecided.

It’s been almost a year now that I’ve sat the DELF exam. I’m still listening to French as much as I can and sometimes reading news articles. I have the feeling that I need an all immersive environment to reach B2 but I could be wrong.

If you have any tips on working towards B2, please let me know!
What made you start learning a language? How has your language learning journal gone? I’d love to know.

Other Posts you might like:
I wrote about my Spanish language learning start here.
Trying out a croissant making class in Paris here.

3 thoughts on “Learning A Foreign Language: My French Journey

  1. Pingback: Learning A Language As An Adult: Spanish – Lingo in Transit

  2. I enjoyed reading about your journey to the French language. I built my blog, Frenchquest in 2012 around my journey. I started later in life at 45 learning French through self study. At 50, I was able to begin working on an Interdisciplinary MA in Applied French and Linguistics. Through this I spent a semester at the Sorbonne- Cours de la Civilisation in Paris!!!(B2). I have been learning German and Russian since that time!! I look forward to reading more about your journey of language acquisition.

    1. Thank you so much for reading about my journey! Oh that’s so great- you can really learn a language at any age. I could spend whole weekends just studying languages. I just had a look at one of your posts about your Sorbonne experience. What an amazing opportunity it must have been (plus that staircase to your grammar class!).

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