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How to Sound More Like a Native French Speaker 101

By March 13, 2019August 21st, 2021Cinema, Film, France, French, Language Learning, Language Tips & Tricks

4 quick tips: learn how to talk the talk

à Paris ou ailleurs…

Spoiler alert! Tip #4: Check your pride at the door. It’s not about perfection, it’s about putting yourself out there, enjoying the process, and making mistakes! Allez-y! 

 First Things First: Varieties of French

Le saviez-vous? Did you know? A total of 29 countries list French as their official language! That’s 29 more countries with varying dialects and accents.

Ohh la la… In France alone, 28 regions speak French just a little bit differently. They include the Alsatian, Lorrain, Champenois, Picard, Normand, Breton, Marseille, Corsica, Lyon, Gascony and Languedoc dialects, to name a few

Fear not! With our tips and hacks below (including a free pronunciation lesson!)vous êtes en route, you’re on your way to speaking more confidently, avec panache!

1. Focus on Pronunciation: The Crossfit of Language! 

Tackle your ‘aural’ roadblock. It’s a thing!

Le saviez-vous?! Adults learn languages faster when focusing on pronunciation first. OUI. Research shows that training your ears to recognize the sounds of your ‘target language’ as a primer for studying greatly improves your ability to memorize new words and phrases in that language.

While French accents come in a lot of shapes and sizes, focus on pronunciation of the norm, le français standard, and the rest will follow. Lucky for us, linguists find that while standard French is the norm, exposure to a variety of accents – through music, film, travel, etc. – still improves one’s ability to understand the language. C’est magnifique! 

Truly, Freestyle considers pronunciation, the crossfit of language: strengthening from the core, for greater success in your language learning goals!

FREE Mini-Lesson (La Consonne R): French Pronunciation Workshop

Enter Digital Stage Right: our French Pronunciation Workshop, designed to boost your learning through practice and audio (beyond simply listening)! With repetition and practice, you’re sounding, well, sexier already…

2. Use…um…Filler Words!

The fillers you use in everyday conversation exist in French! When you’re struggling to find the right word or expression, try using the French alternative. You don’t have to cut out “um” “well…” or the infamous “like” – just translate them! You’ll be surprised how ‘globally relevant’ they all are!

  • Euh – Need to pause in the middle of a sentence? Need a moment to gather your thoughts? Euh is the French equivalent of “um”, and it’s used in the same way! Avez-vous besoin de quelque chose? Euh, non merci – j’ai tout. 
  • Alors – Use this filler in place of “so”. Alors, comment va la nouvel emploi? 
  • En fait – Literally “in fact”, this filler can be swapped for “actually”. Use this if you’re changing your mind (En fait, je voudrais de la galce au chocolat) or for clarification.
  • Bon ben – Use this filler at the beginning of a sentence, the same way you would use “Ok, well…” Bon ben, à demain!
  • Hein – This filler works in two different contexts – the first is “huh?” if you didn’t quite catch what someone said. The second is “right?” if you want to prompt someone into agreeing with you. Tu seras là ce soir, hein?

3. Incorporate ‘Authentic Materials’

‘Authentic materials’ – films, TV shows, songs made BY native French speakers for other native French speakers.

To blend in with Francophones learn le langage quotidien, everyday language (including slang, l’argot)! Our #1 method for this?! Les films français. Listening to and using language as it’s truly spoken, in relevant cultural contexts, and across a variety of genres builds proficiency at a faster rate than traditional classes alone can.

French films not only teach you l’argot, and the most commonly used phrases in context, but also offer a glimpse into the culture behind the language, building authenticity in your speaking. Bien sûr, it’s not enough to just watch the film. You have to study it! Pause and make a flashcard when someone says a word you don’t know.  Turn on target language subtitles. Take note of how characters greet each other, or how an actor orders food a restaurant, what fillers they’re using, and even gestures.

If done right, a multi-media approach ensures that you learn all four communicative language skills – speaking, listening, reading, and writing… with the all important ‘fifth skill’: culture!

In the meantime, voilà! A few fun slang expressions to add to your repertoire:

  • Laisse tomber – Literally “let it drop”: forget about it! Use this phrase to brush off something that’s not important. “J’ai oublié de faire mes devoirs” “Laisse tomber, c’est pas grave!”
  • Bouffer – This verb means to eat but with more intensity – to scarf! “J’ai bouffé au moins trois croissants chaque jour quand j’étais en France.”
  • Sans blague – No joke! You’re kidding! “Je pense que je viens de voir Emmanuel Macron.” “Sans blague!”
  • Frais/fraîche – Literally “fresh”, this adjective describes food… unless you want to sound like a native speaker, in which case use this to describe anything you think is cool! You can describe things as “fresh” either ironically or seriously (the same way we use it in English). “Frérot (bro) , tu as un veste fraîche!”

Learn new slang terms & idiomatic expressions (with audio & examples!) daily through our French Phrase of the Day!

4. Embrace Mistakes! & Check Your Pride at the Door

One of the best tools to carry in your language learning belt? Humility. Don’t be scared to make a mistake! Just get your words out first – and take pride in what you know! Practicing out loud solidifies your strengths and improves any weaknesses.

This rule holds especially true for the French language, as Francophones tend to speak with great confiance. Confidence is key – il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l’amande (no pain, no gain).

A good role model? Children! Children don’t exhibit as much caution as we adults tend to do – they throw their words out until they know how to do it right. À noter! 

‘Spontaneous language production’, according to our favorite language acquisition theories, is where it’s at! (speaking of ‘everyday language’!) Take advantage of opportunities to speak face-to-face. Put yourself out there. Better yet, join us at our next happy hour, wine tasting, or Saturday café! Join our newsletter for more information and fun language practice. Ne sois pas timide!

In language learning, we all make mistakes! Just #keeponkeepingon and spit it out! “If you’re making mistakes, you’re winning the game.”

Voilà! Most importantly, enjoy learning to let this beautiful language ‘wash over you’, even when you don’t understand each word, put yourself out there, practice pronunciation and most of all have fun with, arguably, the most beautiful language in the world ?!

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