I am forcing my French to improve by immersing myself with no other option but to learn faster here at PumpjackPiddlewick

That’s right, I am forcing my French. This is not for the feint hearted. Don’t try this at home. At least if you aren’t visiting or don’t live in France.

I am in need of, as well as desirous of, improving my French. Fast. And I have taken a certain route. It may not be for everyone. But I recommend reading further, and take what may work for you if you wish to learn or improve your French.

A Little Histoire

I have lived now in France for 10 years. And embarrassingly for that period of time my French is really not very good. Sure, I have excuses. Five years were spent as an on-site caretaker of an English speaking chateau. (And deciding if I liked France enough to make it my home.) After, just when time and opportunity arrived to learn and improve, we went into lockdowns.

Since then, my French has certainly come a long way. I can communicate essentials, and understand 75%. However, this is not good enough, particularly as I have chosen to live in France. I wish to be as fluent as possible. It’s a little harder later in life, but not impossible. But because it is harder, I have forced my French into a situation where I must learn.

What I’ve Done

I bought myself a little (medieval) house here in France. In choosing the location, I actually chose a location that has almost no expats. That is people from other countries who have chosen to live in France, eg. English speakers.

So far, in my village, I believe I am the only native English speaker. I have heard there is another English speaker, but so far we haven’t met. There are certainly a few who live here who know the odd word, and like to practise those occasionally with me. Words though, so questions or conversation must be in French.

Learning French

Learning a language takes time. There is no easy path, unless you were lucky enough to grow up bilingual. They say, on average, to have a base level of communication, you need to learn at least 500 basic words. (Read my post on Cognates for a head start on those basics.)

This does not mean you will understand what someone says to you. Particularly if you have learned only singular words. Knowing the word ‘croissant’ does not an understanding of ‘Voulez-vous acheter un croissant ?’ make.

Therefore, from singular words you typically progress to sentences, mainly speaking them. Understanding what is responded comes third. I am at this stage. And getting better every day. Particularly because I have chosen to immerse myself in French and thus am forcing my ear and memory to improve.

Forcing My French

In fact, my French is coming on in leaps and bounds since moving into my new home. It really has no choice. And I am wonderfully happy and excited by it.

Sure, I do curse myself regularly for choosing a place where I am reliant on my new language ability. Especially when I am tired. Or wish to have a meaningful conversation. But when I need a dose of English there is always WhatsApp chats with friends and family. Or vegging in front of a YouTube video. I do love social media for this. (If not necessarily for other things – check out Giving up on Online Analytics.)

Learning is Tiring

It is tiring, too. Your brain has to work harder to understand, to process, to translate. So by the end of the day, all you wish to do is shut down. I do sleep much better since immersing myself in French. My brain is really happy to take that break.

Interestingly I was chatting with my fellow guides about this recently. For them it was how tiring it can be to guide all day in English. (We work for VinoLoire, where 95% of the guests are from English speaking countries. I am their first native English speaker.) For me of course it was having my guide training in French. Something they hadn’t even thought about, since it was the reverse for them.

As for You?

Of course, buying a home in a small village of only French speakers is truly not an option I would recommend for everyone. It was my choice, and not the only choice for choosing to live where I live. But I will recommend immersion. And preferably immersion in France.

Being surrounded by the language, only hearing it, and being forced to speak it, makes all the difference. Using various language systems like Rosetta Stone, Lingoda, Duolingo, or my favourites, Michel Thomas and Coffee Break French, are all good. And with time, and especially dedication (the harder part) you will learn. I know I did.

But I am not good at that dedication part. I am restoring a house, have my shops, French Silk Scarf, to manage, and let’s add in guiding, and time is limited. And I can be lazy when it comes to language learning it turns out. So in discovering this, immersion was the only way.

There’s always a Cost

I did consider an immersion course, but having just bought a house and started a new job, time and money were against me. I would actually love to do an immersion language course. Something to help me improve my grammar and conjugations. But it will have to wait.

For others, an alternative equivalent for those who can’t afford an immersion course would be a workaway holiday. Where you live and work for a host. Many hosts offer language learning as an option. Your own version of placing yourself where you must learn or improve your language skills, with the cost being offering some form of work in exchange. (Check out Workaway for opportunities.)

However you choose to learn, I hope you do learn. It opens up so many more possibilities in life.

More French Stuff

For more on France – my additional French Findings.

And if you find my insights into French life enjoyable, please consider nourishing my writings by checking out my Join Pumpjack & Piddlewick page.

Check out our French Findings from France Facebook, for even more fun stuff.

And vintage French stuff can be found in My Pumpjack & Piddlewick Shop. Here’s a taste…

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