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Achieving anything near fluency in A language (French)

(22 Posts)
spearly Sat 23-May-20 16:54:05

I was looking 5 hear some success stories from those who have achieved a decent fluency (can understand and talk pretty fluently) in a language as I am struggling to keep motivated. I'm good at mastering the basics, but don't think I would ever understand a film without English subtitles. Any tips, ideas which may help. I know I should just keep plugging at it, but I just needed to know it was possible for someone not living in a country of that language to make such progress.

I am trying French, but I am sure it's the same for all languages.

spearly Sat 23-May-20 16:55:25

to not 5!

user1471519931 Sat 23-May-20 16:56:34

Yes...fluent in French but lived 1 year in France and 8 in Belgium. Shunned English speakers in favour of francophone ones. French speaking boyfriends 😎

Quite competitive and deep desire to speak fluently...

Was often mistaken for being native 😜

Lordfrontpaw Sat 23-May-20 16:57:22

DH is very good at languages - ds is good too and it seems to be: repetition, practice and immersion (so find a radio station, get newspapers and books etc) and try to use it on a native speaker wherever you can.

I’m crap at languages but unconfident so not comfortable speaking!

spearly Sat 23-May-20 17:00:41

User1471 etc. Did you literally just pick it up from living there or did you also do some study?

I wonder about people who live in the country if it is 100% immersion or if they also get books, learn grammar etc as well.

BumpBundle Sat 23-May-20 17:04:39

You're going to hate me. I studied four languages at university including English (also Spanish, Chinese Mandarin and Italian). I am not even almost close to fluent in any of them except for English (which is my native language). It's almost impossible to reach fluency in a language if you're above the age of about 11 when you start learning and you don't live immersed in the language. It's not impossible but it's really, really, very hard to do. It is also, completely unnecessary. Learning enough French to get by should take about a year if you're working on it for about an hour each day. You need to practice speaking it and listening to it more than looking up structures. Watch TV in that language, Skype call native speakers, change your phone settings to that language etc.

justamumof1 Sat 23-May-20 17:06:33

I picked up more from living in france for a few months than I did studying french at school.

Definitely go about finding some french friends. Maybe find a language swap online.

Are you an adult doing A level french btw?

BumpBundle Sat 23-May-20 17:06:49

Also, the better you know a language, the more you'll notice your mistakes so you'll never think you're fluent until you're completely perfect. Look how many native English speakers can't use their/there/they're correctly...

justamumof1 Sat 23-May-20 17:07:08

Sorry, in your title I though you wrote you're doing A level french blush

ShinyMe Sat 23-May-20 17:08:19

All the books and lessons in the world won't make you fluent in the way that being constantly surrounded by native speakers talking to each other as well as to you does. You need to listen to people just talking, day in and day out, that's what brings the actual "fluency" in terms of accent and idiom and understanding.

Lordfrontpaw Sat 23-May-20 17:09:03

DH completely switched languages as a child - so it’s like the switch is ‘on’ on his head. He did 2 foreign languages at A level and the examiners thought he was a native speaker. I am very jealous!

sonjadog Sat 23-May-20 17:09:13

It needs commitment and exposure over a long period. You really do have to go all in for it. So listen and watch French tv/radio. Read newspapers and websites in French, find French people to talk to. It is much more challenging than just living in the country.

ShinyMe Sat 23-May-20 17:12:06

By the way, fluency doesn't mean perfection or being indistinguishable from a native speaker. It just means that you can understand and participate comfortably in normal life in that language with native speakers. You don't have to have perfect grammar and know every single word, but if you can think and operate and function effectively then that's fluency.

bluefoxmug Sat 23-May-20 17:12:27

I am learning a language right now.
in a year I got to A2 level.
it's damn hard work, and it's supposed to be an 'easy' language hmm not helped by many people switching to near perfect english when I struggle.
I can do simple phone conversations now and understand the gist of the news or tv programmes.

SuziGeo Sat 23-May-20 17:14:10

I've lived in France for 3 years and feel my vocabulary and pronunciation have really improved but I still can't get to grips with the grammar. When I was at school we never formally learnt the rules of English grammar so I don't have a good framework to attach my French grammar to. My language is good enough to survive here but still find group conversations difficult, the subject changes too much and I quickly get lost. I found watching French TV with the subtitles in French really helped me, if I had English subtitles I just read without properly listening. Also reading books in French. I chose books that I know in English so I already knew the story.

Limpetlike Sat 23-May-20 17:14:34

My French used to be fluent, but it's rusty these days from non-use. However, to this day, when I'm in France visiting friends, I am far more likely to be taken for a native speaker in a brief exchange than my American friend who has lived there for almost 20 years and brought up her bilingual children there, and who is fluent, but still has a strong American accent. Which is unfair, but there you go.

I suppose what I'm saying is that an ear for accents gets you surprisingly far.

exexpat Sat 23-May-20 17:15:08

I've only ever got to good fluency levels in languages by living in the relevant countries, when I already had covered the basics of grammar etc before.

Basically, constant exposure and the necessity to communicate in a language are what really make you learn, in my experience, and you really only get that by living somewhere (and not being immersed in an expat bubble).

If going to live somewhere is impossible, then try getting as close to that experience as possible: watch French language programmes or films without subtitles - you don't have subtitles when you are in France, which means you get used to trying to understand without them. Subtitles encourage you to be lazy. You won't understand everything to start with, but little by little you will understand more - that is how natural language-learning works. Listen to French radio, read French books/magazines/websites, sing along with songs in French, and find someone to talk to, online or in real life, or just go round talking to yourself in French, narrating your own life as you go.

Limpetlike Sat 23-May-20 17:15:41

Also, French might not be a language you learn easily -- personally I seem to have already got a space in my head for Romance languages (I learned Spanish and Italian very easily), but find German comes less naturally.

bluefoxmug Sat 23-May-20 17:17:57

watch French language programmes or films without subtitles

without english subtitles, but if you can switch of the french ones, that helps connecting the spoken to the written language.

eurochick Sat 23-May-20 17:18:50

Live in a french speaking country.

Shag a frenchman.

Those are the two best routes to fluency.

I learned at school and university, lived for a year in France and 1.5 years in Belgium and was fluent but not word perfect by that point. I wrote my first published academic article in French whilst living in Belgium but it was checked over by a native speaker.

Watching french programmes with french subtitles is a good way to attune your ear and pick up phrasing and usage. There's a fair bit of interesting stuff in french on Netflix.

Lordfrontpaw Sat 23-May-20 17:22:05

Careful what you watch - I was learning Italian a while back and had been watching some Italian crime dramas and a friends Italian 80 year old mum asked what words I’d learned.

Subtitles don’t always convey the subtlety of language...

DotForShort Sat 23-May-20 17:22:21

It is entirely possible to reach a high degree of proficiency in a second (third, fourth) language as an adult. Of course, it does require quite a bit of effort. I am "near-native" in my second language, and I teach its literature at a university. My top tips for language learners:

Try to lose your fear of making mistakes. You will make many mistakes, so just accept that fact.

Interact with native speakers as much as possible. If these native speakers also speak English, try to forget that. Avoid asking them, "How do you say [whatever] in French?" Use the words you already know and learn the priceless technique of circumlocution.

Experiment with learning strategies. Don't rely on one method.

Find a boyfriend/girlfriend who is a native speaker of French. grin Just kidding. This is, however, one of the best ways to improve your language proficiency.

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