As a beginner-level student of French, or someone who is still contemplating learning French, you might be feeling like you are at the bottom of a mountain and any attempt at reading or listening to something will be a painful and humiliating experience. We know the feeling here. Anyone who speaks a foreign language was one day a clueless beginner. But anyone who ever succeeded has at some point decided to dive in and try, even at the cost of misunderstandings and failure.

There are many ways that you can enjoy French and francophone cultures, as early as right now! And I am not talking about eating croissants or drinking wine.

I am gathering here a few tips based on my own experience:

1. Listen to music

Listening to French songs is one of the best ways I can think of for you to educate your ear and build tons of vocabulary without ever feeling like you are working on it.
Today, my English is the result of 25 years of learning and practicing in and outside of the classroom, but I give a lot of credit to British and American rock n' roll for a lot of the vocabulary that I have learned. In middle school, when the internet wasn't a thing yet, I spent many hours listening to songs over and over, and with the help of my dictionary I looked for the meaning of my favorite songs and learned a lot along the way.

Discover our selection of francophone artists who played in Boston in recent years for some inspiration! Or stop by and ask us about our favorite artists.


2. Focus on what fascinates you

While you have a lot of grammar to learn in order to dive into just anything, I recommend you give yourself time with things that look truly interesting to you. Spending too much time only with graded material could turn your journey into a drag instead of the exciting adventure it should be. You don't have to understand everything. What if you watch a film and don't understand half of the dialog? Don't beat yourself up because it's hard. Just focus on the beautiful art and the talent of the actors, and take your time to make your way to fluency.

3. Discover the many resources that are just perfect for you

If you are the type of person who gets overwhelmed by the challenge of a French song or a simple book, don't worry. Many publishing companies develop collections for those who are learning French as a foreign language. These are great by themselves or in combination with other resources mentioned above. Here are 4 examples:

  • Bien Dire Magazine, a periodical which offers articles written with the abilities of beginners and intermediate-learners in mind. These are color-coded and you can pick a small beginner-level article to get to work. Each issue comes with a CD in order to practice both listening and reading comprehension.

  • Bien Dire CDs: the same publishing company which puts together the above-mentioned magazine creates CDs to work on your comprehension, focusing on different situations or skills which people often specifically want to work on. A couple of examples for beginners include "Master French Numbers" and "Shopping in France".

  • Lectures faciles: these easy readers are some of the favorite resources our beginner and intermediate users have. Like Bien Dire magazine, they offer graded texts following the CECR (A1 is for absolute beginners) and come with a CD, so that you keep your listening and reading comprehension progressing at the same pace... a challenge most people face.

  • Travel & Talk: these online-accessible exercises range from basics to advanced beginner, and have the non-negligible advantage of being available at all times (just make sure you have a valid login to Culturethèque... email us at librarian@frenchlibrary.org if you need one!).

4. Look up to some higher goals

It doesn't matter where you are right now, but having hopes such as being able to read your favorite writers in the original version of their books is the sort of thing that will keep you engaged and motivated to keep learning and practicing. You can have goals of different levels for yourself based on your own interests and work up positively through them. For example, you can have the goal of understanding and memorizing a song you love the melody of. You can have the goal to watch a film with French subtitles. You can have the goal to read a graphic novel and understand the general meaning without the help of a dictionary. You can have the goal to bake a cake using a recipe in French.

The Library wishes you bon courage ("be brave"!) and remains available to you to help you along the way.

Marie Lalevée

Library Director

Marie studied Library Sciences in France. She is passionate about sharing her sense of French culture, as well as a love of beauty in all forms!

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