You finally have the chance to study abroad in a French-speaking country and you have one goal in mind: becoming fluent in French.
Studying a language abroad is definitely an effective way to immerse yourself in the language and feel connected to the local culture. You are naturally learning something new every day. However let’s not forget that a language also entails structure, rules, and exceptions.
With the right combination of valuable tools, dedication and a proactive attitude, not only will your French skills improve but you will set solid fundamentals to build on what you have learned and continue your journey towards fluency even after you go back to your country.
The tools and strategies I am going to suggest you are meant to help you in your journey before during and after your study abroad experience. There are endless options out there, but part of what makes a tool effective is understanding what kind of learner you are and which method you are most comfortable with.
Go through them and choose what’s best for you and most importantly enjoy your journey to fluency!
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1. Textbooks & Lessons
Let's start with the basics. A comprehensive book is a blessing, especially if you are a beginner.
Rather than listing book titles, I thought it would be more useful to pinpoint some established publishers that offer a variety of material.
CLE International, for example, is specialized in teaching French and has great valuable lessons, exercise books, and audio material. One example is “Grammaire progressive du français”, which goes through all levels step by step. More titles are available on their website.
Hachette is another well-known publisher. They have a collection that is equivalent to the one offered by CLE, called “Français Langue Etrangère”. What’s interesting is that they provide good material for specialized language learning for people working in a specific industry or those who need to practice their Business French.
Want to switch to something more interactive once you go abroad?
You might want to check out Alliance Francais, an international organization that promotes the French language and culture. With more than 1000 locations around the world, they provide free books, resources, and classes for learners of all ages. They also host cultural events and workshops and can make for a great connection source while you are abroad.
Make sure to check the closest branch to you on their website.
2. Grammar and Spelling Checking Tools
It’s important to keep your grammar and spelling in check especially if you are emailing professors, or texting your new French-speaking friends.
There are plenty of tools online that can help you with this, but one in particular stands out for being a reliable source. BonPatron, created by university professors and linguistic researcher can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes during your experience abroad.
One thing to be aware of though, is that this tool is in no way meant to be a corrector and you should rather use it as a research tool. Ultimately only native speakers can tell you if what you write in French reflects the message you want to convey and if it is coherent in French or not.
3. Pronunciation Checker
There is no better way to improve your pronunciation than talking to a native speaker but if you need more practice on your own or if you don't have the chance to meet French speakers before going abroad you can find a few tools that can be of use.
It’s especially true for French, given the abundance of silent letters, glidings, liaison etc. Not to mention that the liaisons are different, pronouns and articles seem to disappear and… you get the point.
There is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to record your voice and compares it to that of a native speaker. Not only that but you can even transcribe audio files and input speech for real-time translation into another language.
Another viable option is to just use your Phone. With any recording app like Rev, you can record your voice. To hear a native speaker’s pronunciation of that same sentence, you can navigate to a website like Forvo, the biggest French Audio dictionary where, among other things, you can ask people to pronounce words for you.
Ever watched a video on YouTube or listened to a song but can’t exactly grasp all the words?
Rhinospike will transcribe audio and video files for you. There are no limits to what you can learn while you entertain yourself!
4. Online French Courses & Podcasts
If you are a visual or auditory learner, this option might be the one that suits you the most. An online course can take you from Beginner to Fluency by using a wide range of tools like audio and video lessons, flashcards, e-books and so on.
Online Courses are also the best option if you have a busy schedule and prefer to set your own deadlines and study from anywhere at your own pace.
What if self-studying is not for you? There are online courses that offer 1-to-1 lessons with native teachers that will support you step by step with a personalized approach, like FrenchPod101.
Ultimately, it’s about what works best for you, but keeping online learning out of the equation would be a mistake as it’s the most convenient learning tool for travelers and people on the go.
5. Connect with Locals!
Regardless of which tools you will choose don’t forget that studying abroad is a precious opportunity. To make the most of your experience, forget about English, get involved in academic activities and clubs in your local community.
It’s a great way to avoid falling into the “English trap” of making only international friends when you go abroad.
One way to do this is by looking for events on apps like Meetup. This app offers you the chance to look for groups of people with the same interests as you (sport, art, music, business, technology, dancing and more) and join their events.
If you make the effort to be an involved learner and put into practice what the more academic tools listed above have taught you, you will be granted a chance to move a step closer to fluency.
And Remember that learning starts even before you leave and continues on once you are back!
These tools can help you stay on track at any given point in your learning journey. Get out of your comfort zone, enjoy your study abroad and use a wide range of tools to make the best out of your experience.
About the author
Graziana is a marketing coordinator at Innovative Language Learning, an online language learning program teaching 34 languages, including French at FrenchPod101.com. Since 2005, Innovative Language has been teaching learners to speak a new language with fast, fun, and easy audio/video lessons by real teachers.