The Best Five Ways to Learn French While in France

After spending two weeks studying abroad in France, I’ve learned about how to best learn the language while you’re living here. Living in France is culturally immersive in itself, but you can’t learn a language if you don’t put in the daily effort. Thus, I’ve compiled a list of five things that have been helpful for me.

Live in a Homestay

My host mother lives in a small apartment on the fifth floor. The bathroom is a bit cramped, there isn’t a dryer machine, and we tend to open the windows to air out the rooms. These things aren’t usual for me, mais en fait, it makes me feel like I’m part of the French culture. Dinner conversations is where I put some of my French phrases to use and learn about the various French foods that my host mom cooks, which often include vegetables, salmon, and potatoes. 

Go to Bookstores 

A great way to learn the language is to visit bookstores. Sometimes you can find me in Libraire Gallignani or Shakespeare and Company, and I tend to reach for children’s books. It may look a little silly, but if you can read and understand on a child’s level, I believe that’s a good start. 

Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookstore, but you can find some nice French gems and curl up in the cozy chairs inside!

Make Friends with French Students 

It is tempting to stay close to the American friends that you have connected with. I attend the American Business School in Paris, which represents over 80 nationalities and hosts roughly 70% international students, as well as French students. All it takes is a simple, “Bonjour! Comment t’appelle-tu?” or “J’adore votre tenue!

Listen to French Music and Watch French Movies

Most of the people I befriended have always said they have learned English through watching American movies and listening to music, so why not do the same when learning French? I personally love listening to French artists like Fauve, Hoshi, Bazbaz, Loane, et j’en passe. Watching French movies with subtitles always helps me understand expressions and pronunciation. Some of my favorite movies are Tomboy and Un Homme Ideal.

Be Bold and Try Something New

Strikes in France often affect public transportation services. Just this last week, there was a major strike that closed all of the train station lines due to the Macron pension reform, so I had to walk to school. That day, I also befriended a French woman named Céline who encouraged me to ride the bus if I was planning to meet up with friends afterwards. Le bus in Paris can be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking for novices like myself. However, in just a span of two hours, I picked up new phrases and interacted with people from all over France. One phrase that stuck with me is, “Est-ce que ce bus va à Bastille?” All in all, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and try something uncomfortable. You never know what you might learn!

One of the many bus stations in Paris.

Jessica Trowell is a student at Bethel University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying with ISA in Paris, France.

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