Chloe from My Life Living Abroad
Our interview this week is with Chloe and we're chatting about how she learned even more French after moving to Paris six years ago.
Chloe is from the UK and these days she is a bilingual assistant by day and blogger by night. You can find her at My Life Living Abroad.
Chloe had a strong start from her schooling, but read on to find out how she kept advancing.
BEFORE ARRIVING IN FRANCE
Did you study French before you moved to Paris?
Yes, I studied French at secondary school and in Sixth Form College so from the age of 11 to 18. It was a good start and gave me a lot of important vocabulary, even if it was fairly basic. I never really used apps for French but I did use them for other languages that I had no knowledge of at all, Spanish for example!
What were your feelings about learning the French language?
I knew as soon as I started learning French that I wanted to speak it fluently one day. It was really le coup de foudre! I fell in love with the language and felt excited and happy to learn it.
LEARNING IN PARIS
Q. Did you want to learn right away?
I came to Paris to learn French, or to learn more French to be exact. School had given me the basics but I really wanted to speak it fluently. So, after graduating from university I came straight to Paris to work as an au pair and take French classes three days a week.
Q. Knowing a little French already, how did you feel using it when you arrived?
I knew a lot of vocabulary but my self-confidence with regard to speaking was non-existent. I couldn’t even order a coffee and a croissant with confidence! I spoke quietly and timidly and people often replied to me in English.
Q. Where did you take a course when arriving here? Did it accomplish what you wanted?
I took classes at a Language School near Opéra and can honestly say they didn’t help me at all. Sadly the classroom atmosphere meant we were doing exactly the same material as we had at school and the biggest problem was that we didn’t have the opportunity to speak! It was like being back at school in England all over again.
Q. Do you have any tricks for learning or perfecting your French?
The advice I always give to people is: listen to and speak as much French as possible. I watched French cartoons when I arrived because I couldn’t understand anything, starting small and eventually moving to series and then full films. Now I can understand almost everything I watch, without subtitles! Speaking is also extremely important, people tend to spend too much time studying a language and not enough time speaking it. Try to find a good balance of studying AND speaking! In Paris it’s easy to find a language exchange partner or even make friends with French people.
Are you continuing to make progress with your French?
Last year I hit a little bit of a wall with my French as I got to a point where my speaking was very good but my writing, due to lack of practice, had fallen very far behind. I spent last year taking private lessons where we purely focused on writing. I didn’t even have face to face lessons, my teacher would just give me writing assignments and I would complete them and hand them in as homework. It was perfect for my particular problem! However, sometimes I wish I was more confident in writing formal emails at work, I often ask my colleagues to check before I send anything!
Do you have the same motivation as when you first arrived?
I can honestly say I do, I LOVE the French language. I think it’s such a beautiful language and even though I have a good level in French now, I still want to learn everything I can.
If you could go back to the beginning, would you ever be interested in a one-on-one course held in cafés around Paris? =)
I would! I would love to have a more informal lesson with someone who could perhaps teach me some more French slang words, jokes and other things that are still difficult to grasp.
A FEW FUN QUESTIONS
Tell us a story. Is there an embarrassing moment or maybe a victory that you're particularly proud of?
I had a lot of embarrassing moments when I first arrived but one of my favourite stories has to be how I met my friend François. François is a waiter in a restaurant that I love going to. When we first met and I was still a complete newbie in France, I kept saying merci beaucoup incorrectly. What I was actually saying to all the waiters and waitresses was “thank you, you have a nice bottom!!” I was mortified when he told me what I had been saying but years later we can laugh about it.
What is your favorite French word or phrase?
I think my favourite French phrase is ça roule, literally translated it means that rolls but in French it means: that works for me/sounds good. Between my close girlfriends and I we even say ça roule ma poule meaning: that works for me chick!
Do you have a favorite place in Paris?
My favourite place in Paris is the Jardin des Plantes in the 5 th arrondissement. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place that’s very close to the banks of the Seine where I love taking a stroll.
What interesting cultural quirk have you learned since being in France?
I have learnt how important their traditions are when it comes to dining. There are rules about which way the bread should be put on the table, how you should cheers with others at the table and in which order you should eat your dishes (cheese is always AFTER dessert which is the opposite of England). The French have a huge amount of respect for wining and dining and they really know how to do it right!
Thanks Chloe! We loved hearing more about experience learning French. Your advice about making sure to speak and to watch films and videos to improve comprehension are spot on. Keep up the writing!