6 Ways to Get Rid of Your Fear of Speaking French Once and for All

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4 years ago, I met two girls eager to learn French. They were both studying French at the University and worked equally hard.

Two years later, I met them again in Paris. One spoke French the entire time and even cracked a few jokes while the other spoke English and told me she didn’t feel ready to speak French.

Have you ever wondered why some people quickly learn French while other never seem to succeed?

I have, and after thinking about all the successful and less successful French learners I know, I came to the following conclusion:

Successful French learners don’t simply learn vocabulary, listen to a lot of French and work on their pronunciation, they also do their best to speak French early on.

They accept that mistakes are part of the learning process and use every opportunity they have to speak French and get feedback.

If you want to be successful, but are terrified at the idea of speaking French, here are 5 tips that’ll help you!

#1 Speak French in a reassuring environment

I don’t know about you, but the idea of going to a foreign country and speak a language I’m learning terrifies me.

What if people laugh at me? What if they don’t understand a word I say?

Luckily, you don’t have to wait to be in France to speak French, and you shouldn’t!

The best environment to start speaking French in an environment in which you feel safe, and environment in which you know people aren’t going to laugh you.

For example you could:

  • Go to a language exchange meeting and meet language learners like you
  • Find a French person learning English
  • Speak French with your teacher or tutor

Click here to discover all the different ways to find someone to speak French with.

#2 Start by writing in French

notebook with pen

If you feel that speaking French is too scary for now, why not write French instead?

You won’t get all the benefits of speaking, but you’ll still be able to get feedback and learn to use the language.

Here are my favourite websites and tools to practice writing in French and get corrections from native speakers:

  • Lang-8: this is a website where you can post your texts in French and get free corrections from native speakers.
  • HelloTalk: this app allows you to find people to speak or chat with.
  • Interpals: this is the first website I ever used to learn English. You can use it to find a pen pal.

#3 Don’t take mistakes personally

We all make mistakes and that’s okay.

When someone corrects you or doesn’t understand you, simply take it as a sign that you need to learn more vocabulary, improve your pronunciation or better understand French grammar.

#4 Work on your pronunciation

Lots of French learners learn French from books or from teachers with an awful pronunciation.

As a result, they pronounce French wrong and nobody understands them.

That’s why it’s essential for you to regularly listen to French and to choose a French course which prioritises listening over reading.

Simply doing that will make the difference between not being understood at all and being understood in 90% of situations, but if you want your pronunciation to be absolutely perfect, I recommend you to read 7 French Pronunciation Tips to Avoid Sounding Like a Tourist.

#5 Listen to French everyday

woman with headphones

Having a great French accent is good, but you know what’s even better?

Understanding what people say.

To do that, you need to know the fundamental differences between written and spoken French, but you also need to spend lots of time hearing the language.

Listening to French has lots of benefits. You get used to the sounds of the language, improve your pronunciation, learn vocabulary and most of all improve your ability to understand spoken French.

That’s why listening to French everyday is the second rule of French Together.

Here are a few ways to do just that:

Click here to discover why spoken French is so hard to understand and what you can do about it.

#6 Come prepared

Next time you go out, pay attention to what people say.. You’ll quickly realise that some words and sentences come up all the time.

People you meet will ask you where you come from and what your name is.

Sellers will ask you if you want anything else, if you have a loyalty card or if you need help.

Waiters will ask you what you want to order or if you liked the food.

You’ll ask where the nearest subway station is or say you’d like to buy a ticket.

These are predictable situations,

So, before you go to France or talk to your conversation partner for the first time, make sure you learn the most common questions and answers you need to know in these situations.

Now tell me! What scares you the most when it comes to speaking French? Answer in the comments below!

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters.

8 thoughts on “6 Ways to Get Rid of Your Fear of Speaking French Once and for All”

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  1. I’d like to applaud you for leading off with the concept of finding a safe environment as a major tip. This gets forgotten and in my opinion one of the worst pieces of advice when it comes to learning to speak a language – and I see this all the time – is “oh, just start speaking it, everyone will love you for the effort.” Not a chance. Finding a safe environment – an incubator for speaking the language – is vital. Wish I had access to one when i was a kid; I might not have dropped French after Grade 9. I only wish a lot of people who learn English as a second language had access to such environments. I’ve never yet encountered a person struggling to speak English who actually seemed to be enjoying the experience of “learning from mistakes and everyone loves you for trying.”

    • You”re right. Most people think: oh I will just go to France and it will force me to speak French because I won’t have any choice. But this often leads to people traveling to France and staying locked in their room because they’re terrified to speak.

      I really think the best way to conquer one’s fear is to go step by step. Start by writing to someone in French, then do a one on one meeting, then a group meeting. And finally speak French to strangers.

  2. Thanks Benjamin. Great article. just one question. Is it better to watch French movie with or without subtitles (English or French). This might be a really silly question but it’s just that i am better at reading French than understanding spoken French. But subtitles are kind of distracting from the actual conversation and pronunciations. But it’s difficult to understand the meaning without the subs.

    • That’s not a silly question at all, in fact there is no perfect answer.

      Just ask yourself: can I understand enough to be interested in what I watch if I don’t use subtitles?

      If the answer is no, then keep using subtitles. Otherwise you’ll just get bored and fall asleep.

      If you can understand with French subtitles, then it’s better to use French than English. If you can’t understand at all, use English subtitles or choose something easier to watch.

  3. Another great article Benjamin, thanks. Taking those first steps to speak French, especially with a native speaker, is a real leap and quite frightening, I expect that any learner of any language must feel the same. I think that the biggest issue is having answered or asked a simple question in basic French, the response from the native speaker and where that response will lead to given ones limited knowledge and probable limited ability to understand or follow the spoken language, I know that is my greatest fear! You hear a lot of people say “I’m not quite ready” and there is some mileage with this and although most teachers will say, speak as soon as you can, there must be an element of learning some basics before you can take those first steps. Thanks for the advise, I’m working on some of the recommendations and looking forward to my first conversation.

    • Let me know how it goes :). You’re right that when you start learning a language, the people you talk to will always answer way more than you can understand, but you can avoid that by controlling the conversation. If you work with your conversation partner, you can ask him/her to only use simple answers at first.

      The reason I recommend you to speak as soon as possible is so you can make sure your pronunciation is correct before you memorise it long term. It can be difficult to unlearn a pronunciation later.

      This said, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a speak from day one approach. It’s fine if that’s what you want, but waiting until you know at least a few hundreds word is perfectly okay too.

  4. It’s « environnement » in French and it’s “environment” in English.
    Writing in French… like the idea!


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