Why you don’t need to live in France to learn French

Many people believe that it’s impossible to truly master a language without living in the country where it’s spoken. While it is certainly easier to learn French in France than in China, the latter is far from impossible. In fact, with new technologies, immersing yourself in a learning environment is becoming easier everyday. 

All you need is motivation

Are you waiting for the ideal learning conditions before you seriously start learning French?

Truth be told, there are no such thing as “ideal learning conditions”. You will always find a good reason to postpone your learning sessions if you are not truly motivated.

So before you start learning a language, ask yourself : why do you want to learn this language? Do you just think it would be cool or are you ready to walk on the path to fluency and do whatever it takes to achieve fluency?

Motivation is the single most important factor for success. Someone motivated has extraordinary powers and will always find a way to learn despite the multiple obstacles.

On the contrary, someone lacking motivation will quickly come up with new reasons to stop learning, or to do it later.

Now, let me tell you a story, the story of two friends learning French. Sophie has been learning French for 5 years at school, she can barely speak, and understand what people tell her. Laura, on the other hand, has been learning French for six months. While she still makes a lot of mistakes, she can understand and participate in most conversations.

You may think that Laura invested more money on language learning material, or that Sophie didn’t have the right learning conditions.

No. What really made the difference between Laura and Sophie is their mindset. Sophie wanted to learn French because “it would be nice to speak French” while Laura decided that she had one year to learn French because she wanted to study in a French University and live there. See the difference? You need a clear reason to learn, without that you are likely to give up very quickly.

By the way, spending a lot of money on language learning material is often useless. All the material in the world won’t be enough if you don’t spend time studying it and learning from it. So instead of buying lots of French books and courses, choose one and stick to it.

You can immerse yourself in a language without going to the country where it’s spoken

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Going to the country where the language you learn is spoken is ideal to learn the language. However, such a trip can cost a lot of money and everyone can’t spend a year abroad.

The good news is that you actually don’t need to do that in order to learn a language.

What you need is immersion, and that’s something you can perfectly have at home. Think about it, you can :

If you do all that, I can guarantee you that you will reach fluency much faster than you thought.

Living in France isn’t enough to speak French fluently

You may think that living in France is the only thing you need to know in order to learn French as it is a widespread misconception. Yet, nothing is further from the truth. There are thousands of example of people who have been working abroad for years and barely speak the language.

Even if you go abroad with the best intentions, it’s very easy to end up speaking English all the time if you work in an English-speaking environment  have English-speaking friends and live with English speakers.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to convince you not to go to France. It’s a beautiful country and one of the best place to learn French. However, you need to avoid English as much as possible when you are there if you truly want to improve your French. Being in France won’t automatically make you fluent.

Otherwise you will be like many persons who live in a country whose language they don’t speak and whose culture they don’t know anything about. What a shame!

Scott Young is a great example of how powerful immersion can be. He decided to spend a year abroad with one simple rule : to never speak English. After three months, he already speak Spanish pretty well. See for yourself!

What about you?

How successful have you been in immersing yourself in a foreign language? How do you do it?

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.

13 thoughts on “Why you don’t need to live in France to learn French”

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  1. I just wanted to mention that you can change Siri on an iPhone to French. so it is good practice to talk to Siri, it is like having a conversation with someone.

  2. I’ve found several applications for cell phones through which I can listen French radio stations and watch TV programs. Honestly, I can understand some of that, but I noticed that every day, more and more terms and words become clearer to me. I never learned French at school. I know a few basic phrases I learned on the Internet, but it’s all bad. Still not giving up.

    • Your brain is getting used to the sound of French, well done :). If you keep doing that regularly, learning vocabulary and practicing, you will quickly understand more and more.

  3. I only can add to change language also for your favorite mangas 😉
    I can suggest it helps add at your online research this expression: lecture en ligne

  4. I’ve been to French-speaking countries for a total of only three weeks, yet every single time, I’m complimented on how well I speak the language (in Paris, I was told by multiple people that I even have a Parisian accent—talk about a huge nudge to the ego!).

    What you said about committing to it resonated with me. My computer, iPhone, social media accounts, are all in French. I listen to the show Soda while at work, and I translate and sing English songs (I don’t know why, but whatever), heck my GPS tells me to “prendre gauche sur la direction ouest.” Every single bit helps—you may think it’s not helping things stick, but believe me, they do.

  5. Set your electronics to French. My browsers, my Facebook, my Twitter, even my MP3 player are all set to French. Yes, I fumbled around a lot until I got my feet under me, but it really helps. As practice, I’m translating the webpage I built for my company. It all helps.

    • That’s a good idea. You definitely get used to it after some time.

      Don’t hesitate to ask if you need help translating your company’s website.

  6. Spot on, Benjamin. In a couple of weeks, I will begin learning French, and I am doing a bit of research regarding what resources to utilize. One of the things I am excited about is the immersion aspect. Videos, podcasts, radio, searching for social interactions that can happen in French, changing the default language on various devices to French…it sounds daunting at first but I’m positive it will be the most helpful (this includes talking to as many French-speakers as possible, of course).

    • Hi Robert 🙂

      Immersion does seem scary at first. You basically go from understanding everything in your native language to understanding almost nothing in a new language.Fortunately the phase during which you barely understand anything doesn’t last long, and it quickly becomes fun to speak and think in a new language.

      Here are a few great resources you can use to get started learning French :

      -https://www.memrise.com/ ; this is a great website to learn vocabulary

      -https://www.duolingo.com/ : it also allows you to learn more vocabulary and add some grammar points. I didn’t use it for French yet, but it seems effective.

      You can also meet French people after a few weeks through websites like Couchsurfing.

      Finally the 100 most frequently used French words ebook I created can also be a good start. All subscribers receive it for free. I actually plan to create a more exhaustive version with 500 words, more examples and flashcards available on both anki and memrise.


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