And learn what this says.
Before I arrived to Quebec, I didn’t learn survival French. I figured to just wing it and use a French accent with all of my English. Bad idea. Nothing enrages a group of people faster than mockery, whether it’s intended or not.
Now that I am finally approaching that point when people are starting to speak LESS English to me, I have a couple tips.
- Think in the language: The faster you start doing this, the easier actually speaking becomes. Do what I do and start making mean comments about people in your head in your adopted language. “Oh mon dieu! Il ponce il est la premiere person qui peux conduire la voiture.” Yeah, that’s what a really limited insult sounds like in my mind. I know – it’s probably misspelled.
- Master pronunciation first: Listen. Really hear the way the words glisten on the Native speaker’s tongue. Practice your phonetics. Even if you have an extensive vocabulary and can conjugate like a mo-fo, no one will understand you without correct pronunciation. I have to work at this. It’s French, a language built to sound like music and I am tone-deaf.
- Get over yourself: Accept the fact that you’re going to sound like a bumbling fool for some time. Stop trying to be perfect and just start talking. It is very uncomfortable but if you look and sound super confident, people will think you know what you’re talking about.
- Use Livemocha! You can record reading, writing, and speaking (!!) exercises and send them to native speakers for feedback. And then you get to review their stuff in English. I am in love with this living language exchange.
- Join a conversation group: I hate talking to strangers in general. But after I signed on for a conversation group, I found it much less intimidating. The people will keep speaking French to you, so there’s not that humiliating moment when they switch to English because your “Bonjour” sounded more like a “Womp-waa” (imagine a frowny face emoticon after this).
Make it fun and remember it’s like climbing a mountain. One day, you’ll just get there – until then, keep going.