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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lolp3633

Learning vs. Real Deal

So i've taken french for about two years now in middle/high school classes, as well as using duolingo that whole time. I can speak pretty well with classmates and teacher, but something happened the other day and it got me thinking:

I live on Hawaii, so i see a lot of tourists. These two french girls were next to me in the store, and they started speaking to each other. It wasn't like it was fast, but i could understand almost none of it, except "Combien?" as one waved a bag of chips in the air for the other to inspect. The situation made me feel like I really wasn't learning anything. Doing it in class compared to listening to two french girls was so different!! Why couldn't I understand?

So my question is: If we can learn so much French (for example) and take all the courses, why is it still so difficult to have a fluent conversation with the native speaker? Is it a psychological thing because you're raised in one language, or is it just practice and i haven't gotten there yet?

May 13, 2017

23 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FellousIris

it takes practise. no amount of learning from books or classes can replace actual conversations with actual speakers. spoken/casual French is very, very different from standard/written French that is taught in school or in books. to learn French, you really wanna start watching TV shows, movies, in French, listening to music in French, watching youtube videos in French (for example cooking recipes or makeup tutorials or whatever)... and speaking to real French people.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FellousIris

i highly suggest the youtube channel DamonAndJo their videos are fun and have a lot of advice for people who want to learn French.

but it's normal that you could not understand the girls, French people speak very fast, maybe they were using slang or colloquialisms you don't know...

A lot of things they teach you in French class or in books or in Duolingo are never used in spoken/casual French. for example, the double negation ("ne" - "pas") : you almost never hear it. instead of "Je ne sais pas", people will say "Je sais pas" which then becomes "J'sais pas" and is pronounced "Chais pas". "Il y a" becomes "Y a". "Je veux" = "J'veux". "Je suis" = "J'suis" = "Chuis". etc

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ally.x
  • 1253

This is pretty normal, watching shows and listening to podcasts in your target language could help tons. One thing is to know the words on paper or use them in class and another thing is to recognise them when hearing a native speaker. It's like learning the same thing over again on higher level. I suggest you try to find a show or movie in French that you know in English and watch it. At first it will be frustrating and hard but it will become easier eventually. Don't be discouraged, I took English lessons at schools for 10 years and still was where you are. Only watching shows in English (tons of it) really helped me to click with the language. Doing this can speed up your learning significantly. Good luck and happy learning :-)

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sasano94

Thank you!

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gatiquo

Speaking fast with their own dialect makes it difficult to comprehend.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimSCasey

Here's my answer, which is only an explanation, but not much concrete help. How do babies learn? They know nothing, not one word, and only listen. Their vocabulary builds, as does their ability to construct sentences that have the grammar needed to make sense. (tiny baby "mmm" mmmm" older baby "milk milk" toddler " Give me me, I want milk" Child "Could you get me some milk in the blue cup") ) So, I think the key to being able to understand those women is to watch children's TV shows in french. Over and over. The more babyish, the better. Build on your listening skills with the simple language construction they use for babies on those shows. Listen to "The News in Slow French" or Just listen to french being spoken. (it helps to know the topic- so you can start picking out words) Find a Meet up group of french speakers, and join them . You don't have to speak, and don't expect them to give you a lesson but just listening to them talk. This will help. That said, it's a pretty big commitment of time. My cuz, who went to school in France, and had YEARS of French before he attended had to go for weeks and weeks of intensive listening and training. He said it was brutal and the drills left some in tears. That sounds horrible, but he is now fluent.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Uz-Zaman

i very much aggreee with you ,,d'accord avec toi

May 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sasano94

Something similar happened to me, which made me doubt my abilities. Granted, I have only studied French for about a week or so, but I honestly thought that I would at least be able to recognize the language in the real world, I was wrong.

Yesterday I saw this man speak French, but honestly it took me 5 min before I recognized him speaking this language. It honestly didn't sound like any French I had ever heard, sounded more like an African language mixed with French or something. I picked up a couple of words and then I knew.

Later that day I heard two women speak to each other. At first I was 100% certain that they were speaking French, but as they spoke along I started to doubt myself, until I realized that they were speaking a Slavic language. It made me feel really stupid.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Uz-Zaman

don't worry, its only been one week

it takes time

ok, for me i can tell which of the six languages someone is speaking (two of these languages i do not speak fluencty)

I can tell someone is speaking, french, spanish, portugese and arabic and farsi

i started learning arabic in 2014 but gave up in 2015 when i got not find any resources online and lessons were dam expensive in london, and in late 2014 i also started learning farsi but had no luck

then in 2016, i was walking with my iranian friend and i heard this guy speaking approaching us and i said to my friend he is speaking farsi right and he has some accent and then my friend looks me and says you have some talent, yes is speaking is tehrani accent, you not only noticed he was speaking farsi but in different accent, and you don't even speak it

thats becasue i listen to farsi SONGS

so, my friend the key is to tell the difference is listining to songs, that is fun and effective

i can also tell if someone is spekaing arabic, just by first sentence and i don't really speak arabic apart from basics due to same reason i use to listen to many songs in arabic and i also know name of singers and song titles by heart

May 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tyler983575

Probably because they can pronounce it more fluently and some letters are less pronounced than others! Also they do speak quite quickly!

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bdougall

The two girls speaking could have been from Quebec Canada where the accent is different from the French that we are learning here. They still use old expressions , have Native American words mixed in with lots of English words thrown in form English Canada.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/untmdsprt

I was wondering what version of French we're learning here.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bdougall

The French on this site is the french that they speak in France. Here in Canada they teach the french from France also but we speak with the language that developed over centuries of separation from France. Like the difference between a Scotsman and an American same language but oh so different!!!

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KimSCasey

See you in Mississippi, where they have to repeat everything to me, and English is my 1st language.

May 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bdougall

You could try using the clozemaster.com web site for hearing more french. It has questions and when you answer it says the sentence out loud. You can hear it as many times as you want by pressing the sound button. I do the questions and read it out loud then listen as the computer says it . If I think I miss pronounced it, I say it again. It gives you practice getting your tongue around the harder words.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Parislover1217

I'm also a french student taking french for about two years and have the same problem I honestly think that you should expose yourself more outside of class

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/untmdsprt

I'm jealous that you're in Hawaii. I would love to live there!

First off you have English as a crutch so you refer back to it when you don't understand. Get rid of the English and stay only in French. You'll find that you'll start to learn faster and retain it better if you're not doing the mental acrobatics of going back and forth.

I also second the listening to native speakers. TV shows, news, movies are all good, but try to find audio blogs, podcasts, etc. Those would be helpful to and can listen to them on your phone.

May 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Uz-Zaman

look, don't be disheartened, you need to take professional lessons on skype, duolingo is not even

I am also pretty much at the same stage but its just that i would be able to understand a bit more than you.

look, there are 3 stages in learning a language

The easiest = reading then = pronouncing/ speaking skills the hardest = listening

you just jumped from 1st to 3rd stage then obviously you won't understand it.

duolingo helps you with first 2 stages but unfortunately not the 3rd (you need to speak to people to achieve that level) even then duolingo's use of vocabulary is quiet limited, if i tell you to read something on wikipedia en francais ou lire l'equipe, le monde, le sport .. you would not be able to understand much of it (if you started learning french fresh from duolingo and have no prior experience)

all,, i will tell you for now, if you dont have money to get lessons on skype (which is expensive) then just carry on doing the exercises and reach level 25, and actually finish the tree not like some people who only come half through the tree and reach level 25.

May 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/--Marz--

I suspect it's mostly that it takes a lot of practise and getting used to listening to the language when it is used in real life.

I've had six years of intense and good-level French lessons, and I recently (after a long gap) started DuoLingo to brush it up again. Which means that last week among all the rapid blobloblo of French radio, I could make out that at some supermarket two cucumbers were now one Euro. Well, you have to start somewhere... ;)

I have confidence it will get better, but it does take time and getting used to. (In the past I could follow French radio rather well. But it takes a good measure of submersion so you start to really listen in French instead of translating it first in your head.)

Btw, it's not that you're not "learning anything", if you went to France you could probably read signs, menus and other pieces of text, which help you get around a lot better than before you started your study.

Understanding native speakers is a top achievement in learning a language, as people talk casually, "sloppy" and in dialect. In this case, also remember that these girls weren't talking to you, they were talking to each other; you might actually have had a not-so-bad conversation with them if it had come up. But these were friends gabbing away amongst each other, which requires a lot more experience than two years of "school" French.

Adding some "real deal" material outside of your classroom conversations might be a fun next step to take towards understanding natives. (Like listening to French radio stations with music you like, playing computer games with the French language on or watching movies you already know with French dubs, those might contain some more "casual" French too.)

May 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BenHooo

As the old saying goes- practice makes perfect

My native language is Cantonese and I have been learning English for 20 years. Still, sometimes, I find it difficult to understand people talking in English when they have heavy accent, when they use slangs, or simply when I have no idea what the topic was about.

May 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DallasChelsea

I find Netflix can be helpful for hearing real world French (if you use subtitles, only use French subtitles, never English subtitles). But most of the movies are still too hard for me. There are a couple of sites though that I found helpful to start to understand spoken French more gradually, that perhaps would be useful to you as well.

First is 1Jour1Actu. http://www.1jour1actu.com/infos-animees/ I especially recommend the short videos, but the written articles are good too. There are hundreds of videos and articles. If you can understand them, you are off to a good start. Plus you will learn about things like how elections work in France, French culture, etc.

Next is a very old series, French in Action (from the 1980s, so very dated, but still useful). The first part of each video has real French people talking in real situations with real world background noise to make it even more challenging. That is quite difficult to understand. The second part of each lesson has an instructor explaining what happened in the scene with the French people, and is much easier to understand since it is more like classroom French. http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html. There are 52 episodes in total.

Finally, if you want an easy French comedy series, there is the YouTube series Extra French https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaNqp4FXh-s. Sometimes it is actually funny. There are 13 episodes.

None of the above will help you learn to speak French though. The only way I ever learned to speak much French was to spend 6 weeks in an immersion situation where the only language I used was French. That was too short to get very good, but it did help quite a lot. Once you get to college, spend a semester or two in France. You will be amazed at how fast you learn in an immersion setting.

May 15, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rob_noir

http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html This resource is only available to residents in the USA & Canada unfortunately!

May 15, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bluejudy

If you wanted to converse, that would be possible. They would have to slow down and speak noncolloquial French. Where I live, the dialect makes it impossible for me to 'hear' what local speakers are saying. However, if I want to converse with them, they switch to a universal form of French. If you were to come here from France and try to understand the local version of English, you might have a difficult time for a bit. We use expressions such as: "It's a lewer day". "Ayah, I'm feeling owly". "There was a kastaveup". "I want to go off but the roads are greasy." However, that sort of language is used when we speak to other locals. We speak the universal form of English when speaking to people who "come from away" I can barely understand a native Scot who is speaking English. I guess we all speak one version of our first language to each other and a different version to people who do not share our first language.

I went on a French channel on IRC and WOW the slang and abbreviations on there are an eyeopener. I caught about one word in ten.

One time when a Quebec person needed help and could not speak English, we resorted to writing everything on paper in order to be able to converse.

May 15, 2017
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