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I feel stupid and can't speak French

Hi guys.

I am really struggling right now. I took French for three years when I was a teenager and today I'm 25. This fall I started my education to become a language teacher in French and Swedish as a second language.

When I started with french I realized that I was probably the worst one in my class. People had been living in France before, and those who hadn't came straight out of High School with their french very fresh.

I've been feeling that the classes have been on a way to high level for me wich have been meaning that all of my time has been going to completing the assignments which I basically been translating word by word.

Now my second semester has started and I've moved to France but I can't speak at all and I can't understand what people are saying. And I'm still by far the worst in my class. I can see my professors getting enjoyed with me which just makes me even worse because I'm too scared to talk.

The wierd thing is that this is my fifth language and Ive never been self concious before. I usually just go along and speak without caring about grammar but soemthing happend in the beginning of these courses and it feel impossible to ever learn. Does anyone have a similar experience? And how can I fix this?

January 18, 2018



My struggles with HS French left me so traumatized that it took me 3 years and a few other language courses on Duolingo before I attempted it. I was shocked to have completed the tree in a few weeks. Now, I'm fortunate to be testing the new format which becomes more complex as you progress and I finally have found some confidence.

As an EFL teacher, I've seen first hand how inhibited students can become when it's time to speak. One trick I suggest is to talk to yourself. Yes, have conversations ... in a mirror if you like...and choose a subject each time. Just make sure you inform your housemates. ;) Another trick is to pretend you're talking on the phone. Somehow, not having someone facing you helps to relax inhibitions.

Some of the advice given in comments here is spot on. Music, TV etc will give you confidence.


Sure in my life I have been on both sides of classes. Doing well sometimes, lost sometimes. Don't worry about the others, don't take bs from no one, and perhaps someone to tutor you. Talk to yourself at home in French, and record yourself speaking and then listen to it, over and over.


I'm from a small "English" speaking town in Northern Alberta, Canada. Though it would be more accurate to refer to the town as more a mixture of "Broken Ukrainian Speaking" and "Hiding Speaking First Nations Tongues as That Gets You Into Trouble" town... so my first experiences with French were uh... a Canadian Praires Staple is prolly a better way to put it (Nevermind there were several French speaking communities less than two hours of a drive away).

My earliest experiences of French were watching cartoons on television in French before I knew enough English to realise those cartoons were not in English. My father turning all the packaging in the stores to the French side--because that entertains people here... and various people loudly and obnoxiously mispronouncing the French sides of packages and then having people laugh. I'm not going to argue I'm anything other than a terrible person.

For learning French... my fourth grade French teacher (first option to learn French) had a thick Ukrainian Accent when talking in English... and repeating her pronunciation of French words around people who spoke French was a very good way to have them look at you in a horrified way. My fifth grade French teacher was a gym teacher the school was trying to coerce into quiting his job--and spent most of his time learning the French courses two weeks before us. Most of his lesson were to grab French lessons on VHS and borrow the television for class. Which again--because the faculty were trying to convince him to quit became its own fun song and dance for him to succeed at. Turns out it is really easy to double book a Tv and VHS when there are only like three at your school--not including the person Tv and VHS that a grade six teacher had in his class that he had brought from home (as well as rabbit ears--hooray for Antique Road Show and Flintstones to watch during lunch hour!). My Six Grade teacher had the skills--but her interpersonal skills were terrible. She was one of those people that believing you did not need to know how to talk and interact with people if you were sufficently skilled enough. Her class was usually a class that somebody went home covered in feces and urine (sometimes it was even human!)... or when people would break out into fist fights.

I then tried to work on learning French on my own periodically after that--but my Father did whatever the opposite of encourage my attempts to learn other languages. Acting really paranoid about why I would want to do this.

The whole "I need to learn French" thing kind of hit a new level when I had one ex-partner who spoke French that contributed to us not communicating anymore... and another case, where a girl (who I suspect has/had a crush on me) got really upset with me for loudly reading the French side of a package of salted crackers. Which apparently I pronounced the stuff fairly well (or at least she claimed I did)--and I got embarrassed when I moved to read the English side... and I found out that the story was smutty porn about a pirate having her way with a woman. On the side of the packaging of a box of salted crackers. These crackers were in a food donation bin--and I think I might have an idea of why I never saw them on store shelves.

As per my abilities and feeling self conscious. I'm well aware that you cannot learn anything over night... but when I mention I am working on courses to learn a language, I will have people replying to me assuming I must naturally now be fluent in said language. With any attempts to explain, "I've just started and am still a beginner" usually not working.

Where I am currently at I have access to people who speak several different dialects of French--those being mostly Quebequois French, Arcadian French (thankfully, not often), Metis French, Bayou French, Caribbean French and Persian French. Those last two are often spoken by some cute black guys that I would not mind sliding up to and being all "hello" and stuff.

Having access to all that--however--has me feeling like I am not making really any progress as there are all these people who can do so much in it and then there is me, who prolly sounds mildly retarded when I try to talk and follow it all.

I just look at it like this: how many hours of work have I put into it? How many hours of work can I expect it to take to get to be not terrible at it? Am I making decent progress?

I like to think I am making okay progress--consider the other nonsense in my life... and just the fact I keep trying is more than enough to keep me going.


Oh right... it should be noted that Metis French has a tendency to borrow vocabulary from Ojibwa, Cree, Dene and English. Making it hard to properly call that French. That and it seems to incorporate Quebequios Slang fast enough that the only reason nobody suggests it comes from Metis French... is because we'd not be able to refer to the Quebequios as being terrible if we suggested that.


I am in no way an expert as I have just started a new course in French myself but I'd like to give you some reassurance. I wouldn't let your worry stop you from trying because after all, it's the only way you can improve. I'm sure your professor will appreciate that you are trying your best.

Something I do to try and improve my listening is watching some TV or a film in French regularly. Maybe even music. There is also an app called HelloTalk which allows you to talk to native speakers of lots of different languages. I feel it is a good way to communicate with people of a similar age without as much pressure as with face to face interaction. Maybe you'll find this a good way to build up your confidence and learn any tips like me. It's also good because you can send and receive voice messages which is again good for listening and responding. For reading and translating, maybe you could strengthen your skills by attempting to read some books, magazines or even webpages in French. If you don't feel confident to do that just yet, you can buy some good books that have both a copy of the French and English text to refer to.

I hope this is some help. Good luck! I'm sure you'll get it.


Years ago my dad, who didn't understand any French other than a few words, told me one day, "I had a conversation with a Frenchman today". He said when he was downtown, a Frenchman started talking to him in French. My dad didn't understand one word the man was saying, but my dad just kept saying, "Oui" every so often and the man would keep on talking. Finally, the man walked away and was happy and my dad felt very pleased with himself.

My dad also told me when he went to the post office, he'd say "un timbre, SVP" just to humor the clerks. They're supposed to be able to provide service in French or English. Of course, they knew that was all the French he knew, so they didn't try talking to him in French.


My dad was fluent in Ukrainian. He never went to school to learn it. He started learning it when he was 16 from Ukrainian immigrants. In his old age, he was fluent. He said that if he spoke Ukrainian, he'd get on their good side better. Two examples of this:

  1. In 1975 in Edmonton, my dad and I were walking by a construction site. They had plastic sheeting which they were going to throw in the garbage but my dad wanted it. My dad liked plastic. So my dad went to talk to the workers. He found out they were Ukrainian, so he asked them in Ukrainian. He said they told him, "Take all the plastic you want." He told me, "If I'd have asked them in English, they'd have told me to get lost."

  2. In the 1980's myself, my dad, and our friend were walking and saw some flowers along a fence. My friend liked flowers and wanted them. My dad went to the house and talked to the old woman in Ukrainian. She was very happy and said my friend could take some of the flowers.


Years later in the 1990's I went to an old woman's house to buy some vegetables. I told her that my dad knew Ukrainian and that he'd have been able to talk with her in Ukrainian, and that, unfortunately I had to talk with her in English. She liked hearing that.


My dad used to talk Ukrainian every chance he got.

There was no Duolingo back then. He had to pick up languages directly from the people themselves, who spoke those languages. He didn't discuss how to learn. He just did it.


Hello ! There is no doubt that learning a language is not easy and takes a lot of effort and time . French , unlike other languages , is slightly more difficult to learn . Before starting to speak any language , you should have a basic foundation of the target language owing to the fact that language basics help you to form simple sentences . First of all , have some basics about French on Duolingo , try to finish the French tree and your language will be enhanced much more than before . Secondly , do not be ashamed or terrified when you speak , just maintain in mind that any language should be practiced well before speaking , even if you will speak to yourself . I have been learning English for 10 years at school , but I benefited less than self-education on the internet . Good luck with your French journey !


You should do the Michel Thomas course if you want to get a good grasp of French quickly. The foundation course is eight hours where Michel Thomas gives you the bare skeleton outline of the language and how it works. By the end of the course, you'll be able to construct sentences and even have basic exchanges in French. Once you have context for what you're learning, it will mean that your time isn't being wasted by having no idea whatsoever what's going on.

What he also gives you is confidence to speak French and enthusiasm for the language. I learned more doing the Michel Thomas courses (foundation and advanced) over the course of a few days than I did in years of secondary school where I retained and understood nothing. I can't recommend it enough.


"You'll never fall until you give up" -Albert Einstein


So, I totally relate. I went to french immersion middle and high school and all the classes were taught in french. Some years after my french was rusty but I still felt like I knew french, as I could understand most french tv and books, then By chance I had some Quebecois roomates and they spoke quickly, lot’s if slang and a Quebecois accent I was unuased to. It really discouraged me for a long time. I also by chance had several other francophone roomates and landlords, and I wish now I had taken more advandtage of the opportunity to oractice my language skills, but I was too self conscious. One thing I realized is knowing french acedemically is not the same as real life french, though it helps. I couldn’t help noting that you wrote you are getting through school by translating your assignments word for word. I would recommend stop translating into English as much as possible, even when you use a dictionary, try to look things up in a french french dictionary and only translate to english when you really need to. I think this might help you to start thinking in french. Good luck!


If I may, find a French buddy, roommate, girlfriend, boyfriend, neighbor... and go for it. In a few weeks, you will fly!


And a lot of people say french is hard and I agree with them!

  1. if you feel they speaking to fast ask them to speak slowe or say je comprends pas
  2. study loads on Dl
  3. do english for french speakers the reverse course
  4. use these apps called, lingvist and hello talk lingvist is vocabulary its helps hello talk to chat with frenchies by texting voice call video call or just recording ur voice hope i helped


It's je ne comprends pas


« Je ne comprends pas » is grammatically correct. But French people just forget the « ne » in their daily non-formal talks.


Just keep practicing


You poor thing, it sounds as though you've had a horrible crisis of confidence. Have you made any friends there who can help you get talking without feeling too panicked? And have you spoken to your teachers? They might be more sympathetic if you can go to them and explain that you feel you are rusty compared to the other students and have lost confidence.

When I'm in Germany I have to wander around reading all the environmental print and muttering to myself under my breath to try and get into it. I don't know whether that works for anyone else.

What's your first language, Sophie?


same here ❤❤❤❤ him


You should find someone to talk to in French, and just accept that you will make mistakes. French is the 3rd language I started studying, (Spanish and Italian being the first 2) and I am also frustrated with the grammar and the pronunciation. I am making modest headway using Duolingo and Language Transfer which has a French audio course on youtube and elsewhere. The two in combination really help, although I am far from fluent I am not nearly as lost as I was in French. And don't give up, and whatever you do don't think of learning French as a chore or a hardship, but as something fun.


Hey! WsofieW! I have been doing french for months and I still can’t get it right so u r not the only one!

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