Moving to France in 1 1/2 months any study tips/resources welcome for learning French

I have never posted before in the Discussion area before in Duolingo but now seemed like a good time to post and ask for feedback and suggestions.

I have been using Duolingo for almost 6 years now ( which is hard to believe ) to work on learning French. Six years ago I never dreamed of even trying to study a new language because I figured that it was impossible for me since I am dyslexic and was told not to bother trying to learn a new language since my own language "was foreign to me". However, I decided to try Duolingo because it was free and I was considering the idea of trying to join religious community in France to become a nun.

Fast forward 6 years and I have now finished my Duolingo tree ( although if you look at it it still needs quite a bit of work ) and I decided to enter the religious order in France. I have visited the community in France three times the past few years and in May I fly there to go live at the house of formation and begin my religious training in Paris. It has been a childhood dream of mine to become a religious sister and I am super excited to see it finally come to fruition. That being said I am also nervous about trying to learn French.

My religious community has been very supportive. They know that I am dyslexic so they suggested that I come early to France to work on learning the language. They also helped me find a French family in the US to live with for two months prior too coming to France to help work on learning the language. In March I quit my full time job and moved across the country to go live with the family and take French classes. I am currently taking a A1 level class at the Alliance Française twice a week and a grammar/pronunciation class once a week and then trying to study at home. The family only speaks French at home although they have sometimes given up and just spoken English to me when it is clear that I don't understand or the topic is a bit advanced and it is something that I need to understand.

I feel like I can understand 50 % of what they are saying most of the time although I can't say much yet. I am really struggling to figure out how to make sentences on my own. The grammar is really confusing to me and the sentence structure. I feel like I can read and understand a lot of written French but it is hard speaking and picking up what they are saying when they speak at a regular pace.

I had hoped to be a higher level than A1 when I arrived but alas 15-20 minutes a day of Duolingo the past 6 years on a on and off basis wasn't enough to get me higher then A1. This is my first time learning a new language however ( outside of doing ASL ) so I suppose it makes sense.

I don't expect to arrive at level B1 by the time I leave for France in May but I am at least hoping to have some kind of functional French by the time I go and to work on continuing my progress once I arrive in France.

My question is what resources would you recommend focusing on in order to achieve a basic every day get by level French? I have found a bunch of resources for French and to tell you the truth I feel like I am currently trying to drink the ocean by trying to do all of them. It is overwhelming and I think that I need to drop some of them and just focus on a few.

I have Assimil, Pimsleur ( the first level ), The Mimic Method ( French Masters class ), books like the Chronicles of Narnia in French, Le Petit Prince and the Bible. I try to do Duolingo everyday and read my daily devotions in French and do praise and worship in French and go to class three times a week but what else should I do? What method will help me get by once I arrive in France? There is a lot that I could study but I only have a month and half left to learn the basics and I don't want to waste time. My formation will require that I do everyday regular things so its not like I can hide away in a convent and pray all day and get away with not speaking any French. What have you found has been most effective for you when it comes to learning the basics of a language and what you need to survive?

Any feedback and suggestions would be very welcome. Merci beaucoup pour votre aide! :)

April 8, 2019


Good work so far. Yes, DL kindly says how little work you need to put in to learn a language but they don't point out with less than an hour a day it will take a long time. However, you have a good base with DL, now to build. I'd continue spending 15-20 minutes a day on DL. Just keep taking each skill up a level (don't take each one up to level 5).

You are doing lots of good things like reading, and a class is an excellent idea. But you must speak - even if you get it wrong. If you wait until you "know" French it will take forever - and you will be missing an important part of the learning. Consider finding something simple (not too fast) and try to speak along with the characters. You can pause and rewind as needed. (I'm fond of Peppa Pig it comes in many languages.)

April 8, 2019

I wholeheartedly agree! It's important to talk, talk, talk. You'll get better at speaking and listening, and as an added bonus, it will be much clearer what areas you need to focus on. If there's one type of thought you can't express, you'll figure it out pretty quickly!

April 9, 2019

My best advice for you is to study French in whatever your passion is in English. Make the time you spend with the language more of a pleasure and less of a chore.
Do you like to cook? Read about the cuisine and learn the names of common ingredients.
Are you passionate about current events? Listen to broadcasts in French and read the transcript at the same time.
Do you like comics? There's a wealth of BDs (bandes dessinées) in French.
Are you a cinéphile? You can find movies on Netflix and at your library in French. Put the subtitles in French.

Basically whatever you love doing in English, try doing it in French. This does not mean the things you think you should be doing, but rather the things that you already enjoy. Do not worry if you don't understand everything at once, but do find something at a level that you can still enjoy the activity even with some gaps in your knowledge.

If your study is something you look forward to doing and it fits your passion, it will be easier to do and the words will stick better in your mind.

That said, it is probably best to focus on your listening/speaking skills in particular since you will need them the most initially.

Lastly, try not to worry about mistakes. The important thing is to get the words out... even if they aren't perfect. If you know it isn't correct grammatically, let it out anyway. Your French family will help correct you and you will learn faster than if you don't say anything.

April 8, 2019

I agree 100%. From my language learning experience, it's the best approach for all the cases except those where the language is very small and only limited resources are available.

May 22, 2019

Sounds like you are trying to put too much pressure on yourself and really cram. I wouldn’t do that.

I think the immersion is a good idea, but the feeling like you HAVE to learn it is what isn’t great. It will be ok if you can’t comunicate 100% right away. If you have to resort to writing down what you need to say at first, that is fine. Eventually you will be able to say it. It will just take a bit of time for you to catch on.

April 8, 2019

What a great story, thank you for sharing. I wish you all the best.

I noticed you said you've never posted in the forum before, since this is the English forum, you might have better luck in the French forum.

How to Move a Post

April 8, 2019

I just want to commend you for having the courage to follow your dream, and wish you great joy in all your studies!

April 8, 2019

Congratulations! I highly recommend Hello Talk. It is a free app I have been using for about a month. My understanding and ability to speak Spanish has increased significantly. You can talk and write to native French speakers, you help each other learn the language.

April 8, 2019

Which religious community are you entering? I spent a year with the diaconesses de Reuilly, which is also in Paris. I had a great time. I worked at their hospital. I went there with six years of school-french under my belt, but believe me, you don't speak French at all at that point. I simply started working and since the French thirty years ago hardly spoke anything else but French, that was what I had to communicate in.

After an exhausting month I was fairly good at communicating in most everyday subjects. Simple being in an environment where everyone speaks the language does wonders for your language skills.

When you are in Paris, you'll be in a place where simply everything is in French, not just your immediate living surroundings. You learn much quicker that way.

April 8, 2019

I am entering the Emmanuel Community. :)

April 8, 2019

OMG!!! Have a great time, and good luck.

April 8, 2019

It's a good thing you have a community. I moved to Paris a few months ago and had a really hard time in the beginning. I am coming from Israel and was surprised to realise that French people are not as welcoming as I expected. They are very nice but will not really invite you over. Eventually, and after many failures, I've managed to find the right people but it wasn't easy. On Christmas Eve I literally invited strangers from the street (not the drunk ones) to my place for dinner. And no, no one understood why I am inviting them so no one wanted to come.

I am telling you all this just so you'll know how lucky you are.

Now for the Tips:

  1. Pretend not to speak English. When hearing your accent, many people would switch to English. Simply pretend as if you are not understanding them.

  2. Don't be shy. Talk talk talk and accept the fact that you are making plenty of mistakes. This is the only way to practice.

  3. Try to make non-English speakers friends. There are some nice people who would be delighted having a nice foreigner friend and they will speak only French to you

  4. Talk to the homeless. This is one of the best practice for days you have no other option. Bonus: some of them are really nice and interesting :)

Best of luck and keep the hard work! :)

April 8, 2019

French people meet in cafe's and such. I did make a lot of french friends, but we'd go places, I can't really remember sitting in someone's room. I also had friends (volunteers from the same program) from other countries. We did visit each other. But apparently french people don't do this, except in a more formal way (coming to dinner, f.i.).

April 8, 2019

Wow! Congrats! What an amazing experience! I wish you all the best! As for the French bit, it sounds like you are doing all you can and then some to prepare... so cut yourself some slack, you will do great!... if I could recommend one little thing it would be watching the daily cartoons on because they are short, cute and since they cover many themes, it is a great way to broaden vocabulary. Bonne voyage!!

April 8, 2019

I totally agree, the 1jour videos are perfect for French learners!

April 9, 2019

Thanks for the link!

April 9, 2019

Wow, good luck on your journey to be a nun, with religious training and the language and culture and all! I'll keep you in my prayers (I'm a Christian)

April 8, 2019

I just saw your comment on ASL. Funny thing, when I started to work at the hospital I was very un-fluent in French and one lady also working there asked me if I could sign (ASL), but alas, I couldn't.

April 8, 2019

And if you don't know a word, invent your own French. I did this with German. My german speaking friends thought that was funny and sometimes started to use those words themselves, f.i. 'bicyclettieren' (from 'faire la bicyclette'). In German that would be 'Rad fahren' but I couldn't remember it, so I minted 'bicyclettieren', because I did remember the French. You could frenchify English words. Can't be hard, since there are already so many loanwords from the French anyway. And nobody minds being amused, so it's a fun way to mess around with a new language.

April 8, 2019

Brilliant! What a fine adventure you are having! Thank you for sharing your experience here. All of the wonderful responses to your questions surely blessed me as well! The Best of Luck to you!

April 9, 2019

Movies. Videos, News all in French and put on closed captioning when you need it. That is really the best way. Watch a French movie over and over. When I was a kid I could repeat The Empire Strikes Back word for word and I'd only seen it at the movie theatre 8 times. We had a local movie theater close to my house that wouldn't quit playing it so my siblings and I knew it word for word. The best 2nd language English speakers I know did this, I recommend you try it for French. Get a contemporary movie.

April 9, 2019

Frankly your post is one of the best examples of what a complete waste of time duolingo is. You write very well and are obviously intelligent. So learning French once you're in France will not be an issue for you (despite your initial difficulties with the French family in the USA). The best advice I can give you is to give up duolingo immediately and become an active learner (not a passive user of this fake language learning app).

p.s. CommeuneTexane's advice is the best I've seen in this thread

April 11, 2019
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