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How Do I Plan to Master My French?

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I have decided that I need to get better at speaking and communicating in French. It’s been 3 years since I moved to Brussels and Paris. I was hoping that simply by moving, I would get better quickly, but the truth is I was so very much focused on growing Zaraz, the startup that I founded and led, that I barely made any progress. I found that it is very easy to live in Brussels in English. It is somewhat true for Paris as well these days, especially as I engage with a milieu of international folks. And I work for Cloudflare, where people speak English all day. So, I am not really surrounded by French, and I can definitely manage my life with a basic restaurant-order-self-sufficient level of French. But this is not what I want. I would like to open myself up to the local culture, benefit from its treasures, and potentially also contribute to it. Generally, I would like to try to take part and find my way into society. Which means I should speak the local language well. And so, I realized that this will only happen artificially: I need to decide to master my French. And I would like to do it in 15 months, before I turn 35 on April 21, 2025.

My definition of mastering the French language

In order to keep myself accountable and consistent, I would like to choose very clear goals. Which means I need to define what “mastering” French means. So here is my definition:

  • Grammaire: I would like to pass the TEF test, with a good score for level C2, supérieur avancé. I hope to score higher than 650 (out of 699).
  • Reading: I would like to be able to read Marcel Proust, “À la recherche du temps perdu” in French. By the end of that period, I would want to finish reading the first volume, “Du côté de chez Swann.”
  • Listening: I would like to watch a French series without subtitles and understand everything.
  • Vocabulary: I would like to be able to read and understand the 50 poems of Alcools by Apollinaire.
  • Phonetics: I would like to learn by heart 20 French poems with perfect pronunciation.
  • Conversation: I would like to attend a house party without switching to English during the entire evening, at least 3 times.
  • Conversation: I would like to have a friend with whom I speak only French.
  • Writing: I would like to publish an article/story written in French in a local newspaper/magazine.

If I achieved these goals, I would be satisfied with my level of French.

Means & methods of study

  • Pimsleur Learn French (Level 1-5) - Pimsleur courses consist of ancient 30 min recorded lessons one can listen to in order to practice oral comprehension and conversational French. I find the Pimsleur method effective as it teaches you how to speak without too much thinking. The method reminds me of how you teach little kids to speak, by repetition and memorization. I started doing a lesson per day. The only issue with it is that it feels a bit archaic and dated.
  • French Course - I signed up for a French evening class at Langue Appart, in Paris, and got in for the group of level B1. I aim to cover the grammatical topics of levels B1-C2 at least once with a professional French teacher. This course is twice a week for 2h. In addition to the course’s homework, I bought an exercise book for more practice.
  • Lingoda - in addition to the French real-life course, I am adding 2-3h of online classes with Lingoda. I find Lingoda interesting for a few reasons: a) teachers are coming from multiple backgrounds and many French-speaking areas of the world, which is really great for diversification and for getting used to different accents. b) You can squeeze a class during the day easily because if you book in advance you can fix the time that is good for you for the entire group. c) Groups are small (up to 4), and they keep changing. This is very important because it changes the mindset, you are free to say anything you want, and you don’t worry about how you sound or being perceived.
  • Reading - I started reading books in simplified French (Hachette). I attempt to read everything that’s available for levels B1 and B2. I also had a conversation with the owner of a local book shop, and he recommends books he thinks might be easier to read.
  • I started watching dumb addictive Netflix series in French dubbing and subtitles during my workouts at the gym (mainly on the treadmill).

Keeping myself accountable

I know myself, and so I know that in order to make real progress I need deadlines and clear timelines. Motivation tends to fluctuate, and I need some structure to make constant progress. Not everything can be put into deadlines or clear structure, but here is what I am going to try:

  • Finish Pimsleur level 3 by the end of Feb, 2024
  • Finish Pimsleur level 4 by the end of March, 2024
  • Pass the TEF test with 399 points (end of level B1) by the end of April 2024
  • Finish Pimsleur level 5 by the end of April, 2024
  • Pass the TEF test with 499 points (end of level B2) by the end of July 2024
  • Pass the TEF test with 599 points (end of level C1) by the end of October 2024
  • Pass the TEF test with 690 points (end of level C2) by the end of Jan 2025 (which should leave me 3 more months to pass the test with this high score in case I fail!)
  • Finish one book/month
  • Have at least 1h of conversation in French per day (including courses, phone calls, meetings with French, lunch at work, etc.).

Why am I even sharing this with you?

If I know you, I am sharing this with you so that you keep asking me all the time how it’s going! This way, I will be more driven to stick to the plan 🙂If you speak french yourself, I am hereby letting you know that I would like to speak as much as I can in french with you.

If I don’t know you it means you are reading my blog because I posted it online. Please feel free to comment or react. Knowing that people are reading this will motivate me. I tend to meet expectations. 

If you’d like to learn french yourself, this might be of help to you as well!