5 Ways to Drastically Improve Your French as a TAPIF Assistant
Let's be real - one of our main goals for teaching abroad in France is to really perfect our French. We've thought about it: the idea of being completely fluent in French (or any second language for that matter!) is completely amazing. So what better way to achieve this than by spending seven glorious months (at least!) in lovely France with TAPIF?!
ere are five tips I have for those of you who are itchin' to start practicing your French again during your year teaching abroad in France:
1. Speak as Much French as Possible.
This may seem a bit obvious, but hear me out. Obviously at your workplace, you'll be speaking a lot of French, so - okay - it goes without saying that you'll already be speaking a lot (a lot!) of French. But I'm mostly talking about with the new friends you make (whether they're French, German, Italian, or even from an English-speaking country!), with people around your cities in the markets and in cafés, and with your French roommates if you have them!
It can feel scary at first, especially if the French you learned when you studied abroad a few years ago may now be a bit rusty - but believe me, it will come back to you! The more you speak, the faster you'll improve - just as the less French you speak, the longer it will take to feel comfortable with your level.
Okay, so maybe it's because I'm a complete bookworm, but I would be absolutely lost without a book in my purse wherever I go. If you like to read, why not give it a whirl in your second language? Chances are, you'll be able to find some great reads in French while you're here. And, as an added bonus, French paperbacks are super affordable! I can NEVER resist stopping in to cute little French book shops.
If you're not as much of a book person, no worries! Grab a newspaper or free pamphlet near your local metro, bus, or train station. During my morning commutes to work, I love grabbing a copy of Direct Matin (a 10-15 page daily news pamphlet circulated throughout France that provides that day's national and international news). It's a great way to stay up on current events while practicing your French at the same time.
Another crazy thing I notice whenever I'm reading a French book at any given time is that my oral comprehension and ability to respond quickly and effectively in my conversations with friends DRASTICALLY improves. It feels so much better being able to articulately express myself, and I know for a fact that reading in French has so much to do with that!
3. Get to Know Your Colleagues
There's a big chance that you'll be able to speak English with the English teachers at your school. For me, I spoke English with a handful of them, French with some more of them, and a charming mélange of Franglais with the rest.
However, with those of your colleagues who AREN'T English teachers, chances are that you'll be on your own with French. This is true also especially with the administration of your school or schools (i.e. the principal and secretary and everyone else up in the office). With these other teachers, feel free to ask the ones who seem nice about their classes or to make some simple small talk.
I was nervous to approach any of the other teachers for so long because they didn't make the first move. But then I realized that they probably expected ME to make the first move, and so I did - and I got to practice my French. A lot.
4. Join a Group or Sports Club
There are so many opportunities to meet and befriend locals here in France, but a lot of the time it can seem difficult only because it requires us to be bold in introducing ourselves. If you have a hobby, say playing volleyball or singing, you can research volleyball clubs or choirs in your area, send an email or make a phone call, and be well on your way to making contacts (along with getting to engage in your favorite hobby!) in no time.
I knew a lot of people who did this kind of thing, and they were so happy they did because it gave them an outlet to have a great social life outside of teaching.
Just do a little research or asking around. You won't be disappointed.
5. Be a Part of Your Local Scene
Honestly, if you're out and about in your French city or town, you'll find ample opportunity to speak French. Once when I was out for a walk at the park near my house on a late-summer evening in September, I came across a group of people my age drinking some beers and playing Frisbee and they just asked me point-blank if I wanted to join them. At first, I declined because I didn't want to impose but then I thought about it and essentially scolded myself like "WHY NOT?!" Those French friends I met that evening ended up being a fun group that would come out occasionally with me and some other teaching assistants, and it was wonderful!
These kinds of things happen all the time if you're open to them! Obviously, use your best judgement and don't go off with sketchy people or groups just because they speak to you, but if you're open and are not just wanting to spend all of your time in your apartment while in France, then you'll realize that you'll be making some great friends, memories, and - yes! - French conversation!
So there they are, guys! My five tips on how to drastically improve your French while over here during your year teaching abroad! I hope they help, and I hope you take advantage of being in France to truly work on your French language skills. I mean, could you ask for a better place to practice?!
Thanks for reading, everyone, and here's to living your best French life (in French!)