If You Reply « No » to These 14 Questions, Learning French Is Definitely NOT for You
I can accurately predict whether you’re going to reach your French-speaking goals or not.
It’s a strong statement, but hear me out. (And no, there are no crystal balls involved.)
During my 10 years of teaching French as a second language, I’ve helped countless students improve their listening, speaking and writing skills. As I’ve gotten to know these students, their habits, and their motivations — I’ve learned to recognise common traits that either make students succeed. Or make students fail. And spoiler alert: it doesn’t matter if you “lack a natural gift for languages”.
Today I can identify in no time if a student is going to succeed or fail in their French studies. And oftentimes I can tell just from the first email when the prospective student is only beginning to seek out information.
Take for example, the people who send emails like this:
Hello, I would like to learn French as soon as possible. I have been in France for 3 years and now I urgently need French to find a job.
It might sound terrible, but I know that this person will probably never end up learning French. He or she will most likely take 2 classes and then quit. Why? Because their motivation to learn comes solely from the emergency of needing to get a job. Not out of genuine interest in the French language or culture.
The motivation is entirely utilitarian — out of a drastic last-minute necessity. And that probably means their heart won’t be in it.
When that person realizes that achieving fluency actually takes years, they’ll most likely become discouraged and lose interest after a couple of lessons. This is not to say wanting French for work is a bad motivation. But if it’s your only motivation, it’s going to be a hell of a lot more boring and painful than it needs to be.
Maybe your situation is a little bit different. Maybe you’ve been studying French for a while but you haven’t seen much improvement. Maybe you’re secretly regretting picking French and starting to question yourself. Maybe you’re wondering if it’ll just never click, and you should try something else instead (like Spanish or Chinese).
The aim of this article is to help you reassess your strategy and evaluate your mindset.
I’m here to help you halt any negative thoughts about your progress, stop you from feeling bad about yourself, and help you discover what might actually be blocking you — so you can clear the way for growth and progress!
First, start by answering these 14 questions. Take time to consider each one fully. Be honest with yourself.
1. Are you really motivated?
Chances are if you’re reading this article, you’re motivated to some degree. But what is motivating you? Is it the thought of a confident future-you effortlessly ordering from a Parisian restaurant on your next vacation? Is it that promotion at work that requires communicating with French clients? Emotions and motivation go hand-in-hand. If you think about what motivates you to learn French — and you feel it as an emotion in your body, that’s a good sign. Because ideally the prospect of speaking French should make you excited and light you up.
2. Do you like the French language?
It sounds silly, but ask yourself if you even like the French language. Put aside the difficult pronunciation and annoying grammar rules. Do you like the way it sounds? Do you like speaking French words? Enjoyment is a powerful thing to leverage, especially when we’re learning something new. If you don’t like the French language to start with, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
3. Are you learning French for someone else? (like your spouse, family, or boss)
Outside motivations like relationships, family or work are fantastic motivations. Maybe a family member only speaks French, and you’re really wanting to connect with them. Maybe your spouse is French and you want to communicate with them in their native tongue. That ‘someone else’ will hold you accountable and even help you measure your progress.
4. Do you have a deadline?
Some people hate deadlines but they’re undeniably useful (and not just for eternal procrastinators). Yes, deadlines help us stay on track to meet our goals. But they also help motivate us. They force us to conceptualize our goals and break them down into manageable chunks. Maybe you have a traditional deadline — a looming French exam. Or a less traditional deadline — a trip booked in a French-speaking country. Whatever the case may be, having a date to look forward to or structure your learning around will work to your advantage. Otherwise, we’re left to our own devices and that’s when procrastination is more likely to kick in.
5. Do you enjoy studying and learning?
Okay, you don’t need to enjoy every single part of language learning. There are few people on this planet who truly love memorizing vocabulary or conjugation structures. But if you tend to go into learning situations with curiosity and inquisitiveness — you’re going to enjoy the process a whole lot more. And remember, enjoyment is a powerful weapon for efficiency and progress. If you despise learning — ask yourself why. Is it because of your ego (not being good at something right away?) Is it because of the effort and brainpower involved?
6. Are you patient?
Learning a language is like running a marathon. Real measurable results and being able to speak meaningfully is a journey that requires a long term strategy — are you up for it? Are you willing to be patient with yourself and your progress? Are you willing to celebrate the little victories (like successfully using a new expression? or understanding more of the lyrics to your favourite French song?) If you’re not patient with yourself, you’ll just get frustrated and be more likely to give up.
7. Do you study consistently?
In order to grow and progress, you’ll need to make some sort of commitment. Depending on your schedule and current French level, it can be as little as once a week or as much as every single day. Signing up for a regular French class is the best way to ensure consistency.
8. Do you have a routine?
One of the best ways to ensure consistency is to establish a routine. Maybe some weeks you’ll have more time to study than others — but as long as you stick to a structured French routine, you’re golden. And it doesn’t always need to be a painfully long study session. It can be as simple as listening to the news or a podcast in French every morning or having a 30 minute video call with a language exchange partner every week.
9. Do you practice and review on your own? Are you self-disciplined?
This is part of studying. Talking to yourself, reviewing or rewriting notes, and self-revision are all major players when it comes to learning and memorization. Attending a regular French class is amazing and ideal — but your learning will accelerate like crazy if you actually take the time to review in your spare time. If you cultivate self-discipline through a routine and consistency, studying French won’t feel like a chore. You’ll train your mind to actually enjoy the process and be rewarded with tangible results.
10. Do you like French teachers in general?
Okay, we all know that there are some mean French teachers out there. Old school grammar and pronunciation nazis thrive on torturing students. But trust me, not all of them are like that. So if you have reservations about French teachers in general because of previous negatives experiences — I get it. But please let go of that stereotype because I promise you, there are some really cool, fun and compassionate French teachers (like all the teachers here).
11. Do you like your current French teacher?
Vibing with your language teacher is so important. If they aren’t understanding your learning style or they make you feel stupid in any way shape or form — it’s time to look for someone else.
12. Do you think French culture is interesting? (French culture includes cultures of all French-speaking cities and countries)
Being interested in culture will make your language learning journey a whole lot easier. Think about it. You can study from textbooks and learn ‘proper French’, which is obviously very important to start. However, learning spoken everyday French that includes slang and expressions requires some sort of understanding of French culture and mentality. And they vary across different French-speaking cultures!
13. Do you think you can be friends with French people?
The advantages of making French-speaking friends include being able to practice your French with them. Caution though: Just because someone speaks French doesn’t mean they will be able to answer all your grammar queries (or be super patient). You’ll need a qualified instructor for that. But surrounding yourself with French speakers is a great way to immerse yourself, to practice and feel clued-in culturally.
14. Are you willing to spend money on your French learning journey?
There are a lot of amazing online resources for free, but they are mainly supplementary. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself and your progress, you may lose steam fairly quickly. Taking a group course or private lessons are ideal to learn effectively. At the very least, you should be prepared to invest in some good French learning resources and books. Otherwise, you’ll be inundated with unstructured and ineffective online language learning tools.
If you answered no to the majority of these questions — it’s time to reassess your strategy. Identify and find out what is blocking you. See what you can tweak in your routine to stay motivated and cultivate a sustainable and positive mindset that will actually facilitate your learning.
At I Learn french, I’ve witnessed outstanding results from our French students — those who have reached their goals and overcome confidence issues. Our success rate is so high because we pour a lot of love, dedication and attention into each and every one of our students. And we’re also selective with who we work with. We only want to work with motivated students who are willing to adopt the necessary mindset and strategies to learn a foreign language.
These are the foundational building blocks that set you up for success on your journey.
Are there any other tricks, tips or blockages you’ve experienced? Let me know in the comments below.
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