How to learn French when you are extremely busy
I don’t have time to learn and study French and I’ll never be able to speak it.
That’s probably what you think about your French skills right now. I guess with work, kids, travels and personal projects, finding time for yourself and learning French is just a no-no. You are wondering; how do the extremely busy find time to learn French, right?
I’m working full time myself, which means I’m facing the same challenges too. I wish I had more time to study a new language. To be honest, I wish I was free all the time to learn a language.
And just like you, too many people have hung up their French while being based in Brussels, Geneva or in Paris or dating a francophone as they are convinced they’ll never progress. For many reasons independent from your willingness, you can’t – you simply can’t – attend an intensive course to become fluent in a few months.
You can’t attend a course once or twice a week for a semester with fixed schedule and location. You simply can’t. Anyway, it’s not your fault. Your lifestyle doesn’t allow it, and it’s ok. And, it is understandable that you have to deal with many aspects of your new life such as school, kids, insurance, containers, making friends, getting to meet and being accepted by your new team, rebuilding your network, thinking about your career, back and forth with your previous home city, and so on.… You simply assume the role of a spectator of your own life. You see time passing by and have the feeling that you just can’t progress in French. Not now. Does it ring a bell?
I’m a member of a community of international ladies’ group, and I love hosting networking events for expat ladies in Brussels and Paris. I’ve met so many people who are frustrated and sad about their (nonexistent and/or poor) progress in French. Do you think the same about your skills? I understand you. Believe me, I know how it feels. I know you really want to find a way to learn French. Amazingly, I also used to blame myself for not being able to speak Dutch fluently as a Belgian working in Brussels.
In addition to my networking events, I have been teaching French on a full time basis for more than a decade. Interestingly, learning other languages is the best exercise I’ve found so far to improve my teaching skills and understand my students better. I’ve developed secret strategies to help me improve my learning skills even if I have a very busy schedule and social life. In this article, I’ll give you solutions that could help you progress in French and also help you in being finally proud of your little and maybe slow progress.
Before starting with my amazing solutions, please take a few minutes and think about the following points:
- Do I really want to learn French?
- Do I want to make the effort to learn French?
- Are my goals feasible?
- Am I ready for a long term project?
- Is it a priority?
- Do I agree that learning French (or any other language) implies being involved in a project with shortcuts?
- Am I ready to be patient with myself and my improvement?
I have to be honest with you, if you reply mostly “no” to these questions, then you should maybe not consider learning French for the moment. If “yes”, then I may have solutions for you.
How I found a solution that fits my lifestyle to learn languages and how it can be applied to yours
I would like to share with you my experience of being very very busy building my language school and struggling to find time to progress in learning a language at the same time.
I did learn Arabic more than 10 years (f**k, time flies!). I took a course for 2 years and then I stopped. I moved from one country to another and couldn’t find a course that was suitable for me. As a result, I obviously forgot everything. But… I don’t like the feeling of having unaccomplished projects. This is a feeling I detest and you might have the same guilty thoughts about your French learning.
This year, I’ve decided to learn Arabic again. Yes, after evaluating many options – private teachers, and different languages schools – I finally decided that group class was more appropriate for me as it would give me the opportunity to meet other people who share the same interests.
When enrolling for the group course, I was interested in two different course periods: once a week for two hours or twice a week for 2 hours. The total hour estimated for the program from September to June is 60 hours. This might sound like a lot, but I was really motivated and wanted to give everything.
However, when I stepped back to think about it and evaluate the feasibility of this learning project, several questions popped up. Am I in a rush? No. Do I need it urgently for my work or my personal life? No. Will it affect my social life a bit? Yes. I considered the twice-a-week course which is less an opportunity than a challenge.
Thus, I’ve decided to attend the once a week course for two hours. Clearly, the results are not as fast as a 3-hour a day intensive course but they are adapted to my life style. I’m happy to learn at my rhythm. And this is what you should do with your French course.
Why it works?
Do you know why it works?
- You are not stressed
- You have enough time to practice during the class
- You learn at your own rhythm
- You don’t feel guilty for not rushing yourself
- It’s easier to commit to
- If you miss a class, you can still follow the next one. It might sound like an unhealthy advice but let’s be honest, who can attend a course every single week for 6 months? Perhaps nobody.
Will I become bilingual after 6 months? No, of course. Do I want to be bilingual maybe one day? Yes, but not tomorrow. Do I always find time to review and reread my notes before the next class? I wish. Nevertheless, I’m very happy I finally took the step to go back to school after 10 years and to learn Arabic at my own pace. It’s always better than nothing at all. This is the same with your French classes.
Consequently, if you attend a Private French course once a week, you’ll make amazing progress. You won’t be a certified translator or interpreter for the European Parliament after 6 months and this shouldn’t be your goal either. By the way, who is asking you to become so? Nobody!
I highly recommend you to learn slowly at your own rhythm, when you can, with your own resources and this should be enough. You can learn French if you really want to as long as you admit that even once a week will give you results and you stick to it.
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