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Hi all

It is great to have found this forum and I have read some really interesting and helpful posts, amongst which I have already found an answer to what my original question was going to be: What is the practical difference between “nous” and “on” in every day spoken French, so I am delighted. It’s great to find people making a great effort to help each other out.

I have also been interested to read a few posts on the feasibility of learning French mainly by listening to the radio, and this is exactly what I am attempting, so I would be really interested to open a discussion on the subject and read more thoughts on this from people who have actually done it.

My story is probably quite familiar to many first language English speakers on here. I studied French for 5 years at a school in England and got a GCSE, but found that my level of spoken French at the end of it was pretty pitiful. When I went to France, anything much more than ordering a meal in a restaurant or asking for basic directions was pretty much beyond me, and I could pick out very little of what native French speakers were saying. I could go on here about how I feel the way we teach French in English schools is wrong, but that’s another post for another forum!

Anyway, years later, I met my girlfriend (now wife!), who is a first language Welsh speaker. In just one year of hearing and experiencing Welsh “in the field”, supported by some very basic study, I was already far better at Welsh than I was at French and I soon became fluent.

When I think about it, all I really did to learn was simply to actively listen to the Welsh I was hearing around me and note down words that I could pick out but not understand. Later, I would then consult a dictionary and slowly build up my vocabulary.

I have now decided to apply the same principle to French. I try to listen to “France Inter” for about an hour a day. I only started two weeks ago and I would estimate that then, I was picking out about 25% of the words, proving that those 5 years study at school weren’t totally wasted! This was an encouraging start, but I could rarely get the full gist of what was being said, just odd words, and I found the speed hard to cope with. Just two weeks later, and I feel that I have dramatically improved already. I would now put the figure around 35% and I am sometimes able to pick out full sentences. I also find the speed less of an issue and am beginning to pick out the “mood” better i.e. is a piece humorous, sad, serious, etc? As I did for Welsh, I try to remember words that I can pick out but not understand – usually 3 - 5 after each session and then look them up. There are lots of great online tools like Google translate and this site that weren’t available when I went through this in Welsh. I also try to read “Le Figaro” for half an hour or so a day. Not surprisingly, I find reading easier than listening because I can do it at my own pace and re-read bits!

As I have no one around me to actually speak French with unfortunately, I force myself to speak French in my head and also to speak out loud to the radio when I’m alone in my car!

I would really like to know what people think about this strategy? Has anyone else learned in a similar way? There is no real structure to it, but I am really enjoying it, and that is a big thing when tackling a language – making it fun and not a chore.

I would love to be able to become fluent if I can stick to it. I was lucky with Welsh because I had my own personal tutor and lots of people around that I could chat to, which I don’t have with French, but the principle of active listening for short periods and follow up short study sessions is essentially the same way I learned Welsh.

Thanks very much to anyone who reads this post. I would really welcome any thoughts and/or advice.

Kind regards


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I would suggest you to watch french TV series with subtitles in French. It is really a powerful way to speed this learning process up.

As a french native speaker, that's what I am doing as often as possible to improve my english skills. I download US or UK TV series with subtitles in english and I have experimented tremendous improvement in few weeks. I am now able to capture 90% without any subtitles. I still have difficulties when people have strong accent or with slang language. 


Merci beaucoup Yannick, c'est un bonne idée. Pouvez vous me recommander des programmes francais intéressant et des filmes s'il vous plait?

Vous faites tres bien avec l'anglais. Super!



Hi jon,

Well it really depends on what you like

First of all I would suggest you to download the following free software it allows anyone to download most of the TV series, breaking news and so on replay from most of the existing TV channels and it's totally free and legal

Once installed you need to go to Options and click 'telecharger automatiquement les sous-titres ...' to get the subtitles in French (in some case they are not as accurate as you may wish but at least it helps)

Re what to choose - again it depends on what you like. Let me suggest different one's

TV series : RIS on TF1 is similar The Experts

Breaking News : TF1 le journal de 20 heures

Politics and others subjects (horse meat scandal for example) : channel 5 : C dans l'air (I love this one)

Puppet show : Canal + : les guignols de l'info (might be hard to understand French irony and joke)

If you have any trouble to set it up let me know



I don't see, why would a french tv program have subtitles in french? And what good would it be? Surely to learn french you need to hear the french and see the subtitles in ENGLISH?
And you say you learn English from US programs with subtitles in English... This makes on sense - surely you mean subtitles in FRENCH do you not?

I really watch US programs with subtilte in English. But obviously it makes sense once you are able to read and understand the language. It might not be a good idea for a beginner but an advanced learner. Believe me it really helps to take you to the next stage

Jon Head, I agree with evry word of your post - I do exactly the same with France Info on radio. I agree with YanNick suggestion too, watching tv is even better than radio. Even without subtitles. I watch TV5Monde, an amazing station as it always has something of genuine interest on at all times!

google "News In Slow French."  sometimes I tape it and play it even slower.  There are other French podcasts that are free and very good and they explain things at intervals in English.  There are 3 French talk radio stations on the internet -- France Culture, France Info, and France Inter.  To study vocabulary, I am making cassettes to listen to in the car.  If there are some French songs you like, you can probably find the lyrics online and by listening to the songs several times, you learn vocabulary.  I think it's most important to learn verbs (you can describe a noun) and I'll look for verbs that are very commonly used.  And you're right, this site is excellent and people are very generous with their help.  


Many, many thanks to Alan and Yannick. This is fantastic advice, and my enthusiasm is now even higher!

I really appreciate it and will definitely be following the suggestions from both of you.



I found Le Figaro has a blog.  I copied an article, looked up words with the Reverso dictionary (which I have bookmarked) and copied definitions to put beside the words.  It's much faster this way.  

Hello Jon - you say that you haven't got anyone to talk French to - I wondered whether there would be a branch of the Alliance Française near you?  (I'm sorry this font has gone strange, but I can't do accents on this so I've cut and pasted the word 'francaise'!!  Anyway, here in Liverpool there is the Liverpool French Literary Society which is to do with the afore-mentioned A.F. and that gives a chance for French speaking with like-minded people, plus listening to French in the talks we have each time with good speakers, sometimes actually French, and sometimes French 'profs' from the University.

Many thanks for your response Jackie and for all the other interesting and informative posts. I am glad that this thread has stimulated some discussion and ideas.

I am very interested by the "Alliance Française" Jackie. Thanks for mentioning it. Could you please post some links about it - like where can I find out where the branches are, for example? I actually live in a very rural area, but I do frequently visit cities around the UK with work, so it would be great to find out more! Liverpool is about an hour from me, so I will be sure to find out more before I am next there!



So you are not too far from Liverpool Jon!  Well, our meetings have finished for now - we go every other Saturday between October and March (the last one was the AGM Saturday just gone).  I think they're also in Manchester.  If you were ever be able to come to the Liverpool group later in the year, I can always give you details.  We keep changing our meeting place and we hope to go back to the Library now it's been refurbished, but we wait and see! I'm sure that you would be able to find out branches of Alliance F. on the internet, but up this way it'll probably be just Liverpool and Manchester - or maybe Chester?

Je vous en prie!



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