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No habla...French...? Language problems on arriving in the Pays Basque.

Updated: Dec 5, 2018

On arriving in France every human interaction was intimidating and nerve racking. I had a decent base in vocabulary but couldn't string together three words in French even if my life depended on it!


I found every other language coming out of my mouth other than French. It was a muddle of Spanish,English,Romanian and Russian with a random French word thrown in. Needless to say ,I was basically a shut in the first year as firstly I had my new born to take care of and secondly I was not keen on

the fact of putting myself out there in a new language.


So if you are in my shoes or think you fit the same profile, don't worry! Now you can't get me to shut up in French and I even took it upon myself to sit the DELF B2 French language proficiency exam and passed with flying colours.



You may be wondering how did I go from not being able to even say ,"to you too" (a vous aussi) to the post man after he wished me a good day to being able to sit at play dates with the mums of my daughter's friends and jabber in French for 4 to 5 hours at a time. Honestly , in my opinion when learning a language most of the work falls on you the student and your motivation. I was motivated. I wanted to interact. I wanted to work. I wanted to stop feeling like there were a million knots in my stomach when I had to take my daughter to the pediatrician or engage in any form of communication in French.


In my opinion here are some quick tips to getting a grasp of the language (any new language):

1.Learn vocabulary.

2.Read road signs, product labels, advertisements

3.Listen to music

4.Watch programs in the language preferably programs that are originally filmed in French ( When I try to watch an English program with French dubbing or subtitles, either the voice is too off and annoys me or the translations don't match up and I find you lose the essence of the show. So I wind up switching it back to English)

5.Read kids stories. (This is what really boosted my vocabulary and comprehension as I read stories to my daughter ,I learnt the vocabulary and grammar with her even though she often corrects my pronunciation now!)

6.When you have gotten a base find a private tutor.I had taught myself most of my grammar and with a strong base in vocabulary after more than 2 years of living in France I started having French conversation classes. In these classes we didn't need to go over vocabulary or grammar and I just spoke. I would speak for an hour or an hour and a half non stop about whatever was going on in my life. In total I must have had 50 hours of conversation with an my amazing teacher,Latifa Niles. Latifa would correct my repeated mistakes and "clean up" my grammar. The words I couldn't find when I was speaking about a topic she would give to me in the moment and this added to my word bank. There are many language schools in the Pays Basque but I found that private tuition gave me what I needed. I didn't need to sit in a classroom with a bunch of people and learn Je suis ,tu es, il est . I needed to dive head first . It all depends on what type of learner you are and of course your budget!

7. Speak at every occasion possible in French.( Most of the mums at my daughters school speak English but I speak to all but 1 in French)

8. Set a goal for yourself to achieve so you know what direction you are heading and where you want to be with respect to your language skills.


I hope this sets your mind at ease of any language anxieties that you may have before moving to France. All the best!



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