Learning French – Things I Learned From Learning English

The 3 Things I learned from learning English that you can use to learn French

  1. TV is good for you
  2. The best teachers tell stories
  3. Playing and learning are really the same thing


TV is good for you…as long as it’s in a new language you’re learning.

My parents rock, and I love them to bits. Before we made the big move to London, they made sure I had just the right exposure to the English language. They bought VHS tapes (remember those?) with cartoons specifically made to teach children how to learn new languages. It was really fun, and my little sister and I never felt like studying, but it helped a lot to get the basics. Thanks mum!

Once we settled in London, every evening when coming back from school, I would take a nice little chocolate bar, and watch the screen for an hour or more. My parents, once again, were smart enough to let me to that. We did not have any program in French, so I had to watch programs in English, such as the Tomorrow People (kid science fiction series), Blue Peter, and many other characters that I still hold dear in my heart today.

And I loved it: it was entertaining, funny, exhilarating,and the pictures meant that understanding the story was never a problem. I could always connect the dots when a word or a sentence didn’t make sense immediately. So in that case, the mindless staring at the TV screen is actually a full immersion in a new culture and language.

Campfire learning: sharing stories to learn a new language

I went to a French school, but we had English lessons every day, with a lovely teacher. She used to stick magnets on the blackboard, and tell us stories with them. She had picture of little characters on the magnets, a whole family, and we would follow them through their everyday adventures. It was my favourite moment of the day. Once again, I could connect the dots using images, and she had a great talent for making the stories compelling. Way better than any language eLearning gadget you might get today.

Learning a language and playing are the same thing: having the right mindset for language learning

So, in the end, I never aulas de inglês particulares really had the impression that I was “learning”. To me, it was all about discovering, sharing stories and having fun.

Still today, I use video and podcast as much as I can to learn (the web is a Godsend for that), and I invent stories to make things stick in my little brain. It helps me a lot: I am now an eLearning specialist and computer programmer, doing research on cutting edge technologies for education.

I suggest you try the same thing when learning French: use audiovisual resources (video and audio), create and seek stories, and adopt a playful attitude! Also, do not be afraid if you don’t understand a few words: your brain is smart enough to connect the dots. Trust yourself, and realise that context is king. And anyway, if things come to the worst, t