The Intermediate Francaphone: Self teaching techniques when you’re past merci beaucoup,but not quite fluent.

After five semesters in college, and a total of a year and a half living in France, I am STILL no where close to fluent when it comes to French. The simple fact is, learning a language is hard and takes a lot of work, time, and self discipline. This year I seriously revamped my language learning regime. Here are a few language learning techniques that I’m implementing and seeing real results from!


Netflix can be a black hole of wasted time OR it can be another tool in your language learning belt. Depending on your mastery of French, I suggest starting with subtitles in french with french audio, graduate to just audio. Just a word to the wise, the subtitles DO NOT always match up with the audio, however they can still help you follow the story.  Watching TV in the language you are learning helps to drastically improve your comprehension of the language. You hear French being spoken at ‘French Speed’ ,you can pick up vocabulary, and get a little peak into french culture. (Is that a triple WIN I hear?) Even if you can’t find a french tv show that fits your fancy, chances are Netflix has your favorite show with French options. So grab a baguette and transform your TV routine into a chance to improve your French.

Some tv shows and movies are restricted by the country your in. You can trick the system with a free google chrome extension Hola which allows you access to sites otherwise blocked because your computers VPN (digital address) is in the United States.


My fave french drama on Netflix right now.

My favorite ‘real french’ tv series on Netflix right now is Un Village Français. It takes place in the 1940’s during the German occupation of France and depicts the lives of the French citizens thrown into a new way of life. Even if history is not your thing, you’ll enjoy the drama in this series. Another plus is that there is seven seasons, so there is no need to search for your next french tv show anytime soon.



Reading has to be one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary in a second language. Switching from reading in your first language to reading in your second can be a struggle, but it is so worth it.I started with children’s books but eventually wanted more and was not feeling Victor Hugo. My biggest problem was finding books that fit ‘my level’. I was past the cartoon drawings of Tin Tin but not quite ready to delve into Les Miserables. I found three books that I loved and are great for the intermediate French reader.

  1. Le Petit Prince – This is a magical choice for your entry into the French literary world. A rightly called masterpiece by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This little storybook is a life lesson disguised as a children’s book. It also has small chapters, which are PERFECT for reading before bed.
    on voit

    It is only with the heart that one can see correctly, what is essential is invisible to the eyes.

  2. L’Extrodinaire Voyage du Fakir Qui Était Resté Coincé Dans un Armoir IKEA – I am officially hooked on Romain Peurtolas, he has a lighthearted writing style that I love. I also enjoyed the colloquial language used in this book. On top of it all, this is a quirky travel story. If reading a travel book in the language of the country you want to travel to doesn’t give you wanderlust, I don’t know what will. romain
  1. Le Hobbit – Ok, so this is not a book by a French author BUT it did get a new translation this year. If all else fails in your search for the next ‘intermediate’ french masterpiece to read, you can always nab an oldie but goodie thats been translated into French. le hobbit


Listening to music in the language your learning is perfect all around. You can do it while at the gym, in your car, while cleaning. You will begin to recognize grammatical rules you have only read about, pick up vocabulary, and hear some truly great artists (ummm Edith Piaf anyone?) So please, drop the excuse that you don’t have the time to learn a second language and start jamming away to some ZaZ!

Whats on my playlist?

Language Groups:

One of the hardest parts about speaking a second language, is speaking a second language. Having to speak to native speakers is terrifying, difficult, and humbling. The biggest hurdle for me was getting over the embarrassment of speaking like a child. Now, that fear seems silly to me, NO ONE IS JUDGING YOU when you speak with them in a language that is not your native tongue (and if they are you don’t need that sort of negativity in your life). Put your fear aside and start talking, the sooner the better.

The cool thing is, you don’t have to be in Europe to speak with francophones. There are language groups around the country which you can participate in, and french expat groups on facebook where you can ask if anyone would mind spending a coffee break speaking french.

I’ve used to find groups that organize french language exchanges in the United States!

Self Study: 

This is the most painful aspect of language learning that will also go the furthest in your fluency in any language. Even if you spend fifteen minuets a day going over grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary, or practicing your written French, a little is always better than none.

I am currently preparing for a language exam at the end of the year so I have kicked my self study regime into high gear. The DALF or Diplome des Etudes en Langue Française, is certificate which states that you have completed an advanced level of French studies. It is a exam which covers reading, writing, and speaking…French. Once you have your diploma, you have it for life!  I decided to go after it as a personal goal, and so that I have proof of my language skills.

The Books Im Using: 

Grammaire Progressive du Française CLE International – I love this easy to follow workbook , with over 600 grammar exercises that target the advanced French learner.

DALF C1/C2 CLE International – A workbook with 250 activities that are formatted exactly the same way as the exam you will be taking. This book has activities for the C1 and C2 exam, so you can practice at different levels.

Lire La Presse Bernadette Chovelon & Marie – Hélèn Morsel – This book helps you break down articles the way the DALF examiners will expect you too!

Bescherelle Pocket Guide to Conjugations – This is the book that EVERYONE learning french should invest in. It is a complete conjugation guide that will go a LONG way to helping you every step of the way when learning french.


My Little Notebook: 

This trick is the best for people already in a full immersion program, but it can work I keep a little notebook with my at all times. When reading, watching tv, having dinner with friends, in my purse, my pocket, or my nightstand, my little notebook is with me. I jot down words and phrases that I learn throughout the day and I review them at night! This notebook is also pretty cool because it allows you to track your language learning process. I looked back to the first few pages in my notebook and could not believe that some of the words I had jotted down on the pages were ever words that I stumbled over.


How lucky we are to be learning a second language in the digital age. The internet has made learning a second language, easily accessible. Here is a list of a few of my favorite websites that I use as language learning tools. If your interested in more follow me on Pinterest ill be adding my french resources as I find them!

Word Reference – My french teacher always told us that google translate is NOT the best source to run to…and she was right. Google does a great job at providing rough translations, however if you want the real deal, Word Reference is the way to go.

Reverso – Slightly less detailed than word reference however you can get an audio example of the word.

Duolingo – A great way to add a bit of french to your day when your too lazy to really study. Duolingo is a game based language learning tool that also lets you ‘challenge’ your friends if they are learning a language!

Do you have language learning techniques that work for you ?  



  1. Salut Cristen! I stumbled across your blog by accident and absolutely love it! As a fellow American in France I feel your pain about trying to speak French fluently and flawlessly! Even after many years I study I still find myself struggling sometimes. This is a great list of ideas/resources that you put together. Merci de l’avoir partagé avec nous!

    1. Hey girly Im glad you stumbled onto my petite tranche of the internet! It is amazing how difficult it is to be immersed in a foreign language at times, especially one as strict as french…and come on wordplay is pretty much a national sport. All the same I love learning, the humility, and being forced daily to laugh at myself! How long have you been in France? If you ever find yourself up North feel free to reach out 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for your reply! I married my French husband in June 2015 and have been in France since January. It has definitely been an adventure! How long have you been here? I will definitely let you know if I make it up your way and please reach out to me if you are ever down near Bordeaux! 🙂

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