Jump to content
Complete France Forum

Help- totally lost my confidence speaking french!


Recommended Posts

Hi everyone!

I used to speak french pretty well as I lived in France for approx 18mths doing seasonal work, although when I was there I was in a totally english environment so it wasn't that great for any 'immersion'. Anyhow, am back in England now, recently acquired myself an french boyfriend so you would think it would be great for improving my french. Well, the problem seems to be i am totally in the habit of speaking english with him...he has lived and worked in england for several years so his english is fantastic, I by comparison feel that my french is crap when it's not really that bad at all (from my view point!)

So, any tips how I can get round this? I think it's mainly me having a confidence crisis and also feeling a bit self-conscious about the whole thing...you know when you try to speak a foreign language with someone who is much more proficient in your own mother tongue i.e. english. My boyfriend does try to get me to speak french and helps with french DVDs etc, although a couple of times he did say I was a bit crap cos I didn't understand something he was saying which really pissed me off, although i was probably being a bit oversensitive! I think part of the problem is I don't have any continuity with my french as we only see each other once a week due to busy jobs & sometimes it is easier to speak english.

I've met with his french mates, but honestly feel quite lost when I'm trying to follow a 4/5-way conversation in fairly fast french with all the usual slang etc thrown in- I feel pretty stupid in these situations, although i know i should just be making the most of the opportunity! In french sometimes i feel my personality is lost as i try to understand what is being said, then try to get a response together & start to feel self-conscious if i struggle a bit as i know the conversation would be more easily done in english (not copping out, just a fact)

Sorry this has been a long old ramble but it's really starting to get to me as I don't want boyf to feel I'm not bothered to improve my french but at the same time i feel i'm not taking the opportunity to improve when I do want to be able to speak better french, I just i feel i no longer have the same confidence- v hard to explain.

Any advice gratefully received!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Option 1 - Talk to your boyfriend about it.

Option 2 - Get a British boyfriend then after an evening in the pub discussing how rubbish Liverpool / Man U / Chelsea are, you will long to be back listening to your French boyfriend's cronies rabbitting away in French.

Option 3 - (this is the one I am trying) have a set of Michel Thomas's CDs somewhere in the car and really mean to listen to them sometime or other.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Definately take Renaud's first option.[:)]

This happens to us all while we're learning a language and it's certainly a lot tougher away from a 100% French environment.  I have a few friends in "mixed relationships" and each approaches it differently.  One couple who are both fluent in the two languages and who have been together for years and lived in both countries, speak to each other in the language of the country they are not in at the time, when they are alone, so they keep up with the lingo they wouldn't otherwise use every day.  Two French friends of mine who live in the UK both speak English all the time and their English partners never bother to speak French at all (one of them hardly knows how to say hello in French, let alone converse!)

I think you've probably reached that stage where you're confident with the basics but are not fluent enough to pick up on everyday chat.  I reckon it's the toughest bit to manage because you can understand individual words, and probably construct a sentence "on the hoof" but listening to an evening's unstructured chatter is a different matter altogether.  If you think about it, if you were amongst a large crowd of Brits, you would probably miss huge chunks of what's being said, but you are far less self-conscious about that because you know you'd understand if you put your mind to it.  One tip is to concentrate on one individual in the group and try to ignore what everybody esle is saying.  It's taking you a second or two longer to process the words than it is for those who's first language is being spoken so  try not to get too distracted and to listen to too much at once.

Another thing I do is to have a "thinking in French" time every day.  Spend an hour or so when you are alone (or working quietly) doing just that - thinking in French or even (if you are alone[;-)]) speaking to yourself in French - I find it can really help.  Try it too when you are with your boyfriend's French friends - you need to get yourself into a French frame of mind!

And yes, take Renaud's third option also (although Mr Thomas isn't for everyone) and spend a bit of time studying the language more formally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What you describe is exactly happening to me. I can get by in any situation and have thought my French to be pretty good but lately when I want to take part in a Conversation my French fails me.

Cooperlolas idea of "thinking in French" time is very good. When I go for walks I translate jokes and stories, looking up the words I did not know when I get back. I also find the thread "chatting in French" on this Forum very useful, it really makes you think and the proficient "French speakers" on there are very welcoming and patient.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the input everyone! yes, one thing I'm definitely going to do is sign up for an evening class not necessarily one that involves exams etc but one where there can be a focus on conversation & also going over some higer level grammer which I can't quite remember from french A-level!

I have spoken to my boyf about it all- I think he gets a bit frustrated as he knows I do speak a pretty decent level of french, but he really wants me to use it more with him for a start & he feels it's wasting an opportunity, which he is totally right about. I suppose I look at it as a 'bad habit' I've developed by reverting to english most of the time...I really need to fight the urge to reply in english and let french take over. I feel bad about it as I've always loved the french language since I started it at school and then when I was living in France- I never thought I'd be a person not to take a chance to speak it/stick to english even when surrounded by 'frenchies'.

Cooperlola- you've pretty much hit the nail on the head with some of the situations you describe...it's all that 'unstructured chatter' that gets me lost & I honestly really do want to join in with it! Sometimes, familiar speech throws me if there are certain words or idioms that I'm not familiar with so I lose the gist of things quickly or makes me slow to comprehend the overall meaning.                I think that's a really good idea to have some thinking in french time each day...sometimes I find it tough to be thrown in to full-on french conversations without a bit of a 'warm-up' beforehand if that makes any sense.

Never used the Mr Thomas cds although have heard of his course, think I'll prefer to use the option of pulling my finger out a bit, sorting out a class/self-directed study and diving in a bit more with the french conversations- obviously once I've got warmed up by speaking to myself! Thanks for the replies, glad to know it seems others all seem to have experienced something similar to me.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am sure Mr Thomas has helped many people but I find him conceited and self opiniated and hate listening to him (I know one should not speak ill of the dead) and what about the woman. I really feel for her being constantly corrected.  (This posting might contravene against the Forum etiquette!)  
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That bl00dy woman is the more infuriating of the two, I would do more than correct her I can assure you [:@]

She didnt hang around to be part of the advanced course!

Actually I think it is all a very clever part of the intense psychology behind the memory retention.


Your real problem is being in England, your boyfriend is benefitting but not you, try to take some extended holidays in a non English speaking area.

I know what you mean about being thrown and losing the gist but eventually you concentrate on what you are able to understand and either filter out the rest or sort of treat it as reading a crossword clue with some letters or words missing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mmh Petitechick I would love to know what you think if you get hold of Mr. Thomas!! I agree J.R.  the woman is "cringe inducing", but I suppose the interaction between her and Mr. T  is important  for the memory retention trick, you will never ever succeed to forget her!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...