How to practice your French during social distancing

How to practice your French during social distancing

Tips to practice without meeting natives in Paris

As a French language teacher, I told my students over and over that they need to practice as much as possible to significantly improve their French skills and build up their confidence. However, in this curious long year of social distancing, of staying at home and isolating oneself from the native locals, how do we practice !?

If you are like my students who are eager to improve, the situation must be wildly frustrating. Perhaps, you are saying to yourself right now: “Fabienne, thanks for you wisdom. But I can’t go out. There is no way that I can improve”.

Ending your Frustration for Good…

Your situation is not as bad as you perceive IF you understand the full scene behind the cycle of your French learning journey. Indeed, there is a big part of your learning cycle that is more about going out and practice in real-life situation.

It is what I called the Sandbox Practice. It is about knowing a proven learning cycle so that you can leverage every opportunity in all circumstances of life to level up.

French Learning Cycle — What’s behind the scene?

An efficient language learning cycle can be represented in the following 5-step virtuous process, each step having its own role to play and its contribution to make.

alt text

Cycle of a virtuous French learning process • novexpat

  1. 👁 👂 Exposition: I see and or listen to the language in a specific context
  2. 🧠 Observation and understanding: I observe and try to understand how the language is used
    What is the social or cultural context? Which structures are used (grammar and tenses)? What’s the meaning of the words? …
  3. 💫 Familiarization: I get familiar with the new concepts observed
    For instance: through short oral or written training exercises (grammar exercise, creating examples, micro questions and answers dialogs…)
  4. ☀️ Guided practice: I practice it in a safe and guided environment
    Through contextualized conversations, writing text, watching a video or listening to a podcast on a related topic...
  5. 💬 Use in daily life situation: I reuse what I’ve learnt, with unknowns (at the groceries’, in the bus, at your children’ school, at restaurant…), with your neighbors, your family in law, your colleagues, your friends or their friends…

Focusing on the 4 other steps that actually prepare you!

While real-life practice is important for your French, you should not only focus on it. Real-life practice is just the tip of the iceberg during the learning process.

alt text

You do NOT NEED to meet French people for the Sandbox 😉

While social distancing makes Step 5 mission (nearly) impossible, the 1–4 sandbox practice grounds you and makes you invincible. And yes, you require no interaction with native locals.

In the rest of this article, I will give you some concrete examples of exercises and practices that you can easily implement and select according to the objectives and skills you would like to boost.

Powerful resources

Here is a list of powerful sandbox exercises and practices that I give to French learners that want to accelerate their progress, without having to directly get involved in a conversation with locals.

🚀 To boost your oral comprehension 🎧

👉 Listen to a podcast or watch a documentary
Choose a topic that you like or are already familiar with. It will be easier to anticipate the context and the ideas and identify better the vocabulary.

– For podcasts in French, you should have a look to Arte Radio and France Culture websites. They are real gold mines of topical, society and cultural information

– For awesome and short documentaries, you can browse Arte replay website or subscribe to Brut’s YouTube channel

👉 Listen to the news
If you like following the news in English or in your mother tongue, listening again to the news in French can be very beneficial. Head to France info’s podcasts or the latest TV news (JT in French) on France 2 or TF1 replays.

👉 Watch a movie that you have watched already
Watch it partially or in full, without any subtitles, neither in your mother tongue nor in French (no, no, no 😉). Choose a movie that you have watched in the last 6 months at the latest so that you can anticipate the dialogs and get focused on how it is said in French.

🚀 To train to think in French 💭🇫🇷

👉 Pick up a sentence model and mentally repeat it 15 times, changing something each time, like tense, subject, turning it into negative form…
Let’s take the following example:
– Sentence model : Je le vois (I see him)
Je les vois (I see them) • Je les ai vus (I have seen them) • Je ne les vois pas (I don’t see them) • Je ne les ai pas vus (I didn’t see them) • Je ne l’ai pas vu (I didn’t see him) • …

👉 Imagine having small talks with a native speaker
Imagine a French local that you know to be patient and caring (a friend, a neighbor, your French teacher, a colleague, a shopkeeper…). Imagine they ask questions about you, your family, your life... How would you answer?

👉 Listen to a French song
Pick one or two French songs a week, read the lyrics once or twice, and listen to them several times during the week. Build your playlist week after week.
As a bonus, here is a playlist of 13 French songs that we currently love to listen to and which have great text! Try to build yours!

Our playlist of 13 French songs to start thinking in French 🎵. Try to build yours!

🚀 To build up your confidence when you speak in French 💬

👉 Take an online conversation class
Take online conversation classes. They are usually a safe and guided space where you can train and receive constructive feedback on your French. At Novexpat, we offer structured weekly cycles of two 1-hour conversation sessions. Ideal for gradually boosting your oral confidence in everyday conversations.

👉 Participate in a language exchange
Find a partner with whom you can practice your French and in exchange, help them practice your language. It is a friendly way to keep practicing your French in a natural language. Here is a list of Meetup’s available language exchange groups in Paris.

🚀 To improve your spelling and reading comprehension 📖

👉 Read a book in French
Prefer a contemporary piece to a novel as it is often written in a more natural and “oral” language which fits better with everyday conversations. For example, Yasmina Reza’s plays, such as « Le dieu du carnage », are great options.

👉 Learn on a subject close to your heart
Read a non-fiction book in French on a topic you are passionate about: entrepreneurship, gardening, a period of history, a biography of one of your role models, sports, art,… If you live in Paris, you can enroll for free in the network of City of Paris libraries and borrow as many books as you want! Similar libraries (“bibliothèque municipale” or “médiathèque”) exist in nearly any French towns or villages.

🚀 To enrich your vocabulary 🔠

👉 Create flashcards of words and expressions and test yourself.
Try to create 25 flashcards a week. On each flashcard, write the word or expression in French that you would like to memorize on one side and on the other side, write down the translation in your own language.
Whether you like to have your flashcards in a paper or online format, try to sort them by topic (Bakery, small talks, meeting someone for the first time, sharing one’s opinion…). Quizlet is a great free online tool to create, store and play around with your flashcards.

👉 Read the Mon French Expresso weekly tips ☕️
Each week, Mon French Expresso introduces and teaches you key vocabulary and structures used in specific real-life situations. You can sign up here for free.

🚀 To boost your grammar and conjugations ⚡️

👉 Do grammar and conjugation written exercises
Do it. I recommend to complete only 2 to 3 exercises a week. Grammar or conjugation exercises are beneficial in small doses and as long as you stay focus and active while doing them. There is no point in filling out 5 exercises in a row as a machine would do!
If you learn by yourself and do not own any French grammar textbook yet, I would recommend this one from CLE International.

Wow! It’s a lot of ideas. But maybe you should just pick only 2 or 3 of them to start with. For some learners, they set themselves for failure by creating funny obstacles, i.e. over-promising themselves! But a successful sandbox practice is not a challenge but a habit. It should instead lead to a realistic plan that allows you to muscle your French everyday.

Do you have a learning habit? Do you have a plan?

Stay tuned for the next article where I will share with you tips to create your own motivating and effective learning habit.

📸 The main story illustration of this article was made by a Novexpat alumni! Thanks & credits to @limoprints.

Fabienne Defaux

CEO, Pedagogy Coordinator & Teacher At novexpat

Fabienne is a language pedagogy engineer and a French teacher for expatriates with more than 11 years of experience. She's an official examiner at the CIEP. She used to work for many French institutions abroad and in Paris, among which are Alliance Française and Institut Français. She cofounded novexpat and is the originator of the novexpat's pedagogy.

Improving your French starts with an efficient learning plan.
What's yours?

Allow you a free 20-minute call with Fabienne, our co-founder and French teaching lead at novexpat, to boost your learning plan. Her agenda is open to you right down below 👇

You can trust us. And check client word.

Review from Saskia Nuschke

Saskia N.

  • 5.0

over 3 years ago

They are super nice and their concept works amazingly well. Fabienne completely understood my needs and I have progressed extremely well in the last three months - plus, it was fun! Can’t stress enough how highly I recommend them 😊

Review from Joni L Middleton

Joni M.

  • 5.0

about 4 years ago

"5/5. Incredible! Very practical and helpful. My French friends have commented on my increased language confidence."

Review from Michele Silvestri

Michele S.

  • 5.0

about 2 years ago

Extremely happy with the program! Very practical and able to use the skills immediately.

Review from Kelley Patten

Kelley P.

  • 5.0

over 2 years ago

Fabienne and the Novexpat program are absolutely phenomenal! I came into the program as a complete beginner speaking no French at all, and even after 6 months I was able to go to Paris and communicate in shops, restaurants, etc. Having taken other more traditional (i.e. book-based) courses with other languages, I have to say my comprehension and ability to speak has progressed much more rapidly that I could have hoped. Also, Fabienne is a join to work with and learn from. Highly recommend taking any of the courses available!

Review from Dhruv Kumar

Dhruv K.

  • 5.0

3 months ago

I had a great experience with Novexpat as they helped me prepare for my DCL exam! In a nutshell, it was amazing, timely, comprehensive, personal! Big kudos to the team - Fabienne, Pierre-Yves, and most importantly Cécile, my teacher - for their professionalism and flexibility given my complicated agendas. 10/10 recommend their services for anyone wanting to improve their French! 🙂

Review from Rachel Toaff-Rosenstein

Rachel T.

  • 5.0

about 2 years ago

I am very pleased that I took the 8 week French Booster course with Novexpat. I really enjoyed the structure of the small-group participatory lessons, the accompanying website and homework, my classmates, Fabienne (the teacher) and of course the results: greater confidence not only in written and spoken French but also tips and tricks for fitting in to life in Paris.

Review from Dmitry Ponomarenko

Dmitry P.

  • 5.0

2 months ago

Great courses for enhancing your Française! Dedicated team of language coaches. Good spirit and nice location next to Les Halles.

Review from Heather Jacobs

Heather J.

  • 5.0

over 5 years ago

Fabienne and the NovExpat team are changing the way people learn French. Her methods go far beyond teaching grammar and conjugations; they teach you the living language - that which is most relevant to adapting and integrating into the French culture. I can’t say enough about how much and how quickly I learned - and how enjoyable the lessons have been! I see Fabienne for private lessons now but the French Booster course was so good, I plan to take it a second time!

Review from Roberto M

Roberto M.

  • 5.0

almost 2 years ago

I took the eight-week french booster course with Fabienne - a very positive and helpful experience all around for an immigrant trying to make his way in France, and, particularly, Paris.

Review from Naheed

Naheed N.

  • 5.0

almost 2 years ago

I really enjoyed my Novexpat program and found it invaluable! With my very motivated teacher, we followed a program mixed with discussion & formal courseware on their custom platform. The courses cover vocabulary, grammar, verbs & conjugation (in a fun way!) and also include day to day jargon as well as cultural soundbites on films, music etc to help you not only learn the language, but the culture too. :)

Review from Yamelis Hosein

Yamelis H.

  • 5.0

about 2 years ago

The french booster program with NovExpat was excellent. During the duration of the course we were taught lots of French idiomatic expression used in daily life for different topics, which not only helps to communicate better, but to understand as well. The Neo platform is the best, as you can learn and practice at your own. The classes are very dynamic. The groups are small. Thank you Fabienne and keep up the amazing work!

Review from Justina Forest

Justina F.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

I really enjoyed learning french with Fabienne (Novexpat)! The conversation courses, they provide, are very well structured, topics explained in an easy way! Learning new phrases and taking them into a practise directly during the course made them to sit in my head:). Friendly and enjoyable learning with a great teacher! Courses were even more effective thanks to the teachers skills to master “zoom”and their interactive french learning web (Novexpat) for practicing learned topics afterwards. Great job for the teacher and the students! Hope to see you in 2021! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year🎅🏻🎅🏻🎅🏻

Review from Mina Ghent

Mina G.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

I participate in the French conversation classes which are an hour each for 2 days a week. You have the flexibility to choose Mon/Thurs or Tues/Fri. Fabienne is a great teacher and hosts a class which has a good balance of structured learning in 'every day' French (focusing on a specific topic each time) and giving us all an opportunity to talk in class. All in all very enjoyable and practical. Highly recommended!

Review from Sara Picon Camacho

Sara C.

  • 5.0

8 months ago

I had a great experience with Novexpat and I highly recommened. The teacher and the staff are all very nice and helpful making the experience of learning french really enjoyable and efficient. Xhat I like the most is the way the lessons are organised in different sections that are interconnected to ech other, really helping to fix and retain the grammar and vocabulary. I feel that I have really improved my French thanks to Novexpat and I feel more confident! Many thanks!

Review from Rebeca Ruano Acosta

Rebeca A.

  • 5.0

almost 3 years ago

Very positive experience. The course is really well structured. My main objective was to improve my oral French in normal day to day situations. This was extremely well covered. The classes are divided by subject which makes them very interesting and immediately useful. I could feel my confidence to speak French increase with every lesson. The teacher, Fabienne, is amazing and the duration of the lessons is perfect with a short break and lots of practice time. The platform Neo is also full of resources and available during and after the course. Extremely happy!

Review from Andrea Davis

Andrea D.

  • 5.0

about 5 years ago

Learning French turns out to be a travel adventure. Fabienne’s classes are shaped with a definite structure that covers all the relevant subjects I want to be able to communicate about, but she makes it feel flexible, and adapted to those of us in the room. It’s been really fun, and funny to be there—lots of humor and popular culture and learning about French movies and Parisienne mindset. It’s the kind of class you go to, and then want to keep studying with her. She’s always in good spirits and very encouraging.

Review from Pierre Canel

Pierre C.

  • 5.0

11 months ago

(Translated by Google) Great site to learn French. The method, the enthusiasm of the teachers, the novelty... everything is there to create the perfect atmosphere to be motivated and progress in learning the language. We love it 🥰 (Original) Súper site pour apprendre le français. La méthode, l’enthousiasme des profs, la nouveauté… tout est là pour créer une ambiance parfaite pour être motivé et progresser dans l’apprentissage de la langue. On adore 🥰

Review from Holly Kuper

Holly K.

  • 5.0

about 4 years ago

I learned SO much. I have been studying for 3 years and this was the most useful for everyday life. I heard about Novexpat through a friend. The first day I was given words one could use when meeting someone new. I thought how silly. I've been meeting new people for 3 years. But these phrases and words were not how I had been introducing myself. What a difference this class made. I felt more french and more confident with each lesson. Each week I learned useful everyday words and expressions that I used the minute I left the class. Fabienne is patient and kind and the material is clear and interactive.

Review from Helen Dole

Helen D.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

As a veteran teacher myself, I love how the lessons were structured in Novexpat. I always felt like the learning was focused on useful and relevant material. In addition, I'm a mom of two toddlers so the flexible scheduling of the courses (during naptime!) was super helpful. I have made a lot of progress in my French language skills and I'm excited to take another course with Novexpat.

Review from Sierra Parker

Sierra P.

  • 5.0

about 1 year ago

This was a great experience for me. There are lots of things that can be tough when moving to a new country, and two of them are culture and language. This was a chance for me to learn about French culture while improving my language skills, while also learning with a patient and kind teacher.

Review from merve alsan

merve a.

  • 5.0

about 1 year ago

I joined the French Booster program and it was really a rich learning experience! As I'm not a beginner it's not as easy to find courses or content that can help me get to that next level of living in France without stressing about French but I really improved a lot in 2 months. Even my friends and colleagues in France told me that they noticed a big difference. The Neo platform and the overall management of the course is super professional and well-prepared as well. Fabienne is always very kind and thoughtful. She goes above and beyond to make sure everyone gets the most from their time at the course. It was also very lovely to meet other students and find people that I can continue practicing together. I definitely recommend!

Review from Kyoko Yamashita

Kyoko Y.

  • 5.0

over 3 years ago

I recommend Novexpat for those who want to learn living French! Fabienne taught us not only grammar but also many expressions that are frequently used on a daily basis among French. This helped me a lot and boosted my French level a lot :) Worth trying!

Review from Yasemin Sahiner

Yasemin S.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

'Classes with Fabienne are incredibly useful and pleasant at the same time. Weekly conversation classes give just the right amount of push to help even the people on busy schedules to gain confidence. Through-out the well structured lessons one has the occasion to put French into practice and hold conversations of various lengths and complexities with like-minded people. Novexpat founders and their team are very open and warm. The diligent and vibrant team, while putting relentless effort in always keeping-up with the innovative methods to cater for the enthusiasts of French culture, gives precious cultural insights for a swift and smooth integration.

Review from Phoebe Lau

Phoebe L.

  • 5.0

about 1 month ago

I really enjoy Novexpat's French classes. From the first 20-minutes meeting up until completing the first 30h FrenchUp course, my French teacher, Fabienne, a co-founder of Novexpat, encouraged me so much in terms of learning French. She made me not to be afraid of expressing myself in French. The vocabularies of each topics are super useful and practical in daily life. I am much more confident in speaking French.

Review from Brian Gifford

Brian G.

  • 5.0

9 days ago

Our instructor Giulia helped us quickly improve our written and spoken French, and also teaches us how to use local and common idioms and mistakes to avoid. The in-person lessons are very thorough and useful, but taught in a way that is patient, friendly, engaging and fun.

Review from Marta March

Marta M.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

I absolutely recommend this program! - it is not only a French course, it is also a discovery trip to understand better French culture, you learn a lot of interesting things along the way! Fabienne is super energetic and generates a very positive vibe in the group! I did not find especially remarkable the tool while on the course, but once we finished, it has been great to be able to review the vocabulary, to go through the recommended material that I did not have the chance to explore then... Congrats Fabienne & Pierre for such a nice program!

Review from Pallavi Choudhury

Pallavi C.

  • 5.0

almost 3 years ago

A great 8 weeks of improving French! Lessons and resources are simply amazing! Fabienne is amazing with tons of experience and thought given to imparting the lessons!

Review from Oleksii Liakhovetskyi

Oleksii L.

  • 5.0

2 months ago

Great experience with Novexpat . Overall very professional organization, with the individual approach. Their FrenchUp course is tailor made and suits well my needs in terms of flexible scheduling as well as tailormade program. Also the support with DCL exam preparation was very helpful, and the result was better than I expected. I will continue with Novexpat next year

Review from Adrienne Dunn

Adrienne D.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

I cannot recommend Fabienne's class more! She is a true delight. Moreover, the webapp NEO is useful and attractive with exercises you can do and do again, and again. Because of the pandemic, I took the course online, but have no regrets. I feel as though I received the full learning experience. Trust me, I have taken many French classes (in 3 different countries and 4 cities), and this is the only class I recommend. Enroll and Enjoy.

Review from Molly Pisula

Molly P.

  • 5.0

almost 4 years ago

Highly recommend the Novexpat FrenchBooster class! Fabienne is knowledgeable and so supportive, and the small class size is ideal for learning and practicing conversation. The online component is also very useful and well done. Excellent class!

Review from Erin Odwyer

Erin O.

  • 5.0

about 1 year ago

This program is perfect for a beginner. The structure and the pace are wonderful. I was a complete beginner, and I have made lots of progress. Lily is an amazing teacher. I can't recommend this program enough.

Review from Felicia-Claudia Cimpanu

Felicia-Claudia C.

  • 5.0

almost 3 years ago

I followed the FrenchUp program. The combination of online courses and face to face (on Zoom) teaching worked perfectly for me. Plus, the program was very flexible, and the teacher adapted the courses to my level. It was what I needed to build up confidence and upgrade my French knowledge.

Review from Simone Slifman

Simone S.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

Fabienne's lunchtime online conversation course is a great way to build upon and challenge your existing skills. The small group, friendly atmosphere, and online review tools are really helpful. Fabienne is extremely patient and well-prepared, and knows how to keep things on track to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate. I highly recommend Novexpat!

Review from Jonas Wenke

Jonas W.

  • 5.0

over 1 year ago

Took a beginner conversational class and had a great time learning with you guys. Lily did a great job making me speak a lot and helping me improve along the way. Can recommend!

Review from Wubke Willemsen

Wubke W.

  • 5.0

almost 5 years ago

Sign up for the FrenchBooster programme, I garantee you'll have a great experience! I loved my time with Novexpat as I feel comfortable now to speak french thanks to Fabiënne!

Review from Janet Ma

Janet M.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

I really loved my French course. It was useful and fun with a structured approach where I actually felt like I learned something every class. I was also able to put it to use immediately and I also recognized the phrases in every day life immediately as well. I could relate to my colleagues at work better and gave me more confidence to speak. Highly recommend!

Review from Haley Sorensen

Haley S.

  • 5.0

about 5 years ago

I have loved my one-on-one classes with Novexpat! I feel like Fabienne really understands my level and with one-on-one classes she really takes the time to make sure I understand the new material before moving on, or if I already know a part of the lesson we are able to move along faster than if in a classroom environment with many other students. She is extremely patient and allows me to ask as many questions as I wish and also makes me feel extremely comfortable and confident. The learning style behind Novexpat is very practical as the material you learn caters to everyday life and phrases/concepts you can put to use immediately. I also really enjoy the online app and learning platform to help study, it’s very convenient that it is specified to each individual lesson. I am so grateful that I discovered Novexpat!

Review from Lili Pencheva

Lili P.

  • 5.0

over 1 year ago

"Novexpat can offer French courses to suit all levels and they are led by very enthusiastic tutors. The learning methods can be tailored to suit individual learning objectives and include a wide range of sources. Whether you are looking for a structured or a more informal means of improving your proficiency in the French language, I would have no hesitation in recommending Novexpat. I have made a lot of progress, and highly increased my confidence. She is highly professional and has very thorough knowledge of French language."

Review from Chris Lyons

Chris L.

  • 5.0

over 4 years ago

I really can't say enough good things about Novexpat. Over my ~5 years in Paris, I studied at multiple schools, meetups, etc. Novexpat was the best by far! Everything I was taught was super relevant, practical, and immediately useful. My only regret is that I didn't start studying with them sooner! If you want to get results quickly, study with Novexpat!

Review from Robyn Kaplan

Robyn K.

  • 5.0

12 days ago

The experience has been perfect. Great one-on-one instruction paired with just the right amount of challenging material. Not too easy and not too difficult. The instructor (Guilia: aka the best!) ensures slowing or picking up the pace where ever it's needed. I highly recommend.

Review from Emilie Hanlet

Emilie H.

  • 5.0

almost 3 years ago

A fun and interactive way to learn or improve your French. I enjoyed taking the 8-week long intensive French Booster with it's online platform that has many exercises to review what you learned in class. I also enjoy the small things like the weekly email French Expresso. Thank you Fabienne for a wonderful experience and for all of the help and guidance you've provided.

Review from Sarah Rossiter

Sarah R.

  • 5.0

3 months ago

I loved my tutor and my French improved quickly. I highly recommend this program if you are an expat moving to France at any level of French. I worked only online and loved the flexibility but you can meet in person too.

Review from Holly Stiener

Holly S.

  • 5.0

about 3 years ago

I have been taking the course for several weeks and it is helping me improve my French so much. The online classes are small and the structure allows for you to practice what you are learning conversationally. For reference I am level B1. Fabienne is very patient and really knows how to teach! Highly recommend!!!

Start to learn and speak French now

Enjoy useful free resources

Subscribe for more

Stay tuned for our coming learning events, workshops, deals and blog articles