Among the messages I receive regularly there are several recurring and the level of English is one of them. Whether you are in France with the desire to improve your English for your travels, to communicate with the world or before leaving abroad you ask yourself a thousand questions about its level. Regarding my level of English I answered you in this video in December but today we go a little further with the advice that I can have today with several years of hindsight.
A little context for those who have not seen the video to understand where I come from. I started English when I was 11 as most of us but I also continued the Spanish that I start learning at 9. My first two years of English were laborious because of very turbulent classrooms and an English teacher also a main teacher who spent more time solving problems than learning English. So we were pretty badly gone without foundation and I dragged these gaps until the first year of BTS (Bac L + 1 year of Spanish English LEA meanwhile). In 2008 I went to England for 2 months with my few sentences: my name is Astrid, I have a headache and I am 20 years old. I admit that it was not very heavy, then at that time I still had a laptop “classic” without access to the internet all that so I had for help only a mini dico in my bag. In 2 months my level has improved considerably and especially my block against English had fallen. 2014 I moved to Canada. 2018 I work in English every day and live in an English speaking city.
Do not be afraid to talk.
This is the first thing that keeps us from progressing: fear. The fear of being ridiculous, the fear of being wrong, the fear of having a slightly too pronounced accent. Remember that no matter the area from the moment you learn something new you will be wrong. It’s inevitable. But it’s not because you’re not good, it’s because you’re learning. Nobody is born knowing already walking. And nobody learned to walk without falling.
- Netflix will become your best friend.
When I arrived in Canada in July 2014 Netflix did not exist in France so it was really new to me. And what a discovery! A catalog of films and series that I could watch in French and in English! I started to look in English subtitled in French as I used to do for years with all the American series not available in France (at that time I read only, I did not really listen l English), then gradually I dropped French subtitles for English. Even today I keep the subtitles in English to continue to learn the spelling of words that I do not know. This is a great way to learn pronunciation, spelling and at the same time have a good time. In addition to improving your English you will appreciate having voices that go with the actors. Dubbing is sometimes a bit doubtful. To advise you: How I put your mother, Friends, Gossip Girl.
If you go abroad to live, my best advice will be to totally immerse you and not to try to make French friends. It may sound a bit sectarian and radical but believe me it works. The first 6 months in Canada I attended mostly English-speaking or at least non-French speaking. I lived with a Canadian, a German and a Korean. In 6 months my level has evolved considerably! I was only in Toronto for a year at that time, I wanted to make the most of it and I wanted to discover other cultures. Today my approach has evolved, my friends are mostly French, my roommate is English, my English is correct and I work 100% in English.
So we are not on the advice of the century, read, you did not think I imagine! Personally I started reading teen books, simple things. Magazines, blogs in English, choose topics that interest you! Do not get into complicated books at first so you do not get disgusted. I started small but today I read business books in English without any problem, take the time and do not burn the steps.
- Be local!
Sign up at the gym, volunteer, join a painting group, do something local! Do not chain French events under the pretext that you are French. Put yourself in danger, get out of your comfort zone. Believe me in the beginning at yoga I felt great alone, I understood every other word but it allowed me to meet English friends, to learn new words and meet people on the same wavelength as me . If you live in France try to find language events where foreigners want to practice French, in exchange you can practice English.
If you are abroad work even if it is not in your field just to find yourself in an English speaking environment. While working in a clothes shop on arrival I learned the full lexical field of fashion, I remember very well having discovered the word hanger in English there for example! You will be paying to learn! In my second job I had 6 weeks of product training which for me also served as training in English! It’s a great way to progress because you do not have the choice to improve to keep your job!
Learning English when immersed in an English speaking country is obviously much simpler. We do not feel like learning, but every day we naturally learn new expressions. It’s also very frustrating at times, we end up in group conversations that we do not always understand, we are stupid not to know some simple words, we are frustrated not to have the same answer as French, to be with English-speaking girlfriends and to feel a little excluded because our English does not allow us to have the same kind of conversations we would have with French-speaking girlfriends. The impression of having lost his humor because we still can not make people laugh in English. To cut his brain in the evenings noisy where we do not understand a single word of the evening. Say yes to everything when we order food somewhere because we do not understand what we have proposed (I surely told you a thousand times the history of my fries in the plum sauce of KFC the first month of my arrival). It’s also frustrating when other French people speak good English than us. But I promise you that by learning a little more each day, not affording the means, being curious this period disappears quickly. Step by step, little by little your brain will be trained enough not to think in French before speaking English and will naturally think in English. In England I had lived the experience of which many expats speak: I had begun to dream in English! I was also thinking about how to say so and so in English while I was going to talk to my French girlfriend. At the beginning I was also able to remember that I had been told that thing in French or in English if I tried to remember who gave me the info for example. Today my brain has the info but he is unable to know if he received it in English or French. As of today, I can not tell if I’m dreaming in English or French, and sometimes I find myself talking to myself in English. Like what even with a bad start with English nothing is impossible!
And you your adventure with English what gives?