Once you’ve memorized your vocab lists and can recite verb tables in your sleep, what then? It’s time to put your French skills to work by actually speaking. Here are some ideas and resources to help you find French speakers, wherever you might live.
Living in a French-speaking country
The best way to practice speaking is of course with native speakers. If you live in France, this is as easy as walking out your front door – at least in theory. While you can certainly exchange a few words with your boulanger, épicier and banquier, for actual conversations you’ll need to make more effort.
One good place to start is at the tourist office: find out if there’s a list of local associations, which is just the French umbrella term for assorted clubs and teams, or you can search by category or location at AssoFrance.net. Depending on the size of your town, there might be hundreds of associations: chess clubs, hiking groups, choral societies… there’s bound to be something that you’re interested in, and joining an association is a great way to meet like-minded native French speakers.
While you’re at the tourist office, you can also ask whether there are any cultural organizations or centres de loisir, which usually offer various classes at very reasonable prices.
Three official organizations in particular are worth looking into:
- Accueil des villes françaises (AVF) – non-profit that offers low-cost classes and varied assistance to members
- Alliance française – organization devoted to teaching French and offering various cultural events, in France and all over the world
- Institut français – works to promote the French language and culture outside of France (so a good option if you’re in, say, Switzerland or Canada)
Living outside of a French-speaking country
If you don’t live in a French-speaking country, I highly recommend visiting one as often as possible, even if just for a few days. Getting to use your French in real-life situations will inspire you to continue learning and improving like nothing else can.
Between trips, you can also look into the Alliance française and Institut français, and visit your nearest community college, community center, and library to see if there are any French clubs you might join. Meetup is another good source of info about French clubs, and if all else fails, you can create your own. There are bound to be other French lovers in your area – all they need is someone to take the first step and create a club.