Why you should be an independent French learner and some tips to succeed

Is it better to take classes in a structure like a language school or study French as an independent learner, any tips? 

One thing is certain though. If you don’t do self-study and practice outside of a group class, you won’t learn the language. 

In this article, I will talk about some “saboteurs”. They’re limiting thoughts that prevent us from moving forward. Then we’ll talk about some strategies to work around them. The original text in French was published on my French blog.

I think it’s entirely possible to combine group and independent learning, depending on your needs of the moment and your desires.

You’ll see that to learn a language you have to work on yourself as much as on grammar!

These strategies are designed to help you to know yourself and to become an independent learner in all situations (alone or in a group).

To help you learn French independently, I created a community on Patreon.


What if I’m not a good independent learner of French? Any tips?

First of all, let’s focus on this issue because many learners are afraid to leave the structured framework of the school.

The second option (learning French independently) raises a number of concerns.

a) fears of studying alone

  • Thinking you’re not pable of being self-sufficient
  • Not knowing what to study
  • Not knowing who to practice with


b) the budget issue

Studying independently does not mean studying alone.

Indeed, it is advisable to work with a tutor, teacher or coach. You can also participate in language exchanges.


The limits of a language school to learn French

When you start at level 0, I find it useful to take formal classes in a school to learn the basics.

Besides, you will meet other people in the same situation as you. You’ll form a small strong community and you’ll feel supported.

If you are studying for a test, the program will be set up specifically to study all the necessary grammar and vocabulary points.

Be careful, I say “study” grammar, it does not mean that you will be able to use all the concepts after the end of the course!

However, in a language school, the problems you often encounter are:

  • few opportunities to practice conversation
  • differences between learners: sometimes the teacher explains too quickly, sometimes too slowly
  • a fixed curriculum that doesn’t fit your needs

But it is also possible to start directly with a private teacher or coach, especially if you have already learned other languages.

When you have an intermediate level and even as early as level A2, it becomes important to know how to study independently.

Even if you continue the lessons at the language school, if you really want to progress, you have to work outside the school for the reasons mentioned above.

Negative thoughts that block you from learning French independently

Lack of self-confidence

The first obstacle on the road to self-directed learning is often self-confidence.

Maybe you have some bad memories of school, some situations where you feel you “failed”, or a feeling that you’re not “good” at languages.

Besides, we haven’t been used to making decisions on our own. We were taking directions and instructions from the teachers.

They held the knowledge and decided on the lessons (what, when and how to learn). It was standardized: the same for everyone.

School pedagogy often encourages a passive role.

It feeds a false thought: the belief that there’s a right way to learn.

Moreover, it develops the tendency for the teacher to talk and the students listen without developing their curiosity.


The feeling of being “not enough”

Perfectionism and meticulousness are often our enemies.

I’m sure you sometimes get that mixed-feeling with your French.

On the one hand, you think you’re not doing enough (not enough exercises, not enough practice, not enough progress, etc). On the other hand, you just don’t have time to do more.

So, you’re frustrated. You compare yourself with other people who are “more” than you: they do more things, they seem to progress faster, they have more confidence in themselves.

These thoughts increase our frustration and are counterproductive.

I don’t know how you react in this situation but, when I compare myself and I feel “less XYZ” than the others, I just want to lie on the couch and eat the whole jar of chocolate ice cream 🙂

5 tips to succeed as an independent French learner

When I feel these thoughts coming up, I have several strategies I’d like to share with you.

I’m not saying that’s the right way and that everyone should do this but your doctor will at least agree on some of these strategies !

Eat well, sleep, exercise, connect with other humans… Sounds familiar?

Thinking about what’s important to you

I usually start by moving away from social media. So I stop comparing myself to other people and I stop imitating fashionable trends.

Even though everyone says that you have to be present on social networks to develop your business…

And I realize that actually, no, that’s not true, not everybody says that.

But  when you listen to your negative thoughts, you don’t hear those other voices saying another way is possible.

Taking care of yourself, your physical and mental health

I exercise, I don’t stay locked up at home, I see friends, I cook. I make sure I sleep between 7 and 8 hours at night so I don’t get tired during the day.


If you’d like to hear more: check out this video about the connection between our mind and body I recorded for the first Language & Mental Health mini-summit. 

Take a step back

I focus on moments when I know I’ve done a good job.

I know this either because someone congratulated me or thanked me or because I myself have observed the positive consequences of my actions.

I write in my notebook the 3 priority tasks that I have to do to progress towards my goals and during the week I work on these tasks. I don’t let myself be influenced by other people’s goals or new ideas.

I “follow my own path”, the one that leads me to a feeling of joy and satisfaction.

If I’m feeling crippling stress or pressure, then I’m probably on the wrong track for me and I need to change something.

My “fuel” that sustains my motivation is the feeling of “joy”. What’s yours?

How do you want to feel? What can you do to reach this state of mind?


Show kindness to yourself

We have a limited amount of time available so we have to accept that sometimes we can’t do everything we want, that not everything will be perfect. But it doesn’t matter.

Be honest with yourself, and  evaluate yourself without judgment. Imagine that you are an outsider, a friend, and look at yourself kindly.

When you learn to recognize your limiting thoughts and overcome them, when you learn to trust yourself, you will see that you will learn more effectively!

Everyone must follow their own path

No one, not even your language teacher or tutor, should decide on your learning path.

We can advise and guide you but YOU know what will make you want to practice every day.

It’s hard because you have to learn to listen to yourself and trust yourself.

Tips to become a successful independent French learner

As you can see, becoming an independent learner of French begins with working on your state of mind, so here are some tips.

  • Use the expertise of your tutor, teacher or coach to help you.
  • Have a constant dialogue to identify your needs and the best ways to learn for you.
  • And if he or she doesn’t want to dialogue, change tutor or teacher or call on a certified coach who has been trained to foster dialogue and create the ideal conditions for your transformation.

Together with my fellow coaches from the Neurolanguage Coaching network, created by Rachel Paling, we followed such a coaching training course. It was specifically designed for people who work with foreign language learners.

We are trained to help you overcome your blocks and to help you learn autonomously and efficiently.

When you become an actor in the learning process, you know why you’re making such an effort and you want to keep going.

Contact me to discuss how I can help you.

You want to try out my method?
Join my group on Patreon to start working independently with my support!

Check out this page: Podcast & resources to help you progress

About Cathy

Française & Canadienne. Actuellement à Vancouver, BC. Langues: Bilingue français/anglais. Espagnol intermédiaire. Débutante en japonais et thai. Ai su parler parler allemand dans ma jeunesse. Communicante devenue pâtissière et entrepreneur. Bâtisseuse de ponts entre les cultures. Guide dans l’apprentissage des langues sans complexes. Eternelle voyageuse🛪

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