One of the biggest problems in learning French is always translating word by word or sentence by sentence in your native language into French.
You may not yet be able to think in French and therefore have a more fluent oral expression. You also feel like you don't have much vocabulary in French and that your brain gets stuck if you can't find a word.
And it's normal because it's a step that takes a lot of time to reach!
Today, I'm going to give you step-by-step advice on how to succeed in thinking in French. These are practical exercises that I invite you to do every day for a few minutes to be able to think in French.
Thinking in French takes time. It's like anything else, if you start playing tennis, you won't reach the same level as Rafael Nadal in one training session. French is the same, it requires practice and regularity. So, if you want everything I'm going to tell you today to be effective: practice these steps at least every day, for at least 15 minutes.
First step: Warm up
We start slowly with a little warm-up.
I'm going to ask you to look around and say what you see without making sentences. Name the objects or things you see in French.
But be careful, I want you to say them without thinking in your mother tongue. You must see the object and the word in French must appear directly in your head. If it doesn't appear in your head, move on to another object or thing, it doesn't matter.
For example, if I look around me, I see: une fenêtre, des livres, de la décoration, un meuble, un carton, une lampe, un bureau, des feuilles, etc.
I invite you to do the same thing now! Take a few seconds to look around and name (in your head) the objects you see.
Okay, got it? Very good, bravo. I invite you to do this exercise and the following ones in different environments to vary the vocabulary.
Step Two: let's start
Now we're going to go a little further.
I'm going to ask you to do the same exercise, but this time I'm going to ask you to make sentences.
At least 3 sentences where you describe your environment in French.
Make your sentences short! The longer the sentences, the more complex they are and the more likely you are to make mistakes or not find your words.
Again, these sentences must be in French and not in your native language.
So, focus on objects or things that you already know the vocabulary for.
It has to be natural, so take your time and if your sentence doesn't come out or if it comes out in your native language, try again. Above all, don't put pressure on yourself.
So, for example, if I do it for myself, I will describe my environment in French:
Je vois un carton qui n'a pas encore été déballé.
Je vois mon bureau que je dois ranger.
Par la fenêtre, je vois que le temps n'est pas bon.
Ok, are you ready? Write 3 short sentences about your environment in French without using your mother tongue. And if you can't do it, do it again, it's practice.
You are now ready to go to the next step.
Step 3: Practice
Let's get to the heart of the matter.
The first two steps were to get you into the swing of things, that is, to prepare you to think in French. You can do them as a warm-up before doing the following exercises that I will suggest.
I am going to propose several practice exercises to train your brain to think in French:
> The first exercise is to think every morning about what you are going to do in your day in French. Think about the things you are going to do or that you have to do.
For example: Aujourd’hui, j’ai une réunion à 10h. Après, je déjeune avec mon amie. Cet après-midi, je dois travailler sur un dossier urgent. Ce soir, je me prévois une soirée tranquille devant une série.
You can do this during what I call "temps mort", which is a time when you can allow yourself to do two things at once, for example on the bus or in the shower.
> The second exercise is similar to the first steps we saw. I suggest that you describe your environment in French, commenting on the things around you, what you see.
For example, if you are walking down the street to go to work: Le temps est nuageux aujourd’hui, j’aurais dû prendre mon parapluie. Oh, il y a du monde aujourd’hui à la boulangerie. Ça me fait penser qu’il faut que j’achète une baguette.
> The third exercise is to comment, to say the actions you do in French. This is perfect when you are cooking or playing sports.
For example: Alors, pour faire ma ratatouille, je vais commencer par couper de l’ail et un oignon. Après, je vais les faire rissoler avec un peu d’huile d’olive.
Of course, it's normal that you can't find the right words every time.
In order not to think that in your mother tongue, if you get stuck on a word, I advise you to describe, to explain what you are doing rather than to have the correct word.
For example, if you don't know the word "rissoler", you can say: I'm going to cook some garlic and onion in oil.
Start small! Think of short words or phrases that describe your environment.
And when you feel a little more comfortable, do several practice exercises to think in French.
Think in French about what you are going to do during the day.
Describe and comment on your environment.
Describe the actions you take.
Do these exercises or at least one of them every day and little by little you will start to think in French.