I’m going to France! Should I be scared about practicing my French with “rude” Parisians? What if I can’t understand them?

I’m going to Paris! I’m super excited!

As you should be! Paris is a wonderfully beautiful city with great history and more visitors per year than any other city in the world!

But…

What is it?

So the problem is, I’ve heard a lot of jokes about how rude and/or mocking French people can be if you don’t speak French well enough, and the idea of being condescended to or laughed at, or having someone switch to English after hearing my accent, is so scary to me that I don’t know how I’ll start any conversations with anyone at all.

This isn’t true. French people always appreciate people for trying instead of just defaulting to English, which actually does piss a lot of French people off.

Now, some people will hear non-native French and start speaking English, because they can be impatient if they think their English is better than your French (even if it may not be).

Heads-up: casual interactions that happen in restaurants can be both predictable and lacking in context. When you’re in a restaurant, it’s generally going to be pretty predictable what somebody is asking, even if you don’t know the words. For example, you order a steak and they ask about the “cuisson.” Maybe you’ve never heard this word, but with the context, it should be obvious what it means.

On the contrary, on a trip like this, you are more likely to have “one off” sentences that may lack context, and in these cases, you may not catch a single word. Don’t be discouraged! Even in my native language, I still have to ask people to repeat themselves. On occasion, music and lines in movies can be heard for me to hear, and I have many thousands of hours of exposure to English.

The best way to prepare for situations like this is to practice your listening! It’s a lot easier to respond if you know what you are responding to. FluentKey is an excellent tool to practice your listening. With our extensive video library, you can practice listening for context and using visual cues to improve how well you understand situations in your target language. Videos of increasingly challenging difficulty tend to have less context to understand the meaning of words, although you can still use tone and facial expressions to know how people are feeling!

So how rude are Parisians really?

In all my time in Paris, I have found that they are as polite to you as you are to them; however, there is a different standard in France/Paris of what is considered polite. The worst thing you can do is not begin a conversation with “bonjour/bonsoir.” If you don’t open with one of those two (depending on time of day), that may just ruin your whole conversation. I think most people who have a bad experience with Parisians don’t know this rule of common courtesy. Always open with “bonjour/bonsoir,” and I doubt you will encounter a Parisian you consider rude (excluding people in a hurry, like in any big city).

Oh, and passersby will consider it to be strange if you smile at them. Don’t smile at people you walk past. Keep your “resting jerk face” unless you’re engaged in conversation with somebody. This may also contribute to the “rude Parisian” stereotype, but trust me when I say they are not upset with you. But remember: always say “bonjour/bonsoir” or they actually will be upset with you!

The Importance of Input

The one question that my students ask me all the time is, “How do I REALLY learn a language? How can I become fluent?”

And I always like to share this simple rule: 

“What goes in, is what goes out.”

In other words, in order to be able to produce language, first you have to develop strong receptive language skills.

We can formulate this idea in different ways, like Stephen Krashen did with his theory of “comprehensible input.” Less technically, it means we should be asking our students to read and listen in the target language–a lot.

Here’s a picture!

The box here is your brain. Your brain is incredibly magical. It can take other peoples’ words that you hear and read, and then mix them up, reorganize them, turn them into your own thoughts and words. Your brain is like a transmuter of language.

But, just like an alchemist, your brain can’t do any magic if you don’t supply it with the right ingredients. Comprehensible input creates comprehensible output. If your starve your brain, or if you fill it up with nonsense, you’re not going to be happy with the result.

What goes in is what comes out.

This is a pretty obvious point, but one that’s often overlooked. Know someone who spends all her time memorizing flashcards but can’t order a cup of coffee? Have a student who’s really good at verb conjugations but can’t understand a simple class announcement? These are all people that have fallen into this trap.

In class, it’s easy to ask students to do things: write an essay, give a presentation, create a project. And that should, rightfully, be the ultimate goal of language learning.

Before we demand that students do, however, I would suggest that we first ask them to absorb. The more listening and reading they get, the stronger their language foundation will be, and the more fluently they’ll be able to produce the speech and writing we expect.

Join our Beta! What do you have to lose?

So, what’s the best way to give our students comprehensible input?

For reading, extensive reading with graded readers are a great way to get started. In my Chinese class, we use book series like Mandarin Companion and Chinese Breeze, as well as leveled news articles from Chairman’s Bao

For listening, obviously, we think that FluentKey is a great way for students to improve their listening skills 😜. Our site has hundreds of fun, engaging, and authentic videos in the world’s most popular languages. Easily find the perfect video for your students and then assign them to watch it. You can even track their understanding with built-in quizzes and other cool interactive tools. Best of all… it’s free!

Whatever you choose, just remember the rule.

This Week in FluentKey

Hey awesome teachers,

Thanks so much for checking out our beta launch. We’ve heard a lot of great things about Fluentkey from you guys. We also got some fantastic feedback and suggestions. Keep them coming–that’s what beta is for!

Expect constant improvements to Fluentkey throughout this process: new videos, new features, new bug fixes, new shiny awesome things. 

Here’s some of the cool stuff that happened this week.

Hugo


New Features:

  • Redesigned Video Assignment Panel! It’s a lot clearer what to do now.
  • FluentKey now remembers your default language when you upload a new video.
  • By popular request, check out our new favicon .
  • Lots of other small bug fixes and improvements, including updated help text.


New Videos:

We’re always expanding our video library. Here are some of the best new videos this week:

Chinese:


French:


Spanish:


Tips of the Week:

  • You can upload audio files, too! (Just make sure to put them in .mp3 format.)
  • Can’t find a video you made? Look under the “Created” tab right under the top banner in the video library.

Awesome Teacher of the Week:

Shout-out to Aurélie from Head-Royce School, who writes, “My students have been using Fluentkey for their listening practice and they love it more than any other program. What makes Fluentkey special is its ability to stop recording or video exactly where you want it to stop for an assessment. It is easy for students to replay and figure out exactly what section they need to focus on. As a teacher, I also like that I can follow my students’ progress within an assignment.”


Questions or Feedback?

Our mission at FluentKey is to make your lives easier. Email us back and we’ll respond right away.

Welcome to the FluentKey Beta!

Say hello to FluentKey, a brand new learning platform designed by language teachers for language teachers.


JOIN THE BETA!


BRING YOUR CLASS TO LIFE WITH A LIBRARY OF AUTHENTIC REAL-WORLD VIDEOS.
Access hundreds of fun, engaging videos in the world’s most popular languages. Find the perfect video for your students by filtering for category, theme, and difficulty level.

MADE BY TEACHERS, FOR TEACHERS.
Assign videos to your classes for homework and track their progress in a gradebook. Hold students accountable and make your life easier at the same time!

EVERY VIDEO IS AN INTERACTIVE LESSON.
Supercharge learning with interactive tools designed for language students like subtitles*, audio speed*, clickable transcripts*, and comprehension quizzes.

CREATE YOUR OWN VIDEOS AND QUIZZES.
Want to assign a video that’s not in our library? No problem. Upload your own videos or link them from YouTube with the click of a button. Build your own interactive quizzes by adding questions, sound, and images.

FREE FOR THE WORLD.
Our mission is to make language learning better. That’s why all our videos and quizzes are FREE FOREVER. We promise open access to every teacher and student.

*coming soon!