How can I stop freezing whenever I speak French?

Hello. Just to be clear I'm an upper sixth A level student doing French so my problem is slightly different to other people's. I absolutely love French but ever since I went to college I just get really nervous and clam up straight away if someone asks me something. This is causing me problems during French oral exams and I missed out on an A last year by 4 marks. The funny thing is I'm a drama student too so this shouldn't be a problem. I know French is something I want to do for the rest of my life and I just wondered if anyone on their year abroad had, or is going through the same thing. Thank you :)

This question was asked by Beth Wetherfield , asked on 25th October 2014 and has been read 2793 times.

  • Bogi Szabo · 7 years ago

    Myabe you should combine your weakness and your strength: perhaps plan to perform a French play with friends? Moliere has written many great comedies that are quite silly and fun to act out. I did my A Level oral exposé on his play Tartuffe!

    Otherwise, try to figure out what is causing this - have you had a bad experience in the past that might have triggered your hesitance to speak French? Although you say you are a drama student, being a confident English speaker is not the same as being confident in French. If you doubt your ability and are scared to make mistakes then  you won't improve your fluency.

    Try to partner up with a native speaker (maybe your college has a programme or if not look online for various tandem speaking programmes?) and speak with them one to one in an informal environment. And note how their English is not perfect either! You will improve, you just need more practice in a casual, stress-free environment that will allow you to build your confidence in speaking French.

  • Romy Higgins · 7 years ago

    I'd say the best thing you can do is practice practice practice!  I'm in my fourth year of a french and Spanish degree and I still get nervous and stutter a bit when I speak, but it definitely improves every time I have conversations with my teacher or with French friends.  I find it helps me to talk to myself in French or Spanish when I'm preparing for an oral exam or a meeting with one of my lecturers so that I know beforehand how to express what I want to.  See if you could find a French person in your area to practice with, or maybe over Skype or through the website Italki.  If you're not confident enough yet, ask your friends in your French class or even your teacher to practice with you to make sure you're really prepared for your exam.  Watching french tv shows and listening to radio shows can help too as you'll pick up the 'flow' of the language and will learn lots of vocab.  Good luck with your A Levels!

  • Zoe Taylor · 7 years ago

    Hey! I'm currently on my year abroad in France and still get this. At sixth form level even much so, so I wouldn't worry at all! The hesistancy used to really get to me, especially when you know that you know the grammar and the vocabulary. 

    I would suggest perhaps meeting with your friends in your french class and practising together for your oral exams, or even just meeting up for general chit chat! Being with others that are also learning for me puts my nerves at ease a little bit, and doesn't mean that you learn wrong either :) Another thing would be to watch French programmes (TF1 is great for this, for me I found a French version of One Born Every Minute (Babyboom) and I've picked up lots of converstional vocab from that! 

  • Jan Krauss · 7 years ago

    My advice would be:

    try not to translate from English in your head

    don't worry about making (grammar) mistakes, what matters is that people understand you. Perfection will follow but it takesa long time!

    Best wishes

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