Easy and fun! How to learn French with your five senses

Have you ever started (or re-started!) learning French, only to realize after a few days or weeks that you had lost motivation / it was too hard / you didn't really feel like it anymore? Today, I am going to show you how you can use your five senses and your environment to stay on track with your French study and have fun doing it.

If you read my blog or watch my videos, you have heard me say and repeat that the one thing that makes a difference between a successful student and a student who will fail is how good their reasons to learn are (more about this in this video). If you absolutely have to learn because your life or your career depends on it, you will probably succeed, regardless of any other factor. As Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, "He who has a why can bear almost any how". 

I would add that "he who doesn't have a strong why" will need a lot of help in order to succeed.  Today, we are going to see how you can boost your motivation and your progress. You can do it by using your five senses and the environment. It's all about getting your subconscious on board, because once it's on board, your study will become ten times easier.

An all-round study experience, involving the five senses

An all-round study experience, involving the five senses

Why you loose motivation

It's a fact, the human brain is not very prone to learning new things. Our natural tendency is to live in a comfort zone. Whenever we are to step out of it, our brain finds ways to sabotage us. Procrastination is one of its favourite. 

If you have recently decided to learn French (or to do anything outside of your current comfort zone), you should expect a great deal of resistance on the part of your subconscious mind. Do you know that about 85% of what we do is at least somewhat unconscious? If you try to learn French with your 15% consciousness, and the 85% subconscious behaviour of your brain wants not to learn French, which one do you think will win?

This is the origin of a very common language learning misconception. Have you ever heard someone say that learning a language is so much easier for children than for adults? Young children just don't try to learn a language consciously. They do it subconsciously. The good news is that, as an adult, with the right tools and the right mindset, you can perfectly learn a language as easily and even faster than a young child would. Because you get to do it both consciously and subconsciously.

Use your environment to make it easier

The idea of using your environment to make a behaviour easier is very wide spread in the field of self-development: you want to go to the gym in the morning? Lay out your training outfit the night before. You want to start listening to audio programs? Put them in your car. 

This trick works wonders and is considerably under exploited by language learners.

The process I use in my one-on-one coaching program, Your Roadmap to Fluency takes advantage of this principle (among many others) to help you fit your French study into your busy schedule.

What you perceive becomes your reality. Make sure that your environment is on par with your intention to learn French. Here is how you can do it in practice, using your five senses to infuse French into your environment, and ultimately, into your brain.

Before we start, grab your worksheet and fill it out with the ideas that appeal to you in the following list.

1. Sight

According to a study, 90% of the information transmitted to our brain is visual. Here is how to take advantage of this to boost your French study.

Visible study material

French related decoration for your home

  • Pictures reminding you of French speaking countries or cultures

  • French quotes

  • Memories from your trips to French speaking countries

French content for your social feeds

2. Sound

  • Play French music in your home, in your car, in your office

  • Put a French learning audio method in your car

  • Add French podcasts to your podcast app

  • Listen to French radio or watch French TV

A typical French taste

A typical French taste

3. Taste

It will be easier for your brain to assimilate a language which is associated with an all-round experience, and this also includes taste. Besides, you wouldn't want to learn French and never enjoy French cuisine, would you? Also, don't forget that French is spoken on all continents, which results in a huge variety of specialties from French speaking countries.

  • Go to a French (or African, Quebecois, South-East Asian...) restaurant. Bonus points if you go with friends who learn French or speak French.

  • Try specialities such as one of the 600 types of French cheese, 307 official types of French wine or French candies. The list is endless.

  • Learn how to cook French food. It's easier than you think.

4. Smell

While you enjoy the taste of French cuisine, you also enjoy the smell of it. Here are some more ideas of what you can do, to bring more French to your brain through your nose.

  • Choose and wear a French perfume. They are famous for their quality.

  • Get a French scent for your home, for example from l'Occitane

  • Enjoy the smell of French specialities, specifically wine

Sound, smell and touch to help you learn French

Sound, smell and touch to help you learn French

5. Touch

If you can touch something (say, the French language), it makes it more real to you and your brain becomes keener on assimilating it. Of course, if you use physical learning material such as books and stationary, there is a touch component to it. Besides this, however, touch is the most challenging sense to integrate in your French routine. Can you find something which reminds you of French and has a distinct texture? Here are some ideas:

  • A blanket or pillow you have bought during a trip.

  • Seashells from a French beach.

  • Food which has a specific texture, such as mousse au chocolat.

  • A French speaking partner. It's the best really, they cover all five senses. That's how my wife learned French without even noticing.

Which one of these are you going to do first?

Integrate as many of these ideas as possible into your life and I promise it will jumpstart your French progress.

If you haven't done it yet, grab your Frenchify your life bucket list and fill it with all the French experience you would like to have.

Do you know other ways to add French into your life? Please share them in the comments.

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About the author

Angel Pretot is a French learning coach. He helps English speakers from all over the world learn French fast and become fluent. You can work with him one-on-one (online via skype or a similar software) or join a global community of French learners in his group program the French Fluency Accelerator.