The French box

One of the first things I tell my students is that their French box is already there, and together we are going to make it grow.
But what do I mean by ‘French box’? Let’s explore that together.

open box with light coming from the inside

I use this expression with all my students (especially my beginners) to help them visualize the learning process. When you learn a new language, your brain creates a new ‘box’ and every single thing you know and learn is organized in that box; pretty much like a computer that files away all the data (yes our body is amazing!).

The 2 learning processes

Something really important to remember is that you cannot properly speak a language if you only do a translation process (yes I have to tell you, Google translate is not a teacher). If you do this, here is what’s going to happen: at first, it will be really fast and easy to learn because you only go back and forth between your birth language (let’s say English) and the new language (let’s say French).
A lot of people get fool by this ‘progress’, thinking they can speak by just translating every single English word or structure, but actually they don’t speak properly… Why is that? Well the thing is, with a translation process, you miss a lot of things in French because you work with your English box (not your French box), so you can’t use the appropriate vocabulary or grammar structure.
At some point, you will be stuck and very frustrated because it is a different language so you CANNOT translate everything.
You can take my word for it, I’ve seen it happened so many times!

Based on my experience both as a student (I’ve been through this learning process for several languages) and a teacher, the best way to learn a new language is to dive into it and use your French box.
This way, you can learn how to speak properly because you are working with your French box, and not your English box that you just translate.
This process may require more work at the beginning (to build up your French box) but trust me, it will get you way further down the road!
This is the key to be fluent. How come? Because you won’t get stuck in your learning journey, as you work within the language. Moreover, what you build in your French box will always be there, so anytime you need it, you just go and get it! 🙂

That’s the reason why the immersion experience is so amazing!

map of Europe with a little man holding a suitcase and standing on France

Immersion: how your French box becomes the boss

Let me give you an example of my own learning experience with English language: in 2016, I did a short language course in Manchester (UK) to get back to English, and I discovered the word ‘glowing’. My first reflex was to try to translate it in French, because I hadn’t used my English box for a while; but our amazing teacher gave us an example with a candle and I wrote down the word with the candle example.
So far, this word has been in my English box without a French translation and I can totally use it and understand it because this example was all I needed to memorize it!
This is how I started to work with my English box again, leaving my French brain take a few days off…

Now let’s go back to French language: when you are in immersion, your brain receives absolutely all the information around you in French, so he uses your little French box to help you in this experience.
But your little box is not used to receive and process that much information, so she is trying her best and working very hard; that’s why it’s more tiring at the beginning.
At some point, your brain will understand that in order to live this immersion experience better, he needs to let your French box take over.

That is when the switch happens! Your French box suddenly swallows every single thing around you and the huge improvement starts!
As you use this new language every single day all day long, your French box records the vocabulary, the expressions, the language structure, the pronunciation, the tone of voice, everything! Without even trying to learn, you do learn all of it!
Yes again, our body is amazing. And that is just the overall; so much more can come from an immersion experience!

Dive into the language and make it yours!

To give you another example of my own experience, I had English classes at school and university for approximately 10 years. At the end, I was barely able to have a conversation because of the way I had to learn it (yep, when it comes to foreign languages, France is definitely not the best).
When I was in high school, I decided to start studying by myself the lyrics of my favorite English songs and watch my favorite tv show in the original version (English); I still remember words and expressions I learned thanks to this.
But my first Canadian immersion experience was the switch for me: in 2012, I booked a flight to Ontario (my very first travel to Canada!) and spent 5 months with a family there. My English box got bigger like never before in those 10 years. I even started to think and dream in English!
That’s the reason why I’m capable of speaking (and writing) like this today, even if my birth language is French.

In all my classes, I try to offer a little immersion experience. There are 2 things you need to keep in mind: first, even if you just have ‘croissant’ in your French box, I guarantee you that you will be able to follow the whole class with me! Second, trust your French box and keep going; you have way more resources than you think!

You want to give it a try? Book a free meet and greet session and we’ll talk about your goals! 😉

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2 Comments

  • Linda

    In the few months that I have known our dear Sarah, her delight of The French Box is captivating and inspiring!! Language is a lifelong journey, interwoven with the multi-faceted experience of living and the joy of our relationships. Our French Box is always with us and provides a creative intelligence to flow into new situations with confidence!

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