Learn to Speak French Like a Native Speaker

What You Won‘t Learn in Class

Annika Wappelhorst
6 min readAug 30


Photo of Montpellier by author

Your French teacher will probably hate me for this — or warn you by saying “Don’t learn bad French!” But I would counter, “Learn the French that is spoken on the streets and in the bars of the 21st century!” And yes, that is sometimes incorrect, annoying, or funny, but it is at least authentic — and will make you sound more like a native speaker than reading Voltaire, Molière, Sartre, and all these other authors I encountered during my French classes in high school.

Take it or leave it — here is my advice after having lived in Belgium (as a child) and France (as a young adult) for several years. If you are planning to spend time in a French-speaking country or have French friends, this might be more useful than years of taking French classes.

Season Your Sentences With Filler Words

My favorite tip, and by far the most important one: Make filler words like building blocks of your everyday sentences — maybe not at work or in your academic essays, but, you know, when talking to your flatmate Pierre or your French friend Amélie.

The top words are probably “du coup” (consequently — often used like well), “en fait” (actually), “enfin” (well) and “genre” (like). You know you’ve succeeded when even French native speakers let you know that your usage of filler words is, like, excessive. “Quoi” (literally what) in the end of a sentence can be used to reinforce the meaning of a sentence: “C’était pas cool, quoi” (That really wasn’t nice).

Ignore Grammar Rules

The most common example is probably “qui qui” — it is always wrong to use this word twice in a row, but I’ve still heard many people say it. Usually, it would be in a question such as “C’est qui qui t’a dit ça ?” (literally ‘It’s who who told you that?’). The correct version would be “Qui est-ce qui t’a dit ça ?” or “Qui t’a dit ça ?” Up to you to decide whether you want to speak like a grammar book or like a “Français lambda” (an average French).

Use Verlan

What is verlan, you may wonder? If you understand French, you may have noticed that by reversing the word ver-lan, you get “lan-ver” or, in the correct…



Annika Wappelhorst

Hej! I write about living in different countries, learning languages, teaching & practicing yoga and doing media & communication research. (she/her)