My Journey From 0 To C1 In French In 1 year.

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Can you go from 0 to C1 in French in 1 year? This was something that I wondered about in May 2019. So, why not challenge myself. I would start in July 2019 with 0 French and in July 2020 I would have a C1 level.

I wanted to know if I had the capability to achieve this goal and was ready to work as hard as possible for this. If only I knew then what I know now.

If you want to know how to become fluent in French, but don’t know how, then keep on reading and check this post out!

In this post about my journey I am going to share an Anki Deck, my lessons learned, and resources used.

Table of Contents

From 0 to C1 in French in 1 Year: The First Step

0-to-C1-in-French-in-1-Year-Toulouse
La Ville Rose: Toulouse

In May 2019 I was looking for a summer school to start learning French and so make my first steps.

I found that most private schools were very expensive, but learned that French universities also give French summer schools and are a lot cheaper. I chose the DEFLE Summer School of Université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès.

The structure of the summer school was the following.

In the morning we’d have class from 09:00 to 12:00 which would cover most of the theoretical concepts of the French language.

Afterwards we’d have 1.5 hour break where we’d eat something and chat with each other.

Starting at 13:30 until 15:30 we’d have atelier which would cover a topic of our choosing – this was generally a bit more practical so that we would actually speak French.

On the first day there was a test to see which level you have.

I chose to live with a host family for two months to get more exposure to French.

July 2019: A0 to A1/A2

0 to C1 in French in 1 Year JJ
A part of the University

Grammar:

  1. Université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès (UTJJ) material

Vocabulary:

  1. UTJJ material

Speaking:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. At home with my host family

Listening:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. At home with my host family
  3. French films and series with English subtitles
    • Au service de la France
    • Le bureau des legends
    • Intouchables

Writing:

  1. Writing simple letters during classes

Reading:

  1. Exercises that we’d do in class

As the course was only for a month we would cover a lot of topics quite rapidly. This made it hard for me to make a structure of the French language to understand how it is built. Nevertheless I felt like I was learning and doing quite a lot. I participated a lot during the classes and this really helped.

I felt that I was one of the few people that actually was at A0 as most had had some kind of exposure to French before the course had started.

At home things were quite tricky. My host family didn’t really speak English that well and as I had just started learning French communication was quite difficult.

Imagine having dinner and others are speaking in French and you want to participate as well but you don’t know how.

Luckily they were quite understanding and made an effort to communicate with me speaking French slowly and using Google translate to communicate other things.

The fact that they couldn’t really speak English meant that I had to speak and hear a lot of French – this turned out the extremely beneficial to me.

Actually using the language from an early stage gave the confidence to continue and improve in a rapid pace.

I spent my spare time having fun in Toulouse. I had promised myself that I would make Anki Flashcards of the lessons but in the end I didn’t.

The reason for this was that I was already doing so much for French both at the University and at home that I really didn’t want to do anymore, and I wasn’t exactly sure how I should structure my cards and what I should put on them.

I would say that I studied French about 30 hrs/wk however this does not include the many hours that I spent talking with the host family. It would be hard to quantify that but let’s assume 3 hours per day making 21 hrs/wk. The total would be around 51 hrs/wk.

84 hours of courses was €650. I had a bedroom + half board formula for 680 €month. My other expenditure was around €200. The total was around €1500.

As for the content of the classes, we did the things that you’d expect to do at A1 level. Personally I believe that verbs are the most important part of the language so I do want to highlight this part.  The verb tenses we did:

  • Le Présent
  • Passé Compose

At the end of the 1 month course I received a certificate that placed me at around A1/A2.

If you want to get started with A1 yourself then please download my A1 Deck from here, and start with the grammar lessons here.

July 2019:  A1/A2 to B1

Grammar:

  1. UTJJ material

Vocabulary:

  1. UTJJ material

Speaking:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. At home with my host family
  3. Phonetics Atelier

Listening:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. At home with my host family
  3. French films and series with English subtitles
    • Le bureau des legends

Writing:

  1. Writing letters during classes

Reading:

  1. Exercises that we’d do in class

My French had improved and I was able to understand and speak more and more.

When you start to understand French sounds that were once before unknown you feel like a boss!

I still made a lot of mistakes but I didn’t really care. As long as I was speaking and learning it was enough.

I had a great phonetics course which finally allowed me to say the French r. To Dutch speakers, try to say “van Gogh”, the r is very close to the Dutch g.

Basically everything you read for June applies here, except that I started studying less. In the last weeks I essentially went out every day. The group was really great and I had a lot of fun!

Regarding the tenses we did:

  • Passé compose
  • Imparfait
  • Future simple
  • Conditionel

I received a certificate placing me at around B1.

After the course I travelled the south of France – it was amazing!

September 2019 to January 2020: B1 to B2

0-to-C1-in-French-in-1-Year-ESCP
The Entrance to ESCP Paris

Grammar:

  1. KwizIQ
  2. Help from the tutors
  3. French classes

Vocabulary:

  1. KwizIQ
  2. Reading French Articles and looking for difficult words (and making Anki cards from them)
  3. TV5 Monde

Speaking:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. Tutor
  3. Italki

Listening:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. Italki
  3. RFI Français Facile
  4. Michel Thomas Foundation
  5. Tv5 Monde
  6. French music
    • Angele
    • Big Flo and Oli
    • Stromae

Writing:

  1. Writing essays during classes

Reading:

  1. French articles on Le Parisien

I started the second year of my Master in Paris at ESCP. On the first day we had to do a test and the next day I was placed in the A2 class.

I felt like it was too easy and asked why I was in this class. Essentially I had a B1 result, but they didn’t have a B1 class so they put me in A2.

I asked for a transfer to B2 and was allowed. I was quite confident because I progressed that rapidly, but honestly I didn’t quite understand how big the gap was at the time.

I also had to do a thesis for the Master and chose one where I had to interview people in French of a famous aeronautics company in December 2019.

I was so overconfident that I had actually thought I could conduct an interview in French in just a few months. Silly me.

Once I started with the B2 course I realised the difference between me and the others.

Luckily the gap was quite big in the course. Some people had a C1 level and others were a strong B1. Nevertheless I knew my French was the weakest.

I realised that my base was actually quite weak.

I had strong speaking and listening skills due to the amount of conversations I had been having at the University and with the host family. However, it was hard for me to conjugate into other tenses, and I didn’t even know the PQP and the Subjunctive.

So, I actively started using KwizIQ to improve my understanding of French grammar.

I put all of their lessons in Anki, and I created a special Anki format for myself to allow me to learn the most.

Basically I started creating Anki Cards for everything that I learnt. I felt that I had a lot of gaps due to the fast progressions. I started at the A0 level so that I wouldn’t miss anything.

I also started with Michel Thomas from 0. All of this really helped me.

I realised how much I needed to learn and was getting anxious for the interviews.

I basically studied 40 hrs/wk because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in the interviews.

I could speak with a French tutor 30 minutes per week which I did, and I used Italki.

I had conducted a literature study for my thesis.

When December arrived I knew I wasn’t ready, but the French started striking and the interviews were pushed to February.

At the end I had an exam for B2 and I passed and moved onto the B2/C1 course!!!

February 2020 to July 2020: B2 to C1

Grammar:

  1. KwizIQ
  2. Help from the tutors
  3. French classes

Vocabulary:

  1. KwizIQ
  2. Reading French Articles and looking for difficult words (and making Anki cards from them)
  3. TV5 Monde

Speaking:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. Tutor
  3. Italki

Listening:

  1. In classes with my fellow students and teachers
  2. Italki
  3. France Info
  4. Michel Thomas Advanced
  5. Tv5 Monde
  6. French series
    • Dix Pour Cent (French subtitles)
    • Plan Cœur (French subtitles)
    • Bref (free on Youtube)

Writing:

  1. Writing essays during classes

Reading:

  1. French articles on Le Monde

The new course starts and finally I feel like I caught up to everyone else. I was maintaining my learning habits and everything was good.

February arrives and there is an event where I can meet my interviewees for a meet and greet.

I felt a bit less nervous and not quite ready but still wanted to do it.

After all, I studied so hard I wanted to do it. During the event we did not have the chance to meet as it was quite busy – oh well next time then.

In March I would visit their factory and interview them there.

I created an interview guide and felt ready. March arrives and so does Corona. No factory visit. No interviews. No thesis.  

I had to find a new topic. I had spent so much time studying French, denying myself other fun activities just so I could be ready for this, and in the end I don’t even have to do any interviews

Sucks doesn’t it? Life deals you these blows sometimes

I took the B2/C1 exam and I passed.

I went back to the Netherlands and studied French remotely. I look back at everything that had happened and laugh now. I honestly couldn’t have made this up.

Oh well at least I have a C1 level now.

10 Key Lessons

  1. Start speaking immediately. It’s normal to make mistakes, don’t worry about this.
  2. Use Anki. This will improve your memory so much.
  3. Study every day for at least 30 min. Sunday you are off.
  4. Speak at least 2x a week for 30-60 minutes with a native-level speaker and create Anki cards based on the mistakes you made.
  5. Start with a strong grammatical foundation. I had to go back when I was at B1 because I did so much in such a short time. When you progress you are going to rely on this base a lot.
  6. Anyone saying that you will become fluent in 1/2/3 months is lying to you. Learning a new language is hard work and you need to keep at it every day. Expecting fluency in such a short time is madness.
  7. Immersion is the best way to learn a new language. Had I not gone to France I would not have succeeded at achieving my goal.
  8. Don’t put unrealistically high expectations on yourself, take your time in learning French. In time you will get there. My goal meant that I could not have as much fun in Paris as I wanted to. It’s okay to go on a slower pace.
  9. Learning a new language and going to where it is spoken is one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences in the world. The things you will see and people you will meet are worth it.
  10. What drove me to work so hard was the fear of messing up in the interview and the fact that I had created a goal and told everyone about it. Please visit Stickk and make a commitment contract – this will help you stick to your goal.

Final Comments

Finally, I would like to add that going to France and learning French has brought so much joy and wonder in my life.

This journey from 0 to C1 in French in 1 year has allowed me to see many sights, and meet so many people from all over the world.

I would urge you to go out and explore once it becomes possible.

This journey changed my life, and I hope it changes yours as well!

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