The “I’ve Forgotten My French!” Survival Post

Consider this like Regaine, only instead of it stimulating hair, we’re going to re-grow your French. Regaine for False-Beginners.

The French is there still, buried inside your memory, you just need to find ways to draw it back out. There is hope. You just have to overcome the block that is making you feel like returning to your old ability is impossible. Et voila:


Je Sais Pas, Celine Dion. This doesn’t have English subtitles, but an English version exists so you’ll get the gist (although the lyrics deviate from each other, somewhat).

Mea Culpa, Enigma. A hypnotic track using chanting, Mea Culpa contains some interesting sentences that may stick.

Sadeness Part 1, Enigma. OK, so Latin features more prominently in this song, however it’s a great way to ease your way in, starting with a few repeated sentences in French. It’s a great song to relax to, so you hardly feel like you’re listening for the sake of it. This particular video contains the lyrics in Latin, French (and Polish) with the English translation.

Disney in French! Find the songs on Youtube, close your eyes, and enjoy the beautiful, stylish French lyrics. The best part is, you’ll enjoy them so much that you won’t feel like you’re trying to study.


Mafiosa, 2006. For UK citizens, it’s currently available on 4OD. Set in Corsica, a female barrister becomes head of the clan when her uncle dies, which causes much discontent in the ranks. Occasionally some Italian is spoken which is a bonus. If you are watching via 4OD, subtitles are attached to the video so, if you want to test your listening skills, you’ll have to ignore them. It’s 5 series long, which is plenty of immersion.

No Second Chance, 2015, Netflix. A doctor wakes from a coma to find that her husband is dead and her baby daughter is missing. Very twisty-turny, so it’s best to watch with subtitles even though lack of subs would be beneficial.

Divines, 2016, Netflix. A surprisingly magical find on Netflix, Divines takes you on a journey of a young woman with dreams to escape her life and make it rich as a wannabe gangster.

Scout your DVD/Blu ray collection. There’s a chance that many have French either as a subtitle option or, if you’re lucky, the dub. Be brave, select French early so that your menu is in it as well. Get used to seeing French in different situations. You know the plot already, so turn off the subtitles and just get lost in the language.


The best way is to start with familiar stories, so that you can focus on testing how much language you remember. The French edition of Macbeth is free for the ebook version and extremely affordable in paperback. Or perhaps bilingual books with short stories.

The Rocket French Quick-Start Guide. Another free resource, this resource is a little heavier on the discussion side, nonetheless it does ease you in.

French Self Taught, Franz J. L. Thimm, Archive. This is ancient (OK, very ancient), but it’s free and offers endless vocabulary. There is also an audiobook version on Youtube. The book just cuts out explanations and you dive straight into sentences and verb tenses. It’s worth copying them down repeatedly in order for you to get your worth.


Memrise French Course. The most important resource because, wait for it, it helps you Mufasa Voice remember. This will drill vocabulary into you until you’re hearing the audio tracks when you go to sleep. Sessions are timed, which is excellent as it forces yourself to work harder. You’re also pitted against other users; if you’re a competitive person then this is your calling.

Duolingo French Course. Use this in combination with Memrise, as its focus on grammar and translation will complement the latter. It’s not timed so you can take your time, and the Discussions section offers further support. To really test what you remember, you can try the English for French speakers by switching. Note: this discussion.

Read newspapers like Le Monde or watch news broadcasts online. They offer short bursts of information which shouldn’t be too taxing. French radio stations are also a (daunting) way to try to tune your ears to native level speaking.

In addition, snoop around for some French-speaking celebrities. Serena Williams has a few videos of interviews on talk shows as well as the French Open. There is even a hilarious one where she’s outed as a Rafael Nadal fangirl. Because she is a learner, her pacing might be more attractive. If you’re feeling really brave, try native speakers such as Marion Cotillard and Lily-Rose Depp. At least that way you’ll be interested. If you’re feeling geeky, try to write down what they say to compose a profile on them.

Finally . . . :

Invent scenarios which stretch your vocabulary and encourage you to use everyday phrases (flashcards if you don’t feel like writing a lot). If you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, maybe even labelling furniture in your house so that when you spot them, you immediately associate the sight with the names in French. That’s if you don’t irritate the people you live with.

It’s going to take time, but with the right attitude and motivation, you can regain what you used to know.

Featured Image by Alex Borland.


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Bookworm, Film/TV consumer, polyglot aspirant with an eye on social issues.

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