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Vous êtes à Paris…

You’re in Paris. It’s autumn. You’re sat on the Champs Elysees in a cosmopolitan café.

You’re feeling fabulous. You have your sunglasses on. You’re enjoying the bustle of the city and the day has only just begun.

The picture of Paris you imagined when you booked your holiday is happening and it’s great. Until….

The waiter comes over and it’s time to order. You search your brain in panic for the GCSE French you learned at school but the only information you can find is, “Je m’appelle Sarah” !

The waiter speaks at 100 miles an hour. You regret not listening to Madam Lavigne, taking notes whist in the French speaking lab, listening to the cassette tapes from ‘Tricolore 1’. You stumble with words, gesturing to help communicate. It’s just a coffee you want!

“Café, s’il vous plaÎt.”

It’s a disaster. You feel foolish and the scene is ruined!

Why is learning a new language so hard when we are all language learners?

If we can speak our native tongue then surely we can all learn a second foreign language.

As my children to embark on their language learning careers in school it seems they have all have a love of it. I thought going to France would be an opportunity to put all their hard work to good use – to order my coffee confidently! They would feel the success of not only pleasing me, their mum, but to put the theory into practice.

The plan didn’t quite work out. Speaking is nerve wracking at any age. The natural dialogue is fast and full of local colloquialisms. It doesn’t feel like a success when the native speaker immediately switches to English when you have begun the conversation in French. Confidence knocked!

The language learning world is vast, yet nothing quite prepares you for immersion into a foreign country and being put on the spot to communicate.

There are numerous tutors but they’re strangers and it’s an expensive way to decide if they are the right fit for you. Apps and online courses teach a wealth of vocabulary, but knowing what’s in my pencil case is of no use when trying to book a hotel room.

If we think back to our very early years the key to language learning is to speak first; if you can’t say it, you can’t write it. Knowing high frequency words, small joining words and the everyday conversational phrases we use time and time again are the back bone to conversation.

When you explore the world of language learning, speaking in real life situations is hard to find.

Could there be another way?