Is there a way to slow the speaker down? This is my most challenging aspect of learning French...understanding what is being said.

Is there a way to slow the speaker down? This is my most challenging aspect of learning French...understanding what is being said.

Asked 8 months ago

I empathise with you, Phyllis. French is a language with less than usual auditory distinction between words. There are way too many words and combination of words which sound exactly the same. So you have to be continually aware of the context in order to be able to parse the sound into some kind of coherent meaning. The only way to do this is to immerse yourself in it. Don't cramp up over it, it'll come eventually. When you least expect it.

For me even immersion is not helping.  I have been living in Paris for 3 years doing the normal repetitive daily activities (grocery shopping, ordering at a cafe, etc) and I still do not fully understand what they are saying.  For example, at the grocery checkout, all I hear is "blah blah blah blah sac?".  Although I understand that they are asking me if I need a sack, they are already 5 to 7 words into their statement before I pickup on what they are attempting to communicate to me.   It is much worse when they try to get me to use some of my accumulated euros on my carte fidelite.   After 3 years I cannot understand one word of what they say when they ask if I want to use my benefit on my carte.   They actually get mad when I don't understand and I just say "non, merci".  They show me their terminal or write down how much I have accumulated.   So although I understand their intention, I still do not understand what they are saying.  I can only fully understand some of the checkout people (1 out of 10) as they speak slowly and clearly.   Same thing at a cafe.  They are always 5 to 7 words into what they are saying before I catch on that they are even there to take the order.   I speak just enough french blurbs to get the job done.   Listening to the audio here is slower than real life in Paris but is is still mostly unintelligible.  I will have to resort to supplement with other sources like French Today or French Together where they offer slow speeds with clarity along with higher speed options.   Even when being taught by a french tutor, using smaller and shorter recording playbacks did not do the trick as it was still at full speed.  They had to explain things to me in english just to get through the session.  Also, the french tutors can be very impatient when dealing with someone they cannot explain things to in french.  My advice to getting french lessons in France is that most tutors cannot effectively handle students that do not already speak/listen at an A2 level already.  So if you are not already at A2 going on to B1 level, you need to learn more French in the home country first.  Currently, Kwiziq has me as an A1 but I am extremely uncomfortable with anything beyond A0.  I still have 2 years to get to an A2 level to get my residency carte and being immersed is hurting more than helping.  

I have the same problem but I have just discovered I have a problem with my hearing so hoping hearing aids will help!

Maybe you could casually record your cafe/supermarket conversations on your phone. Then use audio software to slow down the playback until you understand it. https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-slow-down-the-play-speed-of-voice-memos
I had the same reaction to the Spanish reading speed Phyllis. This is actually a good slower speed compared to the Spanish! Every speaker also has his/her own accent and combined with the fact that many people don’t enunciate clearly ((as happens also in English!) it all makes it difficult. It is frustrating ...takes time and perseverance....

I have been home studying now for 9 months. I feel just a little bit of success. I'm not comfortable yet to have a conversation! my problem I feel is that to many of the words sounding alike and words that have to be liaison makes me feel like my pronunciation isn't correct! Right now it is good for me to read this statement, because it gives me a better drive to know I am not struggling alone. Kwiziq has just put me to level A1 and at this level I have been feeling a little low in my confidence! 

This is a wonderful idea. Would be easy to do discretely. If you do try this, I would love to hear how it works for you. Best of luck.

I feel your struggle and I've was going through the same and now things have improved for me because when I speak no longer try and fall back on my English. Sometimes I speak French awfully and I am not understood, but I embrace my mistakes and learn from them, every day and I honestly have a great teacher who has always just kept repeating things in different ways until I understood.

My biggest advice to you though, would be to take an actual immersion course.

Despite many people constantly saying that the only way you can really learn your target language is through immersion and to live in a country that speaks the target language, I feel that is quite misunderstood by many people.Immersion is one of the greatest ways to improve your language skills, however, you will not gain much from a few interactions day to day that last a few minutes in Paris and really and truly, that is not immersion.

Immersion is spending 8+ hours a day speaking and listening in the target language for numerous days in a row and ideally weeks/months (not necessarily in a country that speaks the language either). This is when your brain will start to adjust and pick up things more efficiently in the target language. Your native language was learnt in the same way. When you were at school, you listened to your teachers and your peers and you picked up the language over a huge amount of time because you were truly immersed in the language and you didn't have a choice. 

I'm sure you know someone who speaks more than one language who might claim that their ability to speak a language has gotten worse because they have't been using it as much, this is totally normal and to be expected.Read this sentence "a little red car was speeding on the motorway at 83mph and collided with a big yellow car that was going the wrong way at 76 mph"  ...tomorrow you will not remember every little detail of this sentence and possibly, absolutely none of it. This is not because you're stupid or because you have a bad memory, but because you only read the sentence once. If you were to read this sentence every 15 minutes over the entire course of the day and for a whole month, what do you think will happen? You'd most likely struggle to be able to forget it right, but if you stopped reading it, in time it would slip from your memory. 

Do you see what I'm getting at? Learning a language is a tough long and repetitive process. Truly immerse yourself in the target language and supplement yourself in as many ways as possible - reading, watching the news/movies, podcasts translating your favourite song lyrics and things will fall into place more and more over time.

Yes Phyllis , I understand your problem only too well , I also keep trying to catch up on what is being said , especially around Paris .

Kwiziq is excellent for texts , dictées , etc but I also use another programme called French Yabla which concentrates on producing videos lasting about 5-10 minutes & presented by native French tutors BUT ..........! these videos are supplemented with English captions ,also , each video can be paused , played back , repeated & at slower speed if needed. From what you say , I think you may well find this one helpful as a supplement to Kwiziq . see : French Yabla.org.uk

Is there a way to slow the speaker down? This is my most challenging aspect of learning French...understanding what is being said.

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

Find your French level >>
Ask a question
Getting that for you now.