In the last post, I recommended a great way to help you learn a language faster.
In this post, I’ll give you a great tip to help you improve your accent in Canadian French, as well as develop an ear for the language if you’re at the beginner level.
This tip is for users of iPhones or iPads (preferably iPads), using the device’s own settings to turn it into a language audio-laboratory, allowing you to practice your accent, and have your device read you texts at any speed you wish (great for listening skills and making sense of the jumble of words). Similar options may be available for users of other makes of phones or tablets, but I’ve never tried it before using other brands.
Learning languages has never been easier than now — I routinely tell people now is the best time they could ever hope for to start learning French, so why not take advantage of the opportunities new technologies are affording us.
One of the most frustrating things beginners encounter is not being able to differentiate the words people are saying, or feeling that people are speaking too fast — making everything one big, jumbled mess. This tip can hopefully help you to quickly overcome that feeling.
I’ve used the following method to help me make strides at the beginner levels of Brazilian Portuguese and Mexican Spanish — and the results even surprised me. There are no reasons why it would not work for Canadian French.
Step 1: Open the “Settings” Section, and open “Accessibility”
Step 2: Tap the the speech option.
Step 3: (a) Turn on the “Highlight Content” option. (b) Click the “Voices” option. (note, the “speaking rate” option can be adjusted later).
Step 4: Tap “French”.
Step 5: Here you can choose between French from France, and Canadian French. Under “FRANÇAIS CANADA” tap “enhanced quality”. This will download a high-quality voice language pack (with a Canadian French accent) into your device. It’s over 100MB, so it could take up to 5 minutes to download (possibly longer depending on your connection). Do not close your device until it’s finished downloading. You’ll know when it has finished because a little check-mark will appear to the right and it will cease displaying “downloading”.
Step 6: You’re now ready to use your new portable language-lab. Open any web-page or PDF document containing French text. Highlight any text you wish. A “Speak” button will appear. Tap “Speak” and your device will read to you, in a high-quality, natural sounding French Canadian accent, the text which you selected (at the time of writing, only a female voice option is available).
If you’re a beginner, you may wish to slow the text (Step 3) so you can differentiate easily between words. As you get better, you can increase the speed. This is a great way to train your ear. You’ll find in a very very short period of time that the language no longer sounds like a jumbled mess of sounds like it did when you first started to hear it. You can effortlessly repeat the same word or sentence as many times as you feel are needed to fully understand the sounds. In the past, language laboratories and complex (sometimes very expensive) computer software was necessary to give you this language learning freedom — but now the same technology (even better technology in my opinion) is available to you for free using your own device’s language settings.
To improve your accent, practice repeating words and phrases out load. Try your best to accurately imitate the speaker’s voice. If you find something is difficult to perfectly pronounce, then repeat repeat repeat. You can take it at your speed, and make as much progress as you wish. This is a very very powerful option for language learning, that again, until only a 4 or 5 years ago, this type of option was only available through expensive language classes or language laboratories.
The other beauty of this is that it allows you to speak French in YOUR accent. The accent we have in Canada is our accent. Our accent is instantly recognized around the world (you have no idea how many times I travel abroad when I hear people tell me “You’re from Canada!”). It’s something very special which makes us unique and stand out. As Canadians, it’s such a special part of our culture and heritage. It’s Canada’s and yours — so speak it with a smile, ownership, and with pride. When you think of it in terms as being your language, your heritage, your culture — it makes it so much easier and enjoyable to learn.
With a little work, you’ll be speaking like a pro in no time!