The best way to improve your spoken French is to actually speak it. But not living in France can make this tricky. Even if you do live in L’Hexagone, you might not get as much opportunity to practise French with a sympathetic listener as you would like.
I live in South Kensington, London’s quartière française but I barely get a chance to converser en français. Or at least I didn’t until a couple of weeks ago. Then I discovered the language swap section on Gumtree.
I’ve written about my experience in this week’s TimeOut London (see p.44, if you’ve got it) but let me tell you a little bit about it here.
Forget having to pay for lessons. Hundreds of people on the site are offering their native French for your English. Reply to a post, fix a date and find a quiet place to have a drink.
My Gumtree adventure led me to coffee with Florent, a French guy from Nantes who lived in Barcelona for three years and brunch with Léa – a fluent French speaker who refuses to call herself French. (She’s Corsican and proud.) We spoke in French before the meal, in English during and after.
You too can find yourself a language buddy wherever you are. Gumtree has sections for all the major cities in the UK including Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Dublin and some smaller towns such as Oxford. There are also listings worldwide: throughout Europe, North America and the southern hemisphere as well as a link to Kijiji, France’s equivalent of Gumtree.