French the natural way: pas de panique ! How to relax in 3 steps

Coucou les French learners,

C’est déjà la fin du mois d’octobre, oh non ! Le temps passe vite ! It is already the end of October, time passes by quickly!

“Time passes by. And each time time passes by, something fades” by Jules Romain, French poet and writer.

This Friday 1st November, the French celebrate la Toussaint , all the saints. They go to le cimetière, the cemetery to put flowers on the graves and to honor the deaths.

Demain, dès l’aube is a famous and beautiful poem written by Victor Hugo after the sudden death of her daughter Léopoldine. She drowned in la Seine with her husband. At the time, Hugo was in the South of France, in the Pyrenees. He found out about her daughter’s death 4 days after the accident, in the newspaper! He then stopped writing for 3 years.

Read the poem here, the pictures will help you understand it. Also watch this surprising adaption of the poem.

Previously, I wrote about overcoming your fear of speaking French (or another language). As darker days are coming, how do you overcome your fear of not understanding French?


Most of my online French learners start to panic as soon as they don’t understand a word; or when they don’t understand 90% of a story. This is NORMAL. However, in order to acquire the new language subconsciously, you must RELAX. Therefore, it is important to ACCEPT you will not understand everything.

Your affective filter must be low. Your brain must be in the right conditions to receive the new language AND then to process it AND store the new linguistic data. When you are relaxed and you are enjoying the process, your brain is able to do all this work without you noticing it. However, when you are panicking, your brain shuts down. You start noticing words or structures which are difficult to translate in your native language. You panic and your brain cannot process the novelty.


After the storm, comes the calm.


You must create the conditions to STAY CALM.

Before you start listening to a story or reading a book in French, BREATHE in and out. Breathing is powerful. It reduces anxiety. Now you may think it has nothing to do with acquiring French! However having oxygen in your brain, will give you the right start to process the new language and accept the novelty.

I used breathing techniques and games when I used to teach in schools. Lion breath was a favorite because it was fun too. I also like nostril breathing which is a yoga practice. These tools allow you to LET GO and FOCUS.

According to Sheryl Ankrom in verywellmind, ” Improper breathing can upset the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in your blood cells and contribute to anxiety and even panic attacks.

The easiest way to determine your breathing pattern is to put one hand on your upper abdomen near the waist and the other in the middle of your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand raises the most. If you’re breathing properly, your abdomen should expand and contract with each breath (and the hand on it should raise the most).”

To RELAX, to ACCEPT the new language and to acquire French in the BEST conditions:

  1. ” Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should expand, and your chest should rise very little.
  2. Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “whooshing” sound as you exhale.
  3. Repeat this breathing exercise for several minutes.

You AND your BRAIN are now READY to listen to a story or to read a French reader. But remember NO need to study. Let the new language sink in. ENJOY the process.



Once you are STRESS FREE, you can choose a COMPELLING and COMPREHENSIBLE story to read and listen to. The MORE you read & listen, the MORE you understand, the MORE you acquire French effortlessly.

DO NOT PANIC when you don’t understand a word, your GOAL is to understand the story. Each week I compile for you a list of stories which you can comprehend and which are on a variety of topics. Some are made up stories, others are tales or folktales, and others are myths. Other texts are not stories, they are biographies, cultural facts or the video scripts.

This week’s cultural free video is about coffee in France and ordering coffee in a café. You have access to the script and you can listen to my Dear Man reading it when you join the French learners community.

When you are a member, the week usually starts with a story aimed at beginners. But even if you are not a beginner, it will boost your confidence because you will find the story easy to understand. It will help you NOT to panic.

As the week goes by, stories become longer and more advanced but DO NOT PANIC, read and listen with the intent to understand the gist of the story.

When you start panicking, STOP. CHOOSE another easier story. Type “easy”, “beginner”, “facile”, “upper beginner”, “débutant”, “débutant avancé”… in the search box and look for another story.

Remember: PAS DE PANIQUE ! Stay calm, accept, breathe, acquire.


Happy French acquisition!

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it!

P.P.S. I am recording a new audio book! In partnership with Theresa Marrama, Une disparition mystérieuse will be available soon to listen to on the membership area. You will discover a mystery that has haunted the marshes of Louisiana for years! Because Louisiana used to be a French state. STAY TUNED!

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