Hi there! I was wondering what kind of French classes you took/take (in school, outside of school, online, etc.) because I'm an anglophone who's been taking French in school for four years, but I'm nowhere near your skill level. Thanks :)
Prepare yourself because this is going to be a LONG post!
So I started French almost three years ago at university and my first two years were just French 101, 102, 201, and 202 - the basic sequence at the college level. If you’re American, this roughly translates to four years of high school French.
At the end of that, which was about a year ago, I had done extremely well in my classes but I still wasn’t happy with my level of French. I basically have my summers off, so I decided to spend that time really getting into French. I tried a LOT of techniques and some of my favorites can be found on my Masterpost, which I’ll reblog for you but which is also found on my homepage.
One of the first things I did was improve my pronunciation with Introduction to French Phonology, which is produced by US government for soon-to-be diplomats heading to a francophone country. It’s very boring, but extraordinarily effective for helping with pronunciation. (It’s a public course, and you’ll need the textbook and the tapes - both can be found on the site I linked but if you google the title you’ll find it hosted in a lot of places.)
This was around the same time that I got more into Tumblr. On here, I started following a lot of francophones and people who blog quotes and writing in French. (search “citation” or “français” and you’ll find a lot). Every morning I got up, scrolled through my feed, and made a list of maybe 20-30 words I didn’t know and looked up the translations. I then made flashcards out of those words in Ankidroid, an flashcard app on Android (dunno if it’s on iOS) and reviewed them from time to time (maybe 4 times a week).
Also on my phone I downloaded Memrise and started doing the course Advanced French (there are 3 parts) which introduced me to a lot of cool and useful words and phrases that are used commonly in France. There are other “Advanced French” courses on Memrise that are probably also good, but I can only vouch for that one personally.
I wrote something small almost every day, either in my journal or as a private entry here on Tumblr. Sometimes, I submitted those things to Lang-8, where it would be corrected by native speakers.
I watched a lot of movies and television shows in French - sometimes with subtitles, but I tried to do without when I could. There are millions of recommendations out there but I’ll highlight the following things: you can watch shows from Canal+ here (I like Le Petit Journal et Le Chiffroscope) and on Netflix there is a show called Les Revenants that is creepy but addicting.
I also watched a lot of Youtube - some of my favorite channels for learning are Easy Languages - French, and silly things like Bref (a little more advanced) and Parole de Chat. The nice thing about Youtube (obviously) is they’ll give you a lot of recommendations in the sidebar and you’ll probably discover your own channels that you like.
On Facebook, I started following a couple French news sources like Courrier International and Le Monde and I tried to read a couple articles every day. This is a pretty common tactic and it’s good, but try not to focus too much on news because I have found that everyday French and news French are pretty different.
Books: I read Le Petit Prince on my Kindle and I downloaded some pdfs of books in French that are recommended as easy for non-native speakers. I also read the first Harry Potter in French (can’t find a link right now, but it’s floating around on line). The site FluentU does some good blog posts about books, and if you search “french edition” in the Kindle store you’ll find some kids books and stuff.
When school started up again, I was in another intermediate level French class that kind of mixed literature and grammar/vocab. We read L’Etranger (not my favorite but pretty easy to understand and obviously a classic) and part of a book by Marc Levy called Le Voleur D’Ombres. That one is more modern and fairly easy to understand as well.
I listened to a LOT of radio and podcasts. I walk to and from school and it’s about 2 miles, so I had a lot of time to listen! If you have a smartphone, download the TuneIn app and search “france”. Some of the my favorite channels for listening were RFI and France Inter - both do news and features with guest speakers, which is good because it will expose you to a lot of different accents and voices. Sometimes you’ll find you understand someone very well, and sometimes you won’t be able to understand a word, and it’s more based on the speaker than the content or level of French, so it’s very good experience.
For podcasts, I liked Native French Speech (weekly conversations about different topics in French - usually something relating to France so you’ll also learn a lot about culture, history and geography) and News in Slow French, although for the whole content you have to pay and I’m not wild about that. Both are available on iTunes.
Lastly, I made a close friend this year who is French and there is no resource like having a native speaker friend. We have lunch at least once a week and we talk for an hour or maybe two in French, and we spent a week together on vacation and spoke in French about half the time. If you can find a way to have regular conversations with a native speaker, do it - but I don’t harp too much on this point because I have an incredibly hard time with new people and I know a lot of others do as well. It was just serendipitous that I made a good friend this year who is French.
To conclude, I’ll give some short and sweet advice:
French is a common language for Anglophones to be learning so there are a TON of class-type resources out there on the Internet and in bookstores. But honestly, they’re all at at a similar level, and you won’t necessarily advance very much with something like Living Language or LiveMocha if you already have an intermediate vocabulary, understand and can form all the verb tenses and know grammar decently well. That’s the level a lot of class sequences try to get you to. Same with Youtube channels titled things like “Learn French with so-and-so.” Many are fantastic for beginners, but in order to make the jump from intermediate to advanced, you have to just sink yourself into real spoken and written French as much as possible. (Note: I’m not at all familiar with your skill level but I assume you’ve spent the last four years focusing on grammar and vocab. If you’re still weak on those things, then Living Language tends to be a good resource as well as things like Duolingo.)
I hope this helped! Please feel free to ask if you have any more questions.