9 tips to learn how to think in French

Updated: April 24, 2021 by Mylene in Guides and Tips  ▪  

how to think in french france flag human illustration

Stop translating in your head. Instead, train your brain to think in French. Check these tips to learn how to start thinking in French from today.

How to start thinking in French?

Thinking in French is an important step in developing fluency. The nice thing is that you can practice at any time you want. It’s a personal thing because nobody knows your thoughts.

To be fluent, it will take more than just listening to tapes, working with a coach, or immersing yourself in the French culture.

In this article, we’ll give 9 tips and strategies to start thinking in French:

  1. Look around you
  2. Describe
  3. Imagine a conversation
  4. Use monolingual dictionaries
  5. Learn Expressions and sentences
  6. Change one thing
  7. Do something you like
  8. Recap your day
  9. Keep track

How to think in French? (video)

Learning to think in French is an important step towards fluency. It is a process that takes time like when you learn French grammar or French vocabulary. 

To get the 9 tips that you need in order to start thinking in French watch this video Thinking In French: A Step Towards Fluency | 9 Tips You Need.

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Be sure to watch the video on how to think in French and leave a comment. To follow more updates, subscribe to the YouTube channel and follow me on Instagram.

Thinking In French: A Step Towards Fluency​

1. Look around you

Look around you and start naming the things that you can. For example écran (screen), chaise (chair), stylo (pen). Try to name 10 things in French. You might just be surprised at how much you actually know! If it’s a challenge for you, spend some time on object naming. 

Every time you’re in a new room, a new space, or in the street, take a few seconds to name things that you see in French. Take note of words that you don’t know, look them up, and learn them.

2. Describe

The next step is to think in simple sentences: subject + verb and adjective. Be a little more detailed, like:

  • l’écran est devant moi (the screen is in front of me)
  • la chaise est grande (the chair is big)
  • le stylo ne fonctionne plus (the pen isn’t working anymore).

Look around the room, up and down the street, wherever you are.

Challenge yourself! If the correct word for stylo isn’t coming to you, think:

  • crayon
  • feutre
  • quelque chose pour écrire
  • or anything else that can describe it.

If you think of a sentence word by word in your own language don’t try translating it into French. Remember, the logical flow of words in your native though won’t sound well in French.

3. Imagine a conversation

Try to have a conversation with yourself.

For example, I’m thinking through the conversation I’m going to have with my colleague today, telling her why I need to change my schedule. Stating your reasons in French is an opportunity to practice the work-related vocabulary, the vocabulary of dayparts and time in French, and the agreement and disagreement vocabulary, among many other topics.

When you’re thinking of something to say, you have to start with the main elements of the sentence: the subject and the verb. Then, it will be easy for you to build the structure upon that foundation. Do it every day. You just need to have a simple conversation for two minutes every day.

4. Use monolingual dictionaries

If there’s something you can’t describe, look up the words you need in a dictionary, and memorize it. Memorize that phrase.

Instead of using a dictionary that translates the words into your native language, find a descriptive dictionary, which gives you interpretations and helps you understand the words from context in French. 

You need to train your mind to work in French mode rather than translation mode.

5. Learn expressions and sentences

The structure of your native language is different from the structure of French. So do not try to translate word for word but say sentences globally. You have to focus on the idea, the content, and not think of all the grammar rules.

For example, learn sentences or phrases like “il fait beau aujourd’hui” (the weather is nice today). The more the days will pass and the less you will think about these words.

It’s no secret that certain words are more valuable than others, mainly because they’re used more frequently. Be selective and learn the most used words in French!

6. Change one thing

Change at least one of your everyday life things to French.  Here are some ideas that you can easily switch to French today:

  • Switch your calendar to French.
  • To-do lists
  • A grocery list.
  • Write your journal in French
  • Phone settings
  • Internet settings
  • Read a newspaper in French
  • Change your apps to French
  • A recipe

7. Do something you like

Choose something you like and do it only in French. It can be following:

  • a cooking recipe
  • a sports session in French.

This will stimulate you because you like to cook or you like sports and in addition, you will learn new vocabulary in French.

8. Recap your day in French

You can do it every night after you lay down for bed, but before you fall asleep. Recap your day in French. It must become a routine and you’ll never forget doing it every day.

9. Keep track

The ideal is to be able to follow all of your efforts. I invite you to cross your calendar on the fridge or on your phone (there are many habit tracking apps that you can us). The goal is to train your brain a little bit every day. Learning a language is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And it’s more stimulating to see your progress and all the work you’ve done.

Infographic on how to think in French

Pick one or more of these suggestions and start using them whenever it’s appropriate based on your situation and the context you are in. These steps are summarized in the infographic below. To check more tips on how to learn French better check the following article: How to Learn French Better: 5 Keys for Success

infographic 9 tips to think in french


Despite the myriad challenges French learners often face, this article provides new ideas for regularly practicing French. There are plenty of other ways that you can adopt to think in French on a daily basis. The ideas in this article are intended to be simple and easy to implement.

Regardless of how you learn French, taking the previously mentioned tips is one of the most effective ways to boost your French learning. If you’d like to get more tips, follow Master Your French on YouTube.

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2 Responses to “9 tips to learn how to think in French”

    May 9, 2023 at 10:41 pm


    • Mylene Raad
      May 18, 2023 at 9:26 pm

      Hello! Thank you for the comment. A très bientôt!

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