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Guide to Improving Your Finnish Conversation Skills

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Have you ever started a conversation, fully trained and prepared, only to blurt out a bunch of inarticulate words? Or have you ever asked a beautifully phrased question, but when the other person answered, you couldn’t make anything out of it?

This guide will teach you all the French words and phrases to improve your conversation skills, not just general French-speaking skills but specifically how to deal with French conversations: It all starts with making your own unique conversation “cheat sheet”, then identifying the words and sentences YOU need the most.

The Art of conversation is one you can’t learn from academic teaching, books, and French vocabulary lists. You need to learn about specific ‘oral’ tricks such as filler words, reaction phrases, or conversation starters. 

Once you’ve got it all lined up, there will be nothing stopping you from making new friends among French native speakers and starting conversations with fellow students, coworkers, or random strangers, allowing you to learn to speak French much faster.

Four Friends Chatting with Coffee Beverages

Discuter entre amis (“To chat with friends”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Make Your Own Conversation Cheat Sheet
  2. French Reactions Words and Expressions
  3. French Filler Words
  4. Questions and Answers
  5. French Conversation Starters
  6. Bonus: 4 Tips to Improve your Conversation Skills
  7. Le mot de la fin

1. Make Your Own Conversation Cheat Sheet

1- What’s a cheat sheet?

A conversation cheat sheet It’s a list of words, phrases, and conversation lines that are relevant to YOU.

There is no one-size-fits-all ready-made cheat sheet that you’d find online, and you certainly won’t find one in this article. We’re talking about something personal that you will assemble based on your background, age, lifestyle, and interests.

2- Why would I need one?

We all introduce ourselves and talk about ourselves when meeting new people. There is a reason why writing a self-introduction is typically one of the first things you should do when you start learning a new language. 

But it doesn’t stop there! Being able to answer questions about your story, hobbies, and what motivates you to learn the language will go a long way in building relationships. 

Not only will it make the conversation smoother if you’re already prepared and know the vocabulary that’s relevant to what you have to say, but it will also make you more confident when meeting people: confident in your ability to answer personal questions.

3- How do I make one?

Every conversation cheat sheet is unique. If you’re 40 years old, with family and kids, working toward buying your house, and a lover of electronic music, your conversation cheat will be very different from a 20 years old photography student who loves traveling and watching horror movies.

You can start with writing your own self-introduction, then quickly write about your hobbies and interests. Here are a few examples of how it could look like:

Bonjour, je m’appelle Jack, je suis Irlandais et j’ai 32 ans. En ce moment, j’étudie la psychologie à l’université de la Sorbonne. Avant ça, j’ai habité au Japon pendant 5 ans, où j’étais programmeur. J’aime les films de science fiction, cuisiner, et jouer de la guitare.
“Hello, my name is Jack, I’m Irish and I’m 32 years old. At the moment, I’m studying psychology at the Sorbonne university. Before that, I lived in Japan for 5 years, where I worked as a programmer. I love science fiction movies, cooking, and playing guitar.”

Then, you can elaborate on individual parts and imagine how you would answer specific questions by gathering phrases and words specifically tailored to your needs:

  • Je vis à Paris depuis deux ans. (“I’ve been living in Paris for 2 years.”)
  • Je suis parti au Japon en 2012. (“I have left for Japan in 2012.”)
  • J’avais envie de découvrir de nouveaux pays. (“I wanted to discover new countries.”)

  • Une reconversion (“A career change”)
  • Reprendre mes études (“To resume my studies”)
  • Cinq ans d’études (“Five years of studies.”)

  • Aller au cinéma (“To go to the movies”)
  • Mon film préféré est Blade Runner (“My favorite movie is Blade Runner.”)
  • Un directeur photo (“A director of photography”)

  • J’ai appris à jouer quand j’étais petit. (“I learned how to play when I was little.”)
  • Une guitare électrique (“An electric guitar”)
  • Jouer de la basse (“To play bass”)

4- Getting off to a good start

If you’re a beginner, this might look like a daunting task, but it’s not! There are plenty of resources you can use, depending on your level:

  1. Online translators are still carrying a bad reputation, but nowadays, they’re truly doing wonders. They can occasionally struggle with slang and idiomatic expressions, but for your first draft, they’ll do just fine. Google translate is the most popular option, but I’d personally recommend DeepL.

  2. Other online tools such as Reverso context can help you with idioms and expressions. They’re really not flawless but still a nice resource to tap into.

  3. FrenchPod101 has tons of free content, blog articles, and vocabulary lists you can use. The lists are especially useful if you’re looking for a specific topic, as they’ll provide sentences and vocabulary that suit your specific needs. For example, if you’re a law student, you can check this one out.

  4. A personal teacher is the ultimate weapon for learning fast and hard. Your teacher can guide you through the process of writing your conversation cheat sheet and fix any tiny mistakes. Be sure to check our private coaching service from our Premium PLUS offer.

A Woman Taking Notes

You can start your French conversation sheet anytime!

2. French Reactions Words and Expressions

Have you ever talked to someone who remained completely silent until it got awkward and you couldn’t tell if they were still paying attention? This is what reaction words and expressions are meant to prevent.

In this chapter, let’s see how to react to a statement by expressing excitement, curiosity, annoyance, or disbelief. It will help make your conversations smoother and more lively, as well avoiding awkward silences that would make the other person uncomfortable.

That’s Great!

Q: Je prends des cours de guitare. (“I take guitar lessons.”)

A: C’est cool, moi aussi ! (“That’s great, me too!”)
A: Génial ! Tu prends des cours particuliers ? (“Amazing! Are you taking private lessons?”)

I’m sorry…

Q: Elle est allergique aux produits laitiers. (“She’s allergic to dairy products.”)

A: Oh, désolé, je ne savais pas. (“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know.”)

Unbelievable!

Q: Je n’aime pas le chocolat. (“I don’t like chocolate.”)

A: Sérieusement ? (“Seriously?”) [Formal or Casual]
A: C’est pas vrai ! (“No way!”) [Formal or Casual]
A: Tu rigoles ? (“Are you kidding?”) [Casual]

That’s too bad

Q: Je dois annuler mes vacances. (“I have to cancel my vacations.”)

A: Oh, c’est dommage. (“Oh, that’s a shame.”) [Formal or Casual]
A: Ah, c’est nul ! (“Ah, that sucks!”) [Mainly Casual]

Keep me updated!

Q: Je ne pense pas pouvoir terminer à temps. (“I don’t think I can finish in time.”)

A: OK, tiens-moi au courant ! (“Alright, keep me posted!”) [Casual]
A: OK, tenez-moi au courant ! (“Alright, keep me posted!”) [Formal]


A Guy Expressing Victory

C’est génial ! (“That’s great!”)

3. French Filler Words

Now that you have the foundations of your conversation sheet, let’s change the tempo and talk about something slightly weirder. Academic studies can prepare you for many things, but when you start a real conversation, you’ll hear a lot of strange sounds and words that don’t ring any bells.

French Filler words are these short useless sounds and words that locals use to fill the gaps. They exist in every language I know, and you don’t necessarily have to use them unless you want to sound genuinely local. However, learning about them so you can filter them out is very important.

Here are some of the most common French filler words:

French: Euh…English equivalent: “Uh…”
Je voudrais une baguette et, euh… du lait. (“I would like to buy a baguette and, uh… some milk.”)
Euh… je ne sais pas par quoi commencer. (“Uh… I don’t know where to start.”)

French: BahEnglish equivalent: “Well”
Q: Tu reprendras du vin ? (“Will you have more wine?”)

A: Bah bien sûr ! (“Well of course!”)
A: Du vin ? Bah… je ne peux pas, je conduis. (“Wine? Well… I can’t, I’m driving.”)

French: En faitEnglish equivalent: “Actually”
En fait, j’y mange tous les samedis. (“Actually, I eat there every Saturday.”)
J’y suis allé mais en fait, c’était trop tard. (“I went there but actually, it was too late.”)

French: BonEnglish equivalent: “Well” or “So”
Bon, qu’est-ce que t’en penses ? (“So, what do you think?”)
Bon, on y va ? (“Well, shall we go?”)

French: Tu voisEnglish equivalent: “You know” or “You see”
C’est pas facile, tu vois. (“It’s not easy, you know.”)
Je veux juste lui parler, tu vois. (“I just want to talk to him, you see.”)

    ➜ For more words, example sentences, and how to use them in your conversations, make sure to stop by our blog article on Filler Words on FrenchPod101.

A Woman Unsure of What to Say

Euh… je ne sais pas quoi dire. (“Hu… I don’t know what to say.”)

4. Questions and Answers

We literally spend our days asking questions and answering them. This is truly the bread and butter of human interaction. That’s how we learn about each other, how we organize our lives, and how we gain insight into all sorts of things.

Do you already know the golden rules of French questions: what are the 3 French question patterns, as well as the most important question words? If you need a refresher, head to our complete article on Questions & Answers on FrenchPod101.

Otherwise, let’s dive into it and have a look at some common questions and answers you might want to add to your conversation sheet. Once again, you should pick sentences that feel relevant to your personal story and interests.

“Where are you from?”

Q: Tu viens d’où ? [Casual]
Q: Vous venez d’où ? [Formal]

A: Je viens de Colombie. (“I’m from Colombia.”)
A: Je suis Colombienne. (“I’m Colombian.”)

“Do you speak English?”

Q: Tu parles anglais ? [Casual]
Q: Vous parlez anglais ? [Formal]

A: Je parle un peu anglais. (“I speak English a little.”)
A: Je parle anglais couramment (“I speak English fluently.”)

“What do you study?”

Q: Tu étudies quoi ? [Casual]
Q: Vous étudiez quoi ? [Formal]

A: Je fais des études de psychologie. (“I study psychology.”)
A: J’étudie la photographie. (“I’m studying photography.”)

“What kind of music do you like?”

Q: Tu aimes quel genre de musique ? [Casual]
Q: Vous aimez quel genre de musique ? [Formal]

A: J’aime la musique classique. (“I love classical music.”)
A: J’écoute surtout du métal progressif. (“I mostly listen to progressive metal.”)

“What’s your job?”

Q: Tu bosses dans quoi ? [Casual]
Q: Vous travaillez dans quoi ? [Formal]

A: Je suis plombier. (“I’m a plumber.”)
A: Je travaille dans l’informatique. (“I work in IT.”)

A Woman Holding a Map while Traveling

Vous parlez anglais ? (“Do you speak English?”)

5. French Conversation Starters

Unless you’re a social animal, it’s not always obvious to start a conversation with random strangers. It gets a little easier when you’re among fellow students, coworkers, or friends of friends, but you’ll still have to come up with a good opening line.

Starting a conversation in a foreign language adds another layer of complexity, but it definitely helps if you’re well prepared. Add some good conversation starters to your cheat sheet, and you’ll be just fine!

Here are a few examples for various situations:

  • Je vais reprendre un verre, je te prends quelque chose ?
    “I’m going for another drink. Can I get you something?”

  • Comment ça va depuis la dernière fois ?
    “How is it going since the last time?”

  • Tu travailles ici depuis combien de temps ?
    “For how long have you been working here?”

  • Tu as bientôt des examens ?
    “Are you having exams soon?”

  • Tu fais quoi de tes soirées, habituellement ?
    “What do you usually do in the evening?”
    ➜ There are countless conversation starters for every situation: strangers, people you already know, colleagues, schoolmates, romantic dates. For many more examples, you could stop by our full guide on Conversation Starters on FrenchPod101.

Bonus: 4 Tips to Improve your Conversation Skills

1- Use every opportunity to practice

Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious. But seriously, you’d be surprised how many students keep stacking up on grammar and vocabulary “until they’re ready” but never use it in a real-life situation. 

The truth is: you don’t need more than little basics to get out there and talk to someone. It might not go spectacularly far, but you’ll learn more about conversations in a minute of real conversation than during one hour of traditional studies.

Traveling, language meet-ups, or online chats are all valid ways to practice, as long as you get to talk to a native speaker and experiment on what you’ve learned. You can also repeat what you hear, talk to your mirror, or to your pet: whatever floats your boat as long as you speak up!

2- Grammar and vocabulary are overrated

Like I just said, you don’t need that much grammar and vocabulary and you should not get too obsessed with accumulating abstract knowledge or gobbling up any random vocabulary list.

Instead, I’d recommend that you aim for quality over quantity: pick the topics that you need, get some basics and immediately start practicing by any means necessary. If you can’t use it right away in a conversation, then build sentences, read them out loud, rephrase and repeat. Instead of learning new words, you can often mix up what you already know and make new phrases out of it.

3- Get as much exposure as possible

If you’ve been reading this blog before, you may have read this mantra a few times already, but I’ll keep repeating it: exposure is everything. Listen to French podcasts and music, watch French movies, read French books, and make French friends.

Exposure will help you learn the language without it feeling like tedious work. It will solidify everything you’re learning, as you’ll get to experience words and structures in their ‘natural habitat’ and not just in grammar lessons. 

Sure, you’ll need some basics before you can get started, but there’s no need to wait for too long: recordings can be slowed down, and videos can be subtitled.

4- Get some feedback

Practicing is one thing, but getting valuable feedback is even better. Without feedback, we always run the risk of getting stuck in our mistakes and never being able to spot and correct them.

Finding a language partner (online or in person) is one way to go. If your partner is interested in your native language, you’ll both benefit from the relationship, and it could quickly flourish into a lasting friendship.

Languages coaches are also very effective, as a private teacher will be able to set you on the right path, guide you toward fluency and correct your grammar mistakes or your pronunciation. You can likely find private teachers or classroom-based sessions in your area or subscribe to an online service such as our Premium PLUS coaching on FrenchPod101.

A Woman Standing in Front of a Bathroom Mirror in Her Pajamas

Elle parle à son miroir. (“She talks to her mirror.”)

Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you have learned how to improve your French-speaking skills. It all starts with making your own cheat sheet, then learning about various types of words and expressions specific to conversations: filler words, reaction phrases, questions, and answers.

On top of our bonus tips to improve your conversation skills, FrenchPod101 has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and Free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your own private teacher to practice with BLEP words and more. 

Along with assignments, personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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