How To learn French For French Intermediate Level (B1, B2)

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Do you feel frustrated? Or fear your French level has regressed? Follow my tips for intermediate French learners in need of sound advice and a little pick me up.

Consolidate Your Intermediate French Knowledge

As an intermediate French student, your goals should be to:

  • Get over your fear of speaking
  • Understand longer conversations
  • Consolidate your grammatical structure and vocabulary
  • Master the French tenses

Beginner’s Bliss, French Intermediate’s Frustration

Many intermediate French speakers are very hard on themselves.

You are over the “beginner’s bliss” period when every new word felt like a leap forward in your French language journey, and made you feel like a million bucks.

It’s typical for intermediate students to feel frustrated. You may even feel that your French level has regressed: “I can’t speak French anymore”. “I freeze when I try to speak French“… Sound familiar?

This is quite normal. Now that you know more French, you have higher expectations: the mistakes you make stand out to you, and it’s annoying.

You are no longer saying the first thing that comes to mind: you are no longer satisfied to communicate basic info, but you want to engage in longer conversations, show your wit a little…

You also get frustrated because more often than not, you don’t quite understand everything the French are saying. Especially on the phone, or if several people are speaking at once.

Instead of focusing on the negative, look at all you’ve achieved so far and pat yourself on the back. You do understand much more, don’t you? It’s astonishing the number of things you can actually say!

You are indeed on your way to fluency, but you are not quite there yet. There are still a few steps to climb.

Follow my tips, and you’ll get there!

Many schools follow the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR): it is an international standard for describing language ability. It’s commonly used to describe learners’ language skills, and the program you need to cover to pass exams. You will find more about it on Wikipedia.

French Today’s approach is unique. The À Moi Paris method progresses differently than the traditional methods, in particular regarding tenses and moods. So this is not a perfect match with the CEFR. Read my article to see which French Today’s audiobook level approximately corresponds to which CEFR level.

Unique Audio-Based
Modern French Level Test

20 Questions to REALLY test your modern French comprehension. All audio-based with full explanations. Completely free, no signup required

Let’s Start…

Here are my tips to best learn French as a self-learning intermediate student of French, learning French for his/her own benefit, not just to pass written tests.

How To Learn French As A Low Intermediate student (Levels A2, B1)

To be able to understand more, and express yourself better, you need to really dig into French grammar, and master:

  1. all the French pronouns, including direct & indirect object pronouns, y and en and their modern glided pronunciation
  2. expressing possession & possessive adjectives
  3. demonstrative & interrogative adjectives
  4. possessive & demonstrative pronouns
  5. comparative & superlative
  6. adverbs and their place in the sentence, etc…

The method you choose should first explain all these concepts in English, and then clearly explain how you express them in French, give you plenty of in-context examples which you could re-use in real life, and of course, drill with many exercises.

I suggest you take a look at my low intermediate French audio method À Moi Paris to master all these grammatical concepts and more, learn a lot of intermediate vocabulary and the correct pronunciation in context.

À Moi Paris Audiobook Method

A new approach to learning both traditional and modern French logically structured for English speakers.

(836 Reviews)

More Details & Audio Samples

Understand & Ask Questions Fast in French

Asking questions is the base of French conversation. It’s essential that you understand questions fast, and that you are able to ask questions yourself without putting too much effort into it.

As an intermediate student, you should be able to switch between the “est-ce que”, the formal inversion and the common street French ways of asking questions with ease.

You must also know by heart all the interrogative expressions: the common ones such as “qui” and “comment”, but also the more complex ones such as “jusqu’à où” or “à partir de quand”, and the interrogative pronouns “duquel, lequel, auquel, etc…”

Each level of the French Today audiobook method features a recorded Q&A section to help you understand questions faster and practice your French out-loud.

How To Understand The French When They Speak

When the French talk to a beginner who can only say a few words, they slow down and also enunciate everything. As soon as you become an intermediate speaker, they sort you in the “can speak French” category, and they won’t sugar coat it for you anymore.

So as an intermediate speaker of French, it’s essential that you understand both traditional, more enunciated French pronunciation – like a typical news TV host would speak – but also the more casual French language everybody uses in a casual environment.

This means understanding idioms, some common slang expressions, even a few bad words (usually, students are already well aware of these!)

What throws them off is the fact that the French apply lots of “glidings” when they speak. For example, the “ne” part of the negation is often silent. Or “il n’y a pas de” is pronounced “yapad”.

The French word order may also be affected:

  1. “Tu fais quoi ?” instead of “qu’est-ce que tu fais ?” or “que fais-tu ?”.
  2. “Elle habite à Paris ta mère, non ?” instead of “ta mère habite à Paris, n’est-ce pas ?”

If you only studied with books, you would never know that.

Furthermore, most audio methods only cover traditional French, and feature speakers who separate every word super clearly, and would never dream of teaching the actual “street French” you now hear in France.

“The spoken French taught in American classrooms is a fiction, based on ideas about how people should speak, not on how they do speak”
Waugh & Fonseca-Greber – University of Arizona

Therefore, each chapter of the story of my intermediate French audiobooks are recorded in 2 different ways:

  1. A slower version where I enunciate every sentence very clearly,
  2. A faster version where I speak like French natives would actually speak casually in the street nowadays.

An Intermediate French Level Challenge: Mastering the French Tenses

Once you are familiar with your pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, questions etc… And can handle a simple yet longer interaction in French, it’s time to learn your French tenses.

Please, watch out though: learning the French verb forms before you’ve actually understood when to use the tenses is absolutely useless.

I’ve heard countless intermediate students who had no idea how to use “imparfait” versus “passé-composé”, and pretty much messed up every single verb in their sentence.

The students surely had spent countless hours studying their French verb conjugations, unfortunately, mixing up all the tenses made them really difficult to understand. It would have been much easier if they stuck with the present tense and used keywords like “last week” or “two years ago”.

So, to master your French tenses, you need to learn from a method which:

  1. points out the differences and similarities of how we use the different tenses in French and in English.
  2. explains the construction of the different French tenses
  3. doesn’t forget to include everything relevant to the correct use of the tense (such as object pronouns when you study “passé-composé”, or when we use “être” or “avoir”)
  4. teaches you the correct pronunciation of the tenses
  5. and mostly, give you plenty of practice: with examples you could actually re-use in real life, and also in the context of a story.

In À Moi Paris Method – Upper Intermediate, you’ll learn the French tenses of the future and the past. I’ve written this audio method with the intermediate student in mind, and insisted on what is particularly difficult to understand for English speakers.

The clear explanations are illustrated by a bilingual story, which really helps to understand the use of the tenses in context. With French Today’s free French app, you can easily hide the English translation.

À Moi Paris Audiobook Method

A new approach to learning both traditional and modern French logically structured for English speakers.

(836 Reviews)

More Details & Audio Samples

Learn Different Ways To Say The Same Thing

For French beginners my advice was: “learn to simplify your sentence”, “focus on the most useful French vocabulary”…

As an intermediate speaker of French, you’re not going to be satisfied with this any longer. You need to absorb a lot of vocabulary so you can understand more, and talk about everything: no longer just say a few words to get by or show you are trying, but actually, engage into whole conversations in French.

The best way to achieve this goal is to learn French in context. When you learn vocabulary in a sentence, in the context of a story, you’ll link a whole bunch of information together: the new vocabulary, but also the prepositions, the verb, the tense you used in that sentence.

Because you imagine the scene, you’ll remember the info much longer. Learning French in context is much more efficient than learning long lists of vocabulary.

There is no better way to implement the new grammatical structures you’ve been studying and develop reflexes when you speak.

French Today’s audiobooks will naturally help you:

  1. review everything you’ve learned until now,
  2. illustrate all the intermediate points of grammar,
  3. help you learn the tenses in context.

They also feature a ton of useful vocabulary, idioms, expressions… and expose you to modern French: the real French language people use nowadays.

À Moi Paris Method – Upper Intermediate actually bridges the gap between a lower intermediate level of French (B1) and higher intermediate French (B2), featuring longer, more complex yet reachable French dialogues and advanced vocabulary themes.

On each of my audiobook pages, you’ll find audio samples and a table of content so you can see what is covered in the audiobook. Don’t forget our free French learning app, a great tool to study with our audiobooks on the go.

So, now that you are on your way to fluency, remember to:

  1. keep a positive attitude: you are not fluent yet, you are not regressing either: you just have higher expectations, and it’s easy to get frustrated,
  2. dig into French grammar: learn your pronouns, adjectives, complex questions, adverbs etc…
  3. truly master both traditional and modern glided French pronunciation,
  4. conquer the French tenses: first understand when we use the different tenses, then drill on your French verb conjugations.
Unique Audio-Based
Modern French Level Test

20 Questions to REALLY test your modern French comprehension. All audio-based with full explanations. Completely free, no signup required

Let’s Start…

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

More Articles from Camille Chevalier-Karfis


🎁 2.5 Hours French Audiobook - 100% Free / Keep Forever 🎁

Recorded at 3 different speeds + Study Guide + Q&A + Full Transcript

Item added to cart.
0 items - CA$0.00

Can You Understand Today’s Spoken French?

It’s not just slang. The French everybody speaks in France today is NOT the overly enunciated, extremely formal French usually taught to foreigners.