Having a conversation in France can be quite disturbing the first time.
You went through the process of learning French at school, you have been able to master some vocabulary that should allow you to have a correct level of communication. Your understanding of the way verb tenses is not excellent but quite good enough to make sure people will understand you.
Understanding French people speaking: a challenge
Now you feel you have the tools to have a conversation with a group of French people.
You came to meet them with a certain level of confidence, and at the very moment they opened their mouth, you understood that you won’t be able to follow the conversation.
The speed, the vocabulary, even some accents you never heard of, all of that combined dragged you into despair.
“Why do they speak so quickly ?”
“I have NEVER heard that word before.”
“Are they kidding me ? This must be a joke !”
You just met the gap between “learning French” and “living French”. Spending time in a French language school in France is what you need to fill in that gap. French courses in France is what will allow you to learn French in total immersion, on an English-free environment. Not being able to use your natural mother tongue is so fundamental to push your brain to switch your brain to “French mode”. At the beginning, following a conversation in French is not easy, but there are a few mistakes you should not make to avoid any frustration.
Speaking French fluently, a matter of self confidence
The most important advice is not to try to understand every word. If you get stuck on one word, keep on listening to the rest of the conversation and just get the general meaning. This meaning is the most important aspect of communication, and moreover, this understanding of the phrase, just like a boomerang, will allow you to get back to that word and getting a comprehension of what it meant, thanks to the context.
Once you are more relaxed about what you comprehend, your will be able to unleash your French language skills.