For our online conference last year, we were thrilled to have Charlie & Maïa from the YouTube channel Street French as our keynote speakers. This past week, we had a chance to interview them about their story, their advice for French learners, and how language learning is a never-ending journey.
French in DC: How did the two of you meet?
Charlie and Maïa: We met through the website Couchsurfing. Charlie was visiting Paris for a month in 2013 with the idea of meeting French people there, making friends and practicing his French. He messaged a lot of people on Couchsurfing to meet up and show him around and Maïa was the only one who answered.
French in DC: When did you create Street French?
Charlie and Maïa: We created Street French in June 2016.
French in DC: What made you want to create Street French?
Charlie and Maïa: We were both giving private French lessons before we even met and we saw how much progress people would make by focusing on practicing speaking. We were heartbroken at the idea that some students would spend up to 5 or 8 years learning French and still wouldn’t be able to have a simple conversation. Charlie had then the idea of writing a book and making videos about what really helped him to learn French and to be able to use it in real life situations.
French in DC: What do you like most about teaching French? Why is it important to learn how to speak French in a casual setting, as opposed to more formal situations you might find in a classroom / textbook?
Charlie and Maïa: What we love most is bringing value to people’s lives, making them feel more confident with their French level, teaching them to be more proactive in their language journey and then seeing them get excited and sharing experiences they’ve had or people they’ve met. We also love to teach cultural context behind certain words and expressions : How we would say something, in what situation, how else you could say that, etc.
As a bonus, we get to meet really great and interesting people!
When it comes to why it’s important to learn casual French, it helps a lot to understand the culture and make friends. Usually it’s so much easier to connect with someone if they see that you maybe have a stronger accent but that you speak more like a native and you’re using common vocabulary, expressions, sentence structure, etc. The opposite can sometimes create awkward situations. It also allows the students to express themselves in French like they would in their native language because they might use a lot of slang with their friends and family so speaking really formally all the time in French wouldn’t make sense for them.
French in DC: Tell us about your French E-Courses.
Charlie and Maïa: We’ve carefully selected specific tenses and grammar concepts you need to be able to speak French and that French people actually use in their everyday life for our main e-Course “Zero to French’’. It also incorporates all the different e-Books and e-Courses we’ve created over the years.
We go over the basics, teach past/present/future tenses you need, share an interesting Word Map concepts that Charlie came up with that helps any beginner to start making simple sentences. We give you some cultural concepts about interacting with people and go over more complex concepts too.
Then, we also teach you how and why to practice on your own and where to meet French speakers to practice with. We definitely believe that learning (in a classroom or with our e-Course) should be paired with putting yourself out there and practicing the language in real life situations as much as possible!
French in DC: We saw on your website that you sell these adorable Lion à vélo stickers – we bet there’s a story behind that! How did you come up with that design?
Ah that’s funny! Charlie has quite a wild imagination and would always talk about animals and the lion kind of represents Charlie coming to France and making new friends. He’s still our mascot, though we’ve been adding some new animals to the pack over the years.
French in DC: Do you connect with other French teachers outside of Paris – is there a network, for example?
Charlie and Maïa: Instagram is definitely our main network. We interact with a few other French teaching accounts, we support each other and shout each other out sometimes.
We also get contacted by French academic teachers from all over the world with specific cultural questions. They enjoy that we share current events and media French people actually watch today. They’ve told us that we are their French source when they have questions about the evolution of the French language, such as the use of non-binary pronouns or with the feminine form of certain job titles, etc.
(Here’s a blog we made about non-binary pronouns in French) :
French in DC: French pronunciation (and learning the language in general) can be pretty tricky for non-native French speakers. Any tips you would give on how to improve your speaking?
Charlie and Maïa: Students usually need to slow down when they speak because if they can’t pronounce something well slowly, they definitely won’t be able to do it when speaking quickly. That’s the main issue we see when it comes to pronunciation. It can be slow and tedious, but there’s just no other way to get better at it, you have to take things slow in the beginning.
It’s also really important to study French phonetics, we have a video series on that on our youtube channel:
When you watch videos on Youtube you can slow them down and really practice and pay attention to how French native people pronounce certain things. You can also record yourself pronouncing certain words as well and compare.
It’s about a lot of repetition/practice, knowing it takes a long time, accepting that you might never sound a 100% like a native speaker, understanding that pronunciation is not THE main goal and remembering that it’s more important to be able to hold a conversation than to say a word perfectly. We see so many people being so self-conscious about their pronunciation that they don’t allow themselves to speak French at all because of it, which is really sad.
French in DC: Some French language learners have faced challenges with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as not being able to afford lessons and not being able to travel to a French-speaking country. What would you say to someone who wants to learn French who is feeling a bit discouraged right now?
Charlie and Maïa: This year was definitely challenging… But on the bright side, we saw the fact that people stayed at home as an opportunity to connect with them online way more than before. So we motivated our students to use apps like Tandem, Hello Talk or to go to our French Conversation group on Facebook to chat with people and practice their French:
Even if we’re all stuck at home, you can still practice French by watching YouTube videos, reading articles on quora.fr, etc… it’s just about being creative and not letting anything stop you. If you’re truly passionate about speaking French, you should be able to find a way!
French in DC: What else would you like for us to know?
Charlie and Maïa: Remember learning a language is a marathon. Charlie looks at it like a journey that never really ends. It’s always been his hobby and it’s just something that he deeply enjoys so it never feels like work to him.
Find what you enjoy in the language and do more of that! Charlie was never really a big reader, but he loves to converse in the language, so that’s what he spends most of his time doing and focuses mostly on conversational French. Experiment and figure out how you can “fit” French into your life.
If you’re interested in learning more about our style of teaching, check us out on YouTube, Instagram, and we also have a free conversational French e-Course at :
French in DC: Merci beaucoup! To learn more about Street French, please check out the links posted above!