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How to clear up common confusions with catchphrases

Doing fun stuff like watching TV shows, reading books and listening to podcasts are valuable ways to beef up your English.

You’re turning on the subconscious and absorbing expressions and structures. This helps you develop a feel for how to use the language more naturally.

But when it comes to dealing with pesky prepositions, tricky tenses and other frequent slips of the tongue, you need to get active.

In the common confusions cleared up in The Trunk – including here, here and here – my advice to remember the differences is:

Make up your own memorable models.

In French, I often mix up gender and the order of pronouns. And I can never remember the examples in course books.

Instead, I create my own catchphrases.

When I learn a new noun, I add an adjective to help me remember if it’s masculine or feminine, so un petit musée (confusing because the ending looks like it should be feminine but it’s not).

For object pronouns, I imagine une tablette de chocolat and make up something short such as Je la leur ai donnée (confusing because does la or leur come first and where does ai go and don’t forget the feminine ending on the verb).

Catchphrases that are relevant or funny for you work best.

Chocolate features in lots of mine. But your magic models could involve coffee or a hobby or a place.

At first, we need to recall the catchphrase to copy the pattern.

But with repetition, the pattern becomes automatic and the right form of what we now want to say starts popping up.

That’s how personalised phrases make memorising patterns magic.

Want me to check your catchphrases in English? You can email them to me and get feedback.

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© Christina Wielgolawski