Never heard of it? It’s spoken by less than half a million people in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It wasn’t included on the list because Frisian is rarely studied as a second language, so finding a textbook or tutor outside the North Sea would be near impossible.
The 21st century has brought more than just new technology and globalization. It’s also brought with it a more fast-paced and impatient society than ever before. We no longer have the time we once had to sit in a language class and study a textbook.
After a while, you’ll find yourself using words and constructions that you didn’t even study thanks to your brain’s ability to soak up vocabulary and grammar while reading a book or watching a series.
Your American/British friends count as resources! If they know French, speak to them in French… speak, speak, speak! I speak to one of my American co-workers in French and we have amazing conversations in a completely different language. It’s fun, and it allows you to find the weaknesses in your conversational ability.
Along with many of the French words that migrated into English came vestiges of their former pronunciations. Consider words and expressions like montage, déjà vu, bourgeois, comprise, brochure, filet mignon, chauffeur, lingerie, and encore. Without knowing it, you actually use many of the sounds found in French regularly.
Grammar. Learning grammar is equally as important as vocabulary, and you can spend all the time in the world getting to know words, but if you can’t formulate sentences, than all those words are useless.
If you’re a French beginner, however, one thing you can do to avoid the spoken/written disconnect is to take advantage of instructional resources that take spoken French into account. Here are just a couple:
English is historically a Germanic language, but after the Norman Invasion in 1066, French became the official language of the nobility for over 300 years. As a result, several thousand French words trickled down into common English usage. By the time of Shakespeare, English had transformed into a truly hybrid language with French words accounting for half of English vocabulary. There are the obvious transplants like rendezvous, femme fatale, and croissant, but you might be surprised to learn that thousands of ordinary English words come from French. Without even exploring the rest of the alphabet, French has given us the words action, affection, agriculture, alligator, amusement, application, architecture, and attitude.
Afrikaans and English both derive from the West Germanic language family. Phonetics and pronunciation are comfortable for English speakers; the one wee hurdle is the Afrikaans “g”, pronounced like the –ch in Bach.
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Also, sounds appear to melt together from the last syllable of one word to the beginning syllable of the next word. These are things you have to get used to as a beginner. You have to be aware of these things, notice them, and eventually you will get used to them. Trust me.
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking French gives you access to the world of over 75 million native speakers in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and 263 million people around the rest of the world who speak it as a second language – most of them in West Africa.
It can help you learn other languages. French is an excellent foundation for learning other similar, Latin-based languages. These include Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and even some English, since about one-third of modern English comes from French. Believe it or not, learning French will help you improve your English vocabulary!
This was typical. In fact, I was a good student, and did better than most of my classmates in French. I passed all the grammar tests and other school French tests with high marks. Yet when it came time to speak, I could only string words together with great uncertainty, and really didn’t understand what I heard. I certainly didn’t read French newspapers, which were available in Montreal. Nor did I watch French movies. I couldn’t understand them.
Practice frequently. Without practicing what you learn, you’re not going to get very far. Even learning a language quickly takes a certain amount of commitment and time. As long as you work hard and practice what you’re learning, there’s no reason for you not to learn French well!
The group of verbs that manger belongs to, the –er verbs, is one of three, the other two being –ir and –re verbs. The –er verbs are completely regular, the –ir verbs are mostly regular, and the –re verbs are mostly irregular.
You’ll learn French much faster if you focus on words and phrases that are relevant to your life. Plus, when you have real conversations in French (I’ll come to that in a moment), you’ll be able to talk about yourself.
But what languages are the easiest to learn for English speakers? The Foreign Service Institute ranked the 9 least difficult languages for English-speaking folks. Check them out and let us know about your experience learning these languages.
French was my first love when it comes to languages. There’s an expression in French: “On revient toujours à son premier amour.” It means you always go back to your first love. I love French. I love all the languages that I have learned, but I have a special affection for French.
“David is clearly a very experienced and knowledgeable teacher. He places emphasis on pronunciation and encourages me to recall my vocabulary in a way that is useful for speaking French day-to-day. His French lessons via Skype are both fun and interesting, and he adapts on-the-fly, so that he can always challenge me at the appropriate level.” Maria, Cambridge, UK” Maria, Cambridge, UK
Native speakers won’t be shy about correcting you, and the more you speak and make adjustments, the more natural it will become. There are some great French online courses that will get you speaking quickly, and don’t worry if your pronunciation is a little off, or if you forget how to conjugate such and such verb, or if you forget which preposition to use. Just remember: everyone starts off speaking any language they learn like a baby.
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You’ll be watching television shows and movies and writing down sentences. Then you’ll be living with those sentences — reading them, speaking them, breathing them. If you dive in headfirst, it’s amazingly effective and a lot of fun.
Learn greetings and goodbyes. These are useful phrases and words to start with, since most people begin their interaction, and end their interaction in similar ways. The “zh” in the following pronunciation guides sounds like “j” and “sh” mixed together.
One excellent free resource is YouTube where you can watch lots of videos and learn lots of basic vocabulary and phrases. You will find lots of dedicated online French teachers like myself on YouTube who have provided lots of useful materials for learning beginners French there. One great place to start is our FrenchLearner channel here!
Don’t forget to mimic natives! This may sound weird or silly, but if you hear something, say it out loud a few times – copying their intonation and pronunciation. My American friend would overhear French people talking and essentially mimic them, it works though because you’ll sound more and more like a native, fluent French person.
This is why many students feel stuck in their French studies: with so many different French tools out there, they waltz from one video to the next, one free lesson to the next, but lack a logical and progressive approach.
Overloading yourself in this manner daily will definitely show improvement, even if you are a beginner and know nothing! Watching the news not only challenges your oral comprehension, you’ll pick up on how the French tell the weather, how they introduce one another, and how they pronounce words, which is extremely important for the later steps. Watching your favorite videos with subtitles/ dubbed doesn’t cost you a thing a gives you more exposure to French.
Once you’ve reviewed a set 10 times, you can “retire” it. If you go by my recommendations, you’ll regularly have 200-300 sentences to review. That’s a lot. This is why it’s important to not spend too much time transcribing. It’s also a good idea to break up reviewing throughout the day, to prevent the bad kind of insanity (the good kind being learning French this fast).
As a language nerd, I’m a big fan of Benny Lewis, whose “Speak from Day One” approach should be, I think, language-learning gospel. He’s written several posts about why learning Czech, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Hungarian, and other languages is not as hard as you think. His point is that with the right attitude and approach, learning a new language—despite what detractors might claim—is never as difficult a task as it’s often made out to be.
Covers all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.