This exclamation is typically followed by exasperated hand wringing over the difficulty of the pronunciation, the seemingly endless list of exceptions to every grammar rule, the conjugations, and so on. Now that I’ve officially eclipsed the three-month milestone in my French language studies, I’d like to dispel, once-and-for-all, the (surprisingly) pervasive notion that French is somehow impossibly difficult to learn. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised French phrasebook.
Learn to conjugate the verbs. Try to remember that verbs in french need to be conjugated according to their pronouns; there are three different conjugations, because there are three different kinds of verbs: verbs that end in -ir, -er, and -re.
Number each sentence so you’ll know when you’ve hit your target number of sentences. If a sentence is threatening to end your world, just write down as much as you can and move on. While context is important, the transcribing process should feel like a fun puzzle. The French word for puzzle is casse-tête, but this language puzzle shouldn’t actually break your head.
Chinese students are exceptional too in my experience. Their work ethic is simply superior. You ask them to prepare a chapter, thinking they’ll read it once or twice. But they arrive in class and have pretty much memorized the whole thing. I once asked my student how long she spent doing her French homework (one lesson per week). She said about 30 hours…
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“To paraphrase Tolstoy, all happy language learners resemble each other. They develop a passion for the language they are learning. Each unhappy language learner, on the other hand, finds his or her own reason to be turned off. I got turned on to French flair long ago and my passion for French has stayed with me for over 50 years.”
There are plenty of language courses that will teach you how to deal with specific situations, like asking for directions or ordering dinner. These situations are strictly controlled, though, and so are the resulting conversations.
By grade three I could recite from memory the 16 French verbs that used the auxiliary verb “être”. But by grade 11 I still couldn’t speak or understand very well. Yet I eventually became fluent in French, graduated from a leading French university and have had a love affair with the language ever since. What is to be done? What advice do I have for the beginner?
“If you live with people and you share a life with them and you speak their language, they trust you.” – Peter Rohloff, MD, Wuqu’ Kawoq (Maya Health Alliance) I have always found languages to be beautiful. Having learned to speak seven languages – some of them fluently, and others at a more basic level
Stick to quality sources. Your sources don’t all have to be broadcast by Canal+, but stay away from more casual YouTube videos of people partying, filming natural disasters, etc. These can be funny but don’t always contain the most reliable content and, as you probably already know, they can take a sudden turn for the tragic or the gross.
Also, verb formation uses many of the same patterns as English. The future tense, for example, is described with komma att + infinitive (will), or ska + infinitive (going to). And verb forms are normally constant, even if the person changes. I am, you are, he/she is would be Jag är, du är, han/hon är.
Speak in French. This is one of the most important components to learning French. You have to speak the language, even if you feel embarrassed by how little you know. Everyone starts off not speaking well, but with practice you’ll improve.
Whether you need to increase your learning speed due to a life event or frustration with your current progress, rest assured that you can. If you hear someone speaking French on the television and think “I wish I could talk like that,” stop right there.
Find a penpal, or skype buddy who speaks French as their native language. There are lots of programs over the internet or through colleges and local language schools that can set people up with people who speak French.
The easiest advice to give is that people should develop a passion for French. I once wrote a long blog post about why I think people should learn French. I called it Why learn French? Six Reasons. Easy advice to give, but a lot more difficult to put into practice. People develop interests and passions for internal, personal reasons. The fact that I became passionate about French is no reason others will. However to quote another French saying “l’appetit vient en mangeant”. (Appetite comes with eating). You might want to give French a start. As I said at the start of my article on reasons to learn French,
One great element of the language is that interrogatives are beautifully easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You love me?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.
This situation persists to today. The ability of English Canadians to converse in French remains low and recently has even declined. Kids are not learning French at schools, despite a tremendous effort at teaching verb conjugations, reflexive verbs, verb agreement and all the other fine points of French grammar to uninterested little learners. Or is it precisely because of how it is taught?
Babbel’s French course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. You can practice online or via your iPhone or Android device. Whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.
No great achievement ever happens overnight, and learning French is no different. The first step to learn French is to make some smart, realistic goals to help yourself organize your time and plan your studies.
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It’s your entrance into Europe and international relations. French is the second-most widely spoken language in Europe and the second most widely learned language after English. It’s also both a working and official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Red Cross, international courts and the International Olympic Committee.
French grammar, explained in a way you can actually understand. Many English speakers have not studied grammar in school, so the method shouldn’t expect them to know the difference between an adjective and an adverb, or what a direct object pronoun is.
When you read, whether out loud or silently, think about what the sentences express. If your sentences are from a movie, imagine yourself as the characters. Try acting out both sides of a dialogue, complete with gestures and facial expressions. You might not want to do this in the break room at work, but you get the idea.
Unlike other academic subjects, learning a language is a continuous, never-ending adventure that requires constant practice. Don’t treat it the same way you would treat learning another academic subject and live in fear of making mistakes.
Another great resource that you may use for learning French quickly are podcast websites. This sites have lots of free podcasts. A podcast is simply an audio French lesson stored on an audio MP3 file. You may visit iTune’s website and download individual lessons directly to your PC, laptop or iPad. Additionally, a great place to discover online podcasts is our learn French by podcast page!
With Babbel, you can learn French without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
Gain confidence and perfect your pronunciation with Rosetta Stone’s pioneering speech recognition technology, which compares your speech to that of thousands of native speakers, so that you can correct and improve.
You’ll hear the word bon a lot. Literally, it means “good.” In spoken French, though, it’s often used as an interjection. It can signify decisiveness, similar to “right” or “OK” when used at the beginning of a sentence in English.
French can seem difficult to pronounce at first, and even a little difficult to understand. It isn’t like English, Swedish or the tonal languages. French tends to roll along in a fairly monotonous range of tones. There are the nasal sounds which seem to sound the same, but aren’t.
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.
The most common response I receive upon telling someone that I’m learning French—from English and French speakers alike—is something along the lines of, “French is so hard! I can’t believe you can speak like this after only three months!”
Listen to things in French. Put on some French music, or your favorite movie dubbed in French. Seek out French cinema, and French television shows and radio stations. Practice imitating what you’re hearing.
This one is used as a contradiction but also kind of a filler phrase, actually. While writing up this list, I was actually listening to a French television show in the background, and I actually heard en fait about twenty times, actually. I actually did.
Like all romance languages, French has a few difficulties for prospective speakers. There are more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table). Pronunciation is especially difficult in French, with vowel sounds and silent letters.
You’ll be one of many fellow French language learners. French is also the second most widely taught language other than English throughout the world. It’s taught on nearly every continent. This means that there are many, many French learning resources out there and you’ll have a wide network of other French language learners for support.
Very early on you need to master the precise vocabulary and the modern pronunciation of French politeness expressions. The French are known to be sticklers on etiquette and you do not want to start off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately French people will expect you to know these expressions, and they don’t realize it’s hard.
According to the FSI, the closer a language is to your native language (in this case, probably English), the faster you will learn that language. They divided their findings into three basic language categories based on the languages’ similarity to English, which determined how long it took learners to reach general professional proficiency or higher:
Enfin can be confusing. It can mean “finally” or “after all,” or it can just be a pure filler word. It can also be used to indicate impatience or frustration. When used as a filler word, it’s often reduced to ‘fin.
You can think of it as a box of tools. Except, in this case, most of them are multitools. Those that have more specific uses are like screwdrivers: basic tools that can be used in a variety of situations.
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First of all, anything is possible with the right method, motivation and dedication. Some language programs will definitely prepare you with practical language elements within the timeframe they promise, but you will definitely not be fluent. You won’t be able to talk with anyone about absolutely anything in French, but you will know some of the basics that can help you survive in France without being completely lost.
When in doubt, disavow all knowledge! This phrase can be used to get out of an uncomfortable discussion, or just to honestly proclaim your ignorance on a subject. You will usually hear this phrase spoken without the n’.
From a practical standpoint, I’ve found that anytime I’m at a loss for the right French word, coating an English word in a heavy French accent is a surprisingly effective strategy. I remember during my first week in French class, I was trying to say that a certain French word exists in English but has a different meaning.
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.
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.
French Today has lessons and audiobooks that focus on teaching French the way it’s actually spoken first and foremost. Using their materials, you can become familiar with grammar and vocabulary concepts while also developing an understanding of what that grammar and vocabulary really sounds like in action.
To improve your German quickly, you must speak from the very first day you start learning German. This speak from day one approach is the fastest and most efficient way to learn German – especially if you speak with native German speakers.
That’s where mnemonics come in. Basically, mnemonics involve telling yourself a fun, goofy or memorable story, song, or rhyme to associate with a particular word. For example, one trick for memorizing the difference between “au dessus” and “au dessous” goes: If in the air you see a bus, it must be “au dessus.” If on the ground you see a mouse, it must be “au dessous.”
But I did design a simple 8-step French fluency program to become fluent in French FAST. Fluency has multiple definitions, however I found that most people simply want to be efficient in conversations while some want the ability to read & write. If this is you, then keep reading. Before we start, let me just say that becoming fluent in any language is no easy feat, it will require a lot of work on your part if you want to do it quickly. So how do I become fluent in French fast? Let’s get started.
Spanish pronunciation is fairly easy for English speakers, with only ten vowel/diphthong sounds (English has 20), and the easy-to-master letter ñ. Like Italian, the orthography is clear and simple; words are written as they’re pronounced, which makes reading easier. Grammatically, Spanish has fewer irregularities than other romance languages too.
I have a friend who went to Bordeaux for a few weeks and learned the basics to get around. She can successfully ask for directions, navigate her way through a train station, and order a glass of her favorite wine. According to her, she “speaks French,” which, of course, she does. But she’s far from fluent.
So how do French speakers talk so fast, anyway? Well, part of it is the language itself, as mentioned above. But also, not everything that’s being said is necessarily crucial. This little bits of linguistic fluff do not require a whole lot of thought to put together.