Most of the “learn a language fast” advertisements seen online promise incredible results like “learn French in 1 month,” “2 weeks” or even just “10 days.” They typically don’t go into great detail about how they’ll actually help learners achieve this, which leaves most wondering, “Is it really possible?”
Growing up in Montreal in the 1950s I had French every day at school – elementary school and high school – starting from grade two. After ten years, as I entered McGill University at the age of 17, I couldn’t hold a conversation in French and had great trouble understanding the language.
There are hundreds of ways to learn French for free on the web. From French grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
I have seen people approach lists of vocabulary by looking at the French and seeing if they can understand the English; this is good to build your understanding of French, but not your speaking ability.
Now I’ll admit that the French “r” and nasal sounds will probably take some practice and getting used to, but the best advice I received—from my Lonely Planet phrasebook, nonetheless—was just to go for the most stereotypical French accent I possibly could. Try it—it actually works!
Many people use their “bad memory” as an excuse for not learning a new language, but we have some comforting news for these people (and even those with great memories): you don’t need to know all–or even the majority–of the French words to be able to speak it well. In fact, you don’t even need to know half!
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.
Standard French contains 13 oral vowels and up to 4 nasal vowels, but it only has 5 different letters for all these sounds. Crazy right? But don’t freak out, it’s just a matter of studying a little bit, listening to a ton of French, and repeating the sounds until your tongue hurts.
Like all Romance languages, French’s Latin derivations make much of the vocabulary familiar to English speakers (edifice, royal, village). Linguists debate the concrete number, but it’s said that French has influenced up to a third of English vocabulary, giving it more lexical common ground with English than any other romance language.
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If you want to have more “tools” added to your arsenal of French words, it’s a lot easier to continue on with a conversation. I would recommend using google, word reference, and/or a French dictionary to help you translate ANY word you stumble upon (reading, writing, or listening to the news). Follow up finding the definition with writing it down in a journal or notebook, maybe even make a correct French sentence using the word! All the extra trouble takes no longer than a minute and will allow you to retain words better. I know that in Italian, I look up words all the time, but only a small fraction of them will stick in my memory unless I write it down somewhere or use the word soon. As a little tip, reading is by far the best way to get more vocabulary and useful verbs. My mom and my friends (who don’t understand French) miraculously have the ability to understand French sentences which contain English cognates.
One downside to using free French learning sites is that the number of lessons are limited. They tend to lack interactive functions such as testing the accuracy of your pronunciation. Furthermore, they tend to lack the full variety of lessons that would be found in a more formal online course. Thus, I strongly suggest considering using an a software package or online French course such as Rocket French.
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.
Learning a new language is really good for you. Learning a new language like French has some incredible benefits for you mind and body. It can help your brain to grow, become sharper, multitask better and even delay the onset of dementia. Check out all of the benefits of learning a language for even more reasons why it’s so great.
Do you want to immerse yourself in a rich literature, learn the main ingredients of a refined cuisine and make the most of the dazzling cultural life of cities like Paris and Montreal? Start to learn French now with Loecsen and get into the wonderful French-speaking world!
Once you’re done with a video source (or part of one) give yourself a rest and then try re-watching it a month or so later. See if you can speak along with the audio, or if you can simply watch and understand what’s being said. This last part of the method is not only important for tracking your progress, but continuing it. Keeping familiarity with source material after you’ve already learned it will help build and maintain a base for fluency.
Interesting. While technically French was my first foreign language, I hadn’t studied it until last year, though I had been in touch with it since I was a kid (both my parents had studied French language in college).
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.
Take a look at the two verbs in bold for a moment. Whereas the Spanish version uses the imperfect subjunctive, the French phrase uses the imperfect indicative (standard past tense use of the word, like English) to express the exact same idea. In French, the imperfect subjunctive is a stodgy literary tense that nobody even uses anymore!
Some days, you might read along with the audio. Other days, you might re-watch the video without subtitles. If you’re feeling musical, you might set your sentences to a melody and sing them to your cat. The only rule is to review out loud often, even if you don’t do it every day.
The bad thing about software is that it’s very limited in how much it really can teach you. I guarantee nobody has ever gotten “fluent” just from software. Software is usually a good alternative for if you cannot attend French classes or any reason.
If you’re getting frustrated regularly, reconsider your source material. It could be too challenging or not lively enough to hold your interest. If you would rather watch Amélie than a Rohmer film, now’s the time for honesty. If you would actually rather watch Rohmer but are in denial about being a film snob, now’s the time to own it. If the material doesn’t seem to be the problem, try cutting back on the number of sentences.
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:
There are even conjugating dictionaries like Le Conjugueur. This is one of dictionaries that you can use at LingQ. Don’t rely on memorization. Keep reading and listening. Look things up when you are stumped and stay focussed on things of interest.
Learn how to ask for help. This is important particularly if you need the other speaker to speak more slowly or to repeat themselves. Make sure to look up the individual words while you’re practicing, as the English translation and the French meaning can be different.
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.
You might think that you can use good afternoon (bon après-midi) as a greeting the way you can in the United States, but in most French-speaking countries, bon après-midi should only be used to as a form of goodbye.
Benny Lewis, is, I think, the most successful polyglot blogger on the Internet; the one with the greatest reach. With this website, Fluent in 3 Months, he was one of the earliest language learners to use the Internet to encourage others to learn languages, and to talk about it. I too am what you would
You will slowly get more and more used to the conditional and the subjunctive. Continue your enjoyable discovery of French, through listening and reading, and your confidence in this seemingly scary looking verb forms will gradually grow.
I’d always assumed the Swedes were just good at everything, hence their omnipresence on North American hockey teams. She firmly denied these superpowers. “English is a lot more like Swedish than you realize.”
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There are many things they do differently in French. The French are not hungry or cold, they have hunger and they have cold. They have age, and they say “ I call myself” instead of “my name is”. At first these patterns seem strange because they are different from what we are used to. Don’t be put off, and don’t try to nail these things down. Take note, observe, discover, and move on.
If you are more advanced, read out loud over the voice that is reading, and study how your pronunciation differs. Pay close attention to the word grouping, where the reader breathes, and don’t forget to respect the liaisons and the eventual glidings.