You can find good resources to learn French pronunciation (like my masterclass “Secrets of French Pronunciation“) and it is indeed important that you memorize and understand the many rules of French pronunciation.
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
There are abundant grammar resources on the web. Find the ones you find most useful and use them when you are curious about something. Getting used to new grammar patterns takes time. You don’t learn it the first time, not even the fifth time. But eventually it becomes second nature, believe me.
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.
Once you have quite a wide vocabulary, you can start translating things you see every day in your native language. You might listen to a song and as you are doing this, start thinking about the words and tenses you would need to translate this into French. The same can be said for road signs, menus or even conversations. Although this might sound tedious, sometimes you’ll think of a word in your native language and realize you don’t know the French equivalent. This is a good way to keep your skills up and to make sure you don’t forget things.
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Did you survive that with your sanity intact? Great! It may look like a lot to wrap your head around, but it’s actually not, especially in spoken French. In fact, the difference between written and spoken French is so vast that the first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, and third person plural forms of the verb manger are pronounced exactly the same despite having written forms that appear to vary substantially.
Here’s an example of how they work. When someone asks you “How is your hotel room?” instead of answering with “um … good”, which pretty much ends things right on the spot, you might add in phrases and expressions to create a more organic feel to what you are saying. You could say: “To tell the truth, that is a good question. The hotel room is good. Thanks for asking. How is your hotel room?” . This is exactly the same answer with conversational connectors added in.
When studying verb tenses, for example, practice saying the same sentence using every different pronoun in the same tense. Then, practice changing the sentence into a negative sentence and into a question. Later, you can then practice saying the same sentence in different tenses with the same pronoun, in the negative form, in the question form, etc. You can even make your own flash cards to help you with this.
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.
There’s the futur proche, which will be extremely familiar to speakers of English and Spanish. It simply combines the conjugated form of the verb aller, meaning “to go,” with an infinitive. It’s equivalent to saying in English, “I am going to .” There’s also a futur simple that, like the imparfait, uses only one set of endings that are added to the “future stem,” which is usually just the infinitive or, for the irregular verbs, the infinitive with the final “e” chopped off.
Time for another video in Chinese! This is actually part of the summer project of improving many languages, and as such it is the first in a series of many interviews with natives of the languages in my list of 10. Yang Yang works as the Mandarin speaking presenter for the TV show “Hello Hollywood”.
French also uses an imperfect tense—the imparfait—which has only one set of endings (unlike Spanish), contains only one exception (être, meaning “to be”), and is used in exactly the same way as the Spanish imperfect. In order to form the imparfait, take the present indicative Nous form of a verb, slice off the conjugated ending, add the imparfait ending, and voilà! You’re in business.
According to the Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule, you can use 20% of the effort spent on learning new vocabulary for 80% comprehension in the language. That means that by learning the most frequently used vocabulary first, you are able to understand and communicate in a language much faster. One again, the internet is your friend here, and there are countless sources that provide lists of the most frequently used words in each language that can help you start your learning the practical way.
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?
Learning French is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning French online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. French is a close cousin to English with thousands of words in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free French lesson.
Why Video? Video provides you with more context than audio alone. You’ll be working out what people are saying, so visual clues help. Also, involving your senses more fully will keep you alert and engaged. More than anything, video makes things more entertaining. With video, you’ll be able to learn while feeling cheerful and relaxed.
Grammar is incredibly important to learning a language. To speak it properly, you’ll need to understand how verbs work, how present, past, and future tenses work, and how genders work with nouns. We say things forward in English e.x. The bathroom, whereas the french (and the rest of the world) say things backward, taking longer to say it e.x. the room of bath.
Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today’s French to adults for 20 years in the US and France. Based on my students’ goals and needs, I’ve created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it’s spoken today, for all levels. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!
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.
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.
However, most of us cannot just watch a technical video of how to run, or read a list of tips on how to become a good runner, and just go ahead and run 5 miles. It takes practice, and it’s likely to take time and effort.
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.
I will most definitely take your advice. I am learning French at school and I’m not doing too well at all. We had exams earlier this month and I am sure that I failed because I did not finish the papers. The rest of the students did and so I felt stupid and wanted to just quit the class. My teacher said my biggest problem is my lack of vocabulary since the way that I speak is quite nice. Reading this article though has just given me the extra push that I need to stick with it. I really believe that I can do it now. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
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).