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.
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.
If you’ve decided to give French a try and you’re eager to start (or continue) learning the language of liberté, egalité, and fraternité (the French national motto), here are a few hacks to learn French fast and and optimize your efforts.
If you search “learn French” on the major search engines you will find that there are many sites offering basic language instruction. Many of these sites offer free audio and video lessons. The general structure is that these sites offer instruction in basic areas of knowledge such as counting and numbers, asking directions and common phrases.
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!
Verb forms are a relative breeze in Norwegian, with no conjugation according to person or number. The past tense is formed with a simple –e suffix; the future is formed with the auxiliary vil; the conditional perfect with ville ha. The passive tense is formed by adding a simple –s. It’s a walk in the park compared to English.
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
I’d say the best to learn a language in immersion is beeing an au-pair! My step-sister works in a french school in Paris and she noticed the improvement of au-pairs coming to learn french. The immersion is complementary to the courses they have at school.
Alors, depending on the context, can mean “so,” “then” or “while.” Don’t be too intimidated by the specifics, though, as it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what it means from the context. It’s often just used as a filler or transition word along the lines of “well” or “so.”
If you’re on the computer, just Google “French conjugations” or “conjugation” of any verb and you will find what you are looking for. The same is true, by the way, with pronouns, adjectives. Anything you want to look at, you just Google and it will be there.
Still others can give you clues as to what you shouldn’t pronounce, including faux pas, buffet, coup, and laissez-faire. Even the dreaded liaison rears its ugly head in the words vis-à-vis (pronounced “vee-zah-vee”) and bon appétit (pronounced “baw na-pey-tee”).
Reading, watching and listening has a remarkable effect on your brain. Simply by being exposed to French, your brain is put to work. It starts trying to understand new words by making connections to previously learned words and seeks to make sense of any new structures. Basically, you’re learning without knowing that you’re learning.
Hence the importance of finding the right French tool to study with. If the method is all fun, and doesn’t have you drill on verb tenses, or tackle grammar concepts, chances are you will not become fluent in French.
I have been learning french for the past few years and feel I am making good progress…except when it comes to understanding spoken french. I can make myself understood in french but am generally lost if they respond with anything more than a few words. What do think is the best way to improve comprehension in french – is it particularly difficult or just me?
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.
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.
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Considering French is considered by some to be among the world’s “hardest languages” (yes, seriously, Parisians will insist on this; luckily, you’ll get a lot more encouragement in the rest of France, Belgium, Switzerland and definitely in Quebec), I think a change in attitude is in order, so that those of you learning this language can get a bit of encouragement!