Asking how someone is doing is a common greeting in the U.S. How many times a day do we hear or say these brief greetings at the beginning of our conversations? So many times, in fact, that half the time, we don’t even pay attention. These pleasantries are common in French-speaking countries as well.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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Mastering this language is also a matter of correctly reproducing phonemes and intonation (the « melody »). Here are some instructions to introduce you to the pronunciation of the 20 to 21 consonants and 11 to 16 vowels of the French
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.
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.
I have touched lightly on some of what you will find in French. Don’t put these things up front. Don’t think that the mass of grammar rules need to be mastered before you can enjoy the language. That is what they did to me in school. It was when I broke away from that, and immersed myself in content of interest, reading, listening, watching movies, and conversing with people, that I started to fall in love with French. That stimulated my motivation, reduced my frustration, and induced me to spend the time necessary to achieve fluency in this lovely language, “mon premier amour” among languages.
Your resources. What resources do you have available? Fortunately, we have more French learning resources at our fingertips than ever before. Take advantage of as many resources as possible when making your study plan. The more interactive and fun, the better!
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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.
Story is context, and context is key. Once you have your source material, arrange it into usable segments. If you’re using a movie, try not to break it up mid-scene or leave out a lot of content between sentences. Aside from this, you can use as much or as little of each source as you like. I might advise against designating the French-language Lord of the Rings box set as your one and only source, but if you’re really determined then I wish you luck on your journey.
Okay, so perhaps you’re thinking that, yes, you realize that English and French have many words in common, but there’s no way you’re ever going to be able to master that perfect accent your fantasy French husband/girlfriend/whatever has. Ah, but not so fast!
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?
Yes, but what about the grammar and other difficulties of French? Well, here is a quick summary that can help you. Don’t try to remember anything here. Just use this, and other resources, as a reference as you set out to discover this lovely language on your own.
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:
Try your first French lesson for free and discover Babbel’s easy and intuitive course system which determines your individual level and accommodates different learning styles. You can learn at your own pace, set your own lesson plans and receive helpful hints whenever you need them. You will also be joining an entire community of learners. Babbel users can easily share questions, experiences and advice via message boards and chat, and the Babbel support team is always only a message away. Take the test to see your current level of French.
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.
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.
However, it’s highly recommended that you gradually expand your vocabulary at least to the 1,000 most commonly used words in French. With just 1,000 words, you’ll be able to understand about 80% of written texts.
Since its humble origin as a provincial dialect of Latin, French has developed into a global language, spoken in 33 countries on five continents. Beginning in the 18th century, the French empire expanded its reach, bringing its language to new colonies far from Europe. In the same way that French first emerged from Latin, dozens of distinct French dialects are now spoken around the globe: in parts of Canada and the U.S., Haiti and other Caribbean countries, most West African countries, and parts of South America and Polynesia. French is also one of the official languages in France’s neighboring countries, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
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.
The word bien translates pretty, well…well into English. Like the word “well,” it can signify an overall positive state or hesitance, though not so much a deep hole in the ground. (That would be un puits, just in case you were curious.)
Do yourself a favor and save this list on your phone or use it to make a set of flashcards. It’ll be an effective add-on to any language program or course. It’s not that you don’t need to learn vocab and grammar. It’s just that you’re going to want to apply that vocab and grammar to real life, and this will help you start.
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.”
Another idea is to find your favorite books in French. This will help keep your interest and will help you decipher the text since you already know the plot. It’s good to start simple, since a too-challenging book at the start of your learning will only frustrate you.