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?
Change your computer’s operating language to French. Change your Facebook to French now. Change you cellphone, iPod, or iPhone to French. Change your google web browser to the French one. Change your homepage to a French site like fr.yahoo.com. Hell, change your TV to French. You get the idea yet? One word of advice though, when you change the language settings… remember how you did it so you can always change it back if you need to. Everybody who picks up my phone seems impressed that it’s in another language (or very confused). This helps to learning French fast.
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.
Welcome to French, the language of love, literature and all of those fascinating, beautiful sounds. If your French knowledge is limited to “voulez vous coucher avec moi” and you’ve decided to learn French, then we’ve got the perfect beginner’s guide for you.
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,
338 million people around the world speak French, either as a first or second language. In the U.S. it is the second most studied foreign language after Spanish. Not surprisingly, there are many ways to study the language:
A lot of people are a bit fuzzy about this so I want to make it absolutely clear: If you move to a country for a few months (or even years) it’s very possible you will NOT learn the language. Out of all the advice I give on this blog, based on my lifestyle you
In years of constantly comparing the many successful vs unsuccessful language learners to see what really makes them different, I can share another huge realisation with you today. Many of the major questions most people start asking themselves in language learning are, in my opinion, things that should be coming much later in the priority
One thing I recommend insofar as pronunciation is concerned, is to get used to making the ‘euh’ sound. “Je”, “le” “me” etc., and the unaccented “e” at the end of words. There are lots of ‘euh’ in French. The French use “euh” the way English speakers use “aah” or “umm”, as a spacer or breather between words or phrases. You kind of have to pick up on that as soon as you can and have it flow through your pronunciation.
I told you, becoming fluent in French fast requires a lot of work on your part. I happen to have some French family but this is not the case for everybody. But you can make French friends. Having them is a great way to improve your language skills.
Never heard of it? It’s spoken by less than half a million people in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It wasn’t included on the list because Frisian is rarely studied as a second language, so finding a textbook or tutor outside the North Sea would be near impossible.
Both conversations communicate essentially the same information, but the second one uses conversational connectors. These are short phrases that serve to make the conversation sound more natural, and less jarring and “staccato”.
Your big why for learning French will keep you motivated through the ups and downs of learning a new language. It will be something to hold onto whenever you feel frustrated with learning French and start to wonder “What was I thinking?”
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.
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.
One excellent free resource is YouTube where you can watch lots of videos and learn lots of basic vocabulary and phrases. You will find lots of dedicated online French teachers like myself on YouTube who have provided lots of useful materials for learning beginners French there. One great place to start is our FrenchLearner channel here!
Get set up with your video source in a comfortable space. Try creating a designated French space in your home, where you’ll always be in the mindset to immerse yourself in French language learning. You’ll be doing a lot of pausing, so arrange for this with whatever devices you’re using. Pour yourself a beverage, get relaxed and take breaks as frequently as needed. It’ll be fun, but it’ll also be a lot of work.
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Every day, start a new “entry” in a notebook by marking the date. Play your video. Try to understand and hold as much of each sentence in your memory as you can. When the sentence ends, pause. Begin writing out the sentence and speak each word out loud as you’re writing it. You might have to replay a few times to get the entire sentence. You might have to do some quick research, or look through a dictionary for a mystery word when you only have a vague idea of how it’s spelled beyond the first few letters. You might need to turn to an internet message board to ask a question about the usage of a particular phrase and then observe the resulting debate between native speakers. This is a process. Enjoy it.
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.
It opens the door to a history and culture. Learning French is your gateway into the fascinating French-speaking world. You’ll be able to access the great works of French writers in their original versions, enjoy wonderful French movies, and understand beautiful French songs. This is true for any of the many places throughout the world where French is spoken.
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking French gives you access to the world of over 75 million native speakers in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and 263 million people around the rest of the world who speak it as a second language – most of them in West Africa.
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.
Some French videos on YouTube are really well done, and provide a fun support to learn French. So do French songs, French movies, French blogs,French podcasts, the many French apps… There is so much to choose from nowadays!
When my friend Anthony Lauder introduced me to conversational connectors a few years ago, they blew my mind. They’re a great technique for sounding more like a native speaker, for removing the awkwardness from conversations, and for giving yourself time to recall vocabularly.
The language is structurally similar to Danish, but with pronunciation more familiar to English speakers. Norwegian, like Swedish, uses a tonal “pitch accent” to distinguish homonyms, stressing either the first or second syllable of the word. It’s an easy concept to grasp: think “decent” and “descent” in English.
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!