This beginner French method is framed around an actual story featuring realistic characters and dialogues so that you’ll have fun along the way and feel your progress as you follow the characters from chapter to chapter.
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?
Keep it fun. The selection process itself should be enjoyable. Look for sources you can watch multiple times in a row, and look for content that you find genuinely interesting. What film character would you most like to be for Halloween? What topics would you like to be able to discuss fluently? If you love soccer, track down some French language sporting event videos and acquire all the soccer vocabulary you’ll need to argue about teams at the bar. If you love movies starring Romain Duris (and who doesn’t?) compile your favorites. Look for language you want to make your own.
In most French-speaking countries it’s considered good manners to greet everyone. So, whether you’re speaking to a clerk, a waiter, or just bumping into someone on the street, take the time to say a polite bonjour before you proceed. This also means that when step on the bus or train you should say a quick bonjour to anyone within hearing distance.
As for the other tenses, anyone who’s learned Spanish will be relieved to find out that there are fewer tenses in French than in Spanish. In modern French, for example, the most frequently used past-tense construction is the passé composé, a compound tense composed of the verb avoir (meaning “to have”) or être (meaning “to be”) followed by the past participle of the conjugated verb.
One word of warning, though: if you really want to get useful grammar and vocabulary, make sure that what you’re reading, watching or listening to is modern and in a dialect that you would like to learn.
That’s where mnemonics come in. Basically, mnemonics involve telling yourself a fun, goofy or memorable story, song, or rhyme to associate with a particular word. For example, one trick for memorizing the difference between “au dessus” and “au dessous” goes: If in the air you see a bus, it must be “au dessus.” If on the ground you see a mouse, it must be “au dessous.”
First, keeping a vocabulary journal help you keep all the practical words you’ve learned in one place. In addition, just the process of writing down a word and whatever translation, notes, image or mnemonic device can be used to memorize this word helps you to memorize it! It’s also a fantastic future reference for studying and can be used anywhere and anytime you have a few minutes free.
A slippery element of the language (and all the Romances) is in false cognates: word pairings that sound the same as an English word, but mean something different. Particular means “private” in Spanish, and eventual means possible. See how that could get confusing?
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List each tense on a sticky note and put them somewhere you will see them often, such as your bedroom mirror or near where you eat meals. Each time you pass the area, read the notes. Soon you will have them memorized.
To get native French speakers to talk to you, you have to keep them talking. You also have to keep talking yourself. To do this, you’ll need a variety of familiar words and phrases to fall back on, including but not limited to transitional language, language for emphasis and common expressions that can be easily slipped into many conversations.
Free online software like DuoLingo exists to help you learn French! Otherwise, use software such as Fluenz French or Pimsleur to supplement your French language endeavors. Learning aids can be anywhere from nicely affordable ($20) to top-notch expensive ($500). Let it be known, that usually the increase in price is merited by a better product. I do not endorse Rosetta Stone for learning French, check this article to see why: Fluenz French versus Rosetta Stone French.
Also, verb formation uses many of the same patterns as English. The future tense, for example, is described with komma att + infinitive (will), or ska + infinitive (going to). And verb forms are normally constant, even if the person changes. I am, you are, he/she is would be Jag är, du är, han/hon är.
Another ça phrase for good measure. This phrase has a more specific usage, as it usually falls into the category of making plans. Plans are important because they mean more opportunities for conversation! You don’t want to miss or misunderstand someone asking if you want to hang out again.
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.
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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!
As a language nerd, I’m a big fan of Benny Lewis, whose “Speak from Day One” approach should be, I think, language-learning gospel. He’s written several posts about why learning Czech, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Hungarian, and other languages is not as hard as you think. His point is that with the right attitude and approach, learning a new language—despite what detractors might claim—is never as difficult a task as it’s often made out to be.
The 21st century has brought more than just new technology and globalization. It’s also brought with it a more fast-paced and impatient society than ever before. We no longer have the time we once had to sit in a language class and study a textbook.
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.
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.
In the early stages of your learning I strongly suggest to listen to the language as much as possible. This means getting your ears used to the sound of the language and not worrying too much about vocabulary memorization or mastering grammar rules – these come later!
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.
Bonjour! My name is David Issokson. I’m an online French teacher. My mission is to help as many people as possible to learn how to speak this beautiful language that’s brought me so much happiness in my life.
This exclamation is typically followed by exasperated hand wringing over the difficulty of the pronunciation, the seemingly endless list of exceptions to every grammar rule, the conjugations, and so on. Now that I’ve officially eclipsed the three-month milestone in my French language studies, I’d like to dispel, once-and-for-all, the (surprisingly) pervasive notion that French is somehow impossibly difficult to learn. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
There are about two-dozen irregular future stems, but these irregular stems also double as the stems for the conditional, which is formed by adding the imparfait endings you already know to the future stem. This might all sound confusing, but the main point is that these verb forms and moods are constructed using things you already know. The more you learn, the more your knowledge builds on itself.
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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.
Plus, German is a phonetic language. This means that (with very few exceptions) you know exactly how to pronounce a word when you see it spelled. Likewise, when you hear a word you can almost always write it out. English, by contrast, has all sorts of funky issues with pronunciation. “Corpse, corps, horse and worse” all sound different despite having the same “or” in the middle of them.