I’d like to share seven steps so you’ll know how to speak French. This is the language hacker’s approach in how to learn French. You can use this approach whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been learning French for years.
French is one of the five main Romance languages – along with Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. The term Romance has nothing to do with how romantic the French are (although they do have their reputation), but instead refers to the Latin phrase “romanica loqui”, meaning “to speak in Roman fashion.” When Latin speakers first began settling in the far corners of the Roman empire, their language collided with indigenous languages and the resulting mix formed new Latin dialects. When the Roman empire was in decline and Rome finally lost control over the provinces, these dialects finally diverged into distinct languages.
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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.
There are hundreds of ways to learn French for free on the web. From French grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
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.
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.
You can’t – you’ll have to learn the language first. After you do, you’ll probably speak slowly for a long time until you get more comfortable with the language, intonation, pronunciation, etc. Then you can begin speaking quickly.
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This is why many students feel stuck in their French studies: with so many different French tools out there, they waltz from one video to the next, one free lesson to the next, but lack a logical and progressive approach.
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.
Now that you have some realistic goals in mind, it’s time to make a study plan. A study plan will help you to organize and maximize your time, keep motivated, set goals, and make sure your brain gets the repetition and structure it needs.
French, Belgian and African Cultures, Unfiltered – The French-speaking world is responsible for gorgeous (and delicious) arts and culture. Whether you want to explore the wine region of Bordeaux, learn to dance Sabar in Dakar, tour Belgium’s famous breweries or learn how to really cook confit de canard, speaking the language will let you participate more directly. Knowing French will also give you unfiltered access to the films of the French New Wave, the literature of Flaubert, Balzac and Proust; and the music of Édith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg. And if you are among the 10 million Franco-Americans who can’t speak French, learning the language will turn your window onto your heritage into a doorway.
Learn pronunciation. This is especially important with French, where to English speakers, the written words look nothing like the spoken language. For instance, French has vowels like “eau” which is pronounced “o” or “oi” which is pronounced “wa.” You will need to know how these pronunciations work.
You French learning goals. Would you like to dedicate an equal amount of time to all language learning skills? Or are you more interested in speaking and listening than reading and writing? If you plan to prioritize some skills over others, make sure to incorporate this into your plan.
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.
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.
At this stage, I will of course suggest you’d take a look at my audiobooks to learn French if you are not already familiar with them. I’ve poured my 20 years experience of teaching French to adults into this method, which will prepare you for both traditional and modern spoken French.
When you see question words in your reading at LingQ, save them. You should do this not only to remember these words, but because the LingQ system will give you lots of examples of these words in use. The examples usually come from lessons you have already studied. The advantage of looking at examples from lessons you have already studied is that you probably know the words. Very often, if you’re reading in a grammar book you are provided with examples, where you don’t know the words. That’s not so helpful.
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.)
The conversational connectors in the dialogue above are “Thanks for asking”, “How about you?”, “Actually”, “To be honest” and “I’m sorry to hear that”. These are phrases that people use over and over in their daily conversations, no matter what the topic.
I actually had a student who learned French in three months. He spent about 14 hours self-studying per day (needless to say he didn’t work), took two hours of private French lessons with me five times a week, and he had an amazing memory. Furthermore, he was a math and coding genius. And a musician.
Many polyglots (folks who know more than one language) swear by the “shadowing” technique for learning a language quickly. Go outside and put your headphones on. While you play the language, walk briskly. As you’re walking repeat out loud and clearly what you’re hearing. Repeat, march, repeat. This will help you connect movement with the language and to retrain your focus so that you aren’t obsessing about memorization.
Think in French. Set aside time during the day to practice thinking in French.Go to the grocery store and think about the items in the store and the conversations you have with people. Practice reworking those interactions into French.
Work with what you know. Try to select content that you already kind of understand. Choose videos that feature topics you’re well-versed on, or movies that you’ve already seen a million times in English. This way you’ll know what’s happening more or less and you’ll be able to infer meaning through the overall context. You’ll be expanding your existing French knowledge by placing it in context, while also keeping your sanity.
Learning a language can sometimes feel boring — like an exercise in monotony. What lends to this monotony, more often than not, is the rigor and regimen that comes with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing discipline here, I’m just questioning the misplaced investment of time and efforts most language learning regimens call