“If you live with people and you share a life with them and you speak their language, they trust you.” – Peter Rohloff, MD, Wuqu’ Kawoq (Maya Health Alliance) I have always found languages to be beautiful. Having learned to speak seven languages – some of them fluently, and others at a more basic level
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.
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?
LOL was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011. Even so, some of us struggle to understand text speak in our own language. The British Prime Minister David Cameron somehow believed LOL meant “lots of love”. Being fluent in a language is all about fitting in. And that includes when you’re chatting on Facebook
Knowing some common French greetings and good-byes will be indispensable when traveling in French-speaking countries. Saying hello and good-bye in French will quickly become second nature because you’ll use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.
The circumflex you find in many words usually signifies that an “s” used to be present but has since fallen out of use. Thus, words like hôpital and forêt translate to “hospital” and “forest” in English. There are many more tricks like this, and though they can’t always be perfectly applied, these examples should give you a sense of just how much linguistic history the two languages have in common.
“To paraphrase Tolstoy, all happy language learners resemble each other. They develop a passion for the language they are learning. Each unhappy language learner, on the other hand, finds his or her own reason to be turned off. I got turned on to French flair long ago and my passion for French has stayed with me for over 50 years.”
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.
Afrikaans and English both derive from the West Germanic language family. Phonetics and pronunciation are comfortable for English speakers; the one wee hurdle is the Afrikaans “g”, pronounced like the –ch in Bach.
My “Big Why” is an unquantifiable passion for languages. It isn’t something measurable like “So I can speak to X number of people in the world”, but it has to do with enriching my life with friendships and experiences, which you can’t really measure.
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Grammar. Learning grammar is equally as important as vocabulary, and you can spend all the time in the world getting to know words, but if you can’t formulate sentences, than all those words are useless.
Dialogue is essential. Idiosyncrasies in speech are good for practice. Listen for speakers mumbling and saying “Euuuuh…” Try to make sure that most of your sources contain at least some dialogue and a lot of continuous speech. You’ll hear where they naturally omit syllables and blur speech. You’ll hear incomplete thoughts and sentences. The longer people talk without breathing, the better. This is the kind of real-world French dialogue for which you need to prepare yourself.
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.
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Other rules, especially those about the pronunciation of vowels, should be learned as you immerse yourself in the language. One tool that can help you is Pronunciator. As for intonation, one of the essential rules is that the accent of a word or phrase always bears on the last syllable or last word. To mark this difference, the penultimate syllable is weaker than the antepenultimate.
Your American/British friends count as resources! If they know French, speak to them in French… speak, speak, speak! I speak to one of my American co-workers in French and we have amazing conversations in a completely different language. It’s fun, and it allows you to find the weaknesses in your conversational ability.
Once you’ve reviewed a set 10 times, you can “retire” it. If you go by my recommendations, you’ll regularly have 200-300 sentences to review. That’s a lot. This is why it’s important to not spend too much time transcribing. It’s also a good idea to break up reviewing throughout the day, to prevent the bad kind of insanity (the good kind being learning French this fast).
Your New Year’s Resolution may be to “learn French,” but what does that actually mean? Vague final goals like this are both frustrating and unproductive. After all, how will you know when–and if–this goal is ever achieved? Instead, try making some SMART goals.
“David is clearly a very experienced and knowledgeable teacher. He places emphasis on pronunciation and encourages me to recall my vocabulary in a way that is useful for speaking French day-to-day. His French lessons via Skype are both fun and interesting, and he adapts on-the-fly, so that he can always challenge me at the appropriate level.” Maria, Cambridge, UK” Maria, Cambridge, UK
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.
This is good phrase for transitions between two sentences, giving you a moment to catch your breath and collect your thoughts. It’s another word that’s often used as filler, but when used as a transition it usually translates more directly to “incidentally” or “by the way.”
There are, of course, plenty of quirks and exceptions in the French language, as there are in any language, but the key, as always, is just to go out and SPEAK IT! Like Benny says, French is easy! Both speaking and understanding are within your grasp.
Once you’ve said that you’re fine, or good, or so-so, it is customary to ask how the other person is doing. You can do this easily by saying Et toi? (And you? ) or Et vous? (And you? ).
How much time you can dedicate to learning French. You should ideally set aside a little bit of time to study French every day, although this time may vary. Even just 10 minutes a day can be helpful, but keep in mind that the more time you can dedicate, the better.