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
Thus, new words like googliser, textoter, and téléviser take the regular forms. Even among the irregular verbs, you’ll be able to pick up on patterns that make their conjugations fairly predictable. Also remember that, as was the case with the –er verbs, the verb forms of the irregular verbs are pronounced mostly the same, though there are some exceptions.
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.
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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.
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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.
Learning a language is a complex process that is different for each individual based on several different factors. Let’s take a look at these different factors and how they impact how fast you learn French.
Most of the “learn a language fast” advertisements seen online promise incredible results like “learn French in 1 month,” “2 weeks” or even just “10 days.” They typically don’t go into great detail about how they’ll actually help learners achieve this, which leaves most wondering, “Is it really possible?”
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.
According to the Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule, you can use 20% of the effort spent on learning new vocabulary for 80% comprehension in the language. That means that by learning the most frequently used vocabulary first, you are able to understand and communicate in a language much faster. One again, the internet is your friend here, and there are countless sources that provide lists of the most frequently used words in each language that can help you start your learning the practical way.
Consider your current level of French. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to fully understand native speakers, you’ll want to consider video sources that are accompanied by a transcript, subtitles or a “cheat sheet.” Many popular French learning podcasts offer transcripts for their listeners. All of FluentU’s French language videos have interactive subtitles which allow you to see every single word’s definition on-screen, if desired. These kinds of resources are ideal if you need help while watching videos. You’ll still want to try without looking, but this way you can check yourself and make sure you’re not getting things mixed up in your mind. If in doubt, play it safe. French as a language uses a lot of similar sounds and it’s easy to mistake certain combinations of words for others.
Keep a journal, document, or book with all of the vocabulary you learn in one place. If you’re a member of Rocket Languages, the “My Vocab” feature, which lets you save vocabulary and compile a list for future study, is fantastic for this.
Everyone who has ever learned to speak French (even native speakers, who learned when they were kids) was once a beginner in the language. They all managed to learn to speak French fluently, and so can you.
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.
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.
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.
Believe it or not, you actually already know some French words before you even begin studying it. While a foreign language may seem like “Greek” to you, the majority of foreign languages actually share some words or roots of words. These words that look or sound like words in your language and have the same meaning are called cognates.
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.”
The top ten most common French words are: être (to be, being), avoir (to have), je (I), de (of, from, by, than, in, with), ne (not), pas (not; step, pace), le (the; him, it (referring to a masculine singular noun)), la (the; her, it (referring to a feminine singular noun)), tu (you), vous (you, yourself).
Nerdy historical tangents aside, what does any of this have to do with learning French nowadays? Linguists estimate that about a third of English words are derived from French, meaning that, as an English speaker, even before you crack open a phrasebook for the very first time, you have a ready-made vocabulary that you can start using from day one. Do you have six hours to spare? Great—have a crack at this Wikipedia list of shared vocabulary. Second spoiler alert: it’s long.
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.
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.
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Now I’ll admit that the French “r” and nasal sounds will probably take some practice and getting used to, but the best advice I received—from my Lonely Planet phrasebook, nonetheless—was just to go for the most stereotypical French accent I possibly could. Try it—it actually works!
If you’re a French beginner, however, one thing you can do to avoid the spoken/written disconnect is to take advantage of instructional resources that take spoken French into account. Here are just a couple:
Whether you need to increase your learning speed due to a life event or frustration with your current progress, rest assured that you can. If you hear someone speaking French on the television and think “I wish I could talk like that,” stop right there.
As a teacher for adults, I am often surprised to see that my students have forgotten how to study. So, here are some pointers for people who want to learn French to speak and communicate, not only to pass exams.
French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world with about 275 million speakers, 77 million of whom are native speakers. Indeed, apart consolidating relations with France – the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe – this language opens the doors of countries on all continents since it is the official language in 29 countries and currently spoken in 8 other countries. Moreover, specialists project that in 2050 8% of the world’s population will be francophone!