The moment a native French speaker starts to speak with her about something that isn’t the way to the bathroom, how she’s doing, or what she would like to order, she’s stuck. She speaks enough to get by, but not enough to fluently communicate. While she may “speak French,” I probably wouldn’t recommend that she puts it on her resume just yet.
When in doubt, disavow all knowledge! This phrase can be used to get out of an uncomfortable discussion, or just to honestly proclaim your ignorance on a subject. You will usually hear this phrase spoken without the n’.
French is the most widely taught second language worldwide after English. Over 100 million people today speak French as a second language or are currently learning. There are several options available when learning how to speak French: hiring a private tutor, enrolling in a language course (in school or online), studying alone with a CD-ROM or audio course, joining an exchange program, or practicing conversational French with a native speaker (a so-called tandem partner). All of these strategies can be effective, although some (tutors and CD-ROMS) can be expensive, while classes and exchange programs are also a huge time commitment. The fastest way to pick up French – and the biggest commitment by far – is still immersion. Moving to a French speaking country requires you to pick up the language in order to live day-to-day. This survival pressure usually produces fluency within a few months. If you do plan to immerse yourself in a Francophone country, it’s not a bad idea to prepare beforehand with one of the methods mentioned above. If you don’t plan to move and don’t have much spare time, an online program like Babbel may be your best bet.
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!
To learn French fast, memorize 30 words and phrases a day by labeling things in your house with the French word. Continue to immerse yourself by reading French children’s books, as they’re an easy entry into French sentence structure. Also, try listening to French radio stations and repeating as many phrases as you can. To practice your writing skills, keep a French journal, even if you only write a few sentences a day.
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.
It’s all about the level. According to the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), a guideline used to define language achievements, there are three basic language level groups broken down into two levels each.
Verb forms are a relative breeze in Norwegian, with no conjugation according to person or number. The past tense is formed with a simple –e suffix; the future is formed with the auxiliary vil; the conditional perfect with ville ha. The passive tense is formed by adding a simple –s. It’s a walk in the park compared to English.
I didn’t know the word for “meaning” in French, so I said the English word “connotation” with a thick French accent. I paused and studied my teacher coyly, waiting for her to correct me. She looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Well, duh! Connotation! Everyone knows connotation!”
I’d always assumed the Swedes were just good at everything, hence their omnipresence on North American hockey teams. She firmly denied these superpowers. “English is a lot more like Swedish than you realize.”
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.
Now that you understand it is useless to ask “how long will it take to learn French”, I suggest you read this blog article: my twelve tips to learn French efficiently. Let me warn you though there is no loophole – no secret magic pass. Just sound advice on how to direct your French studies.
In the language learning world, mistakes are a sign of progress. Mistakes help you to learn faster. Don’t worry about upsetting native French speakers for being too “bold” and trying to speak with them in their native language. Just go for it! Odds are, they’ll love it and want to help you. Don’t let fear get in your way. Interact in French as much as possible, and you’ll be amazed how fast you can learn it.
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.
Overloading yourself in this manner daily will definitely show improvement, even if you are a beginner and know nothing! Watching the news not only challenges your oral comprehension, you’ll pick up on how the French tell the weather, how they introduce one another, and how they pronounce words, which is extremely important for the later steps. Watching your favorite videos with subtitles/ dubbed doesn’t cost you a thing a gives you more exposure to French.
Accessing this kind of material is made possible by modern technology, including LingQ, mp3 technology, online dictionaries, the Internet and much more that didn’t exist during Kato Lomb’s time, nor when I was learning French 50 years or more ago.
According to the FSI, the closer a language is to your native language (in this case, probably English), the faster you will learn that language. They divided their findings into three basic language categories based on the languages’ similarity to English, which determined how long it took learners to reach general professional proficiency or higher:
learn french fast
learn to speak french
french for beginners
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.
Okay, so perhaps you’re thinking that, yes, you realize that English and French have many words in common, but there’s no way you’re ever going to be able to master that perfect accent your fantasy French husband/girlfriend/whatever has. Ah, but not so fast!
Speak in French. This is one of the most important components to learning French. You have to speak the language, even if you feel embarrassed by how little you know. Everyone starts off not speaking well, but with practice you’ll improve.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
In fact, you should get in the habit of Googling whenever you have a question about French, including grammar issues. It is far more effective to search for an answer to something that you have noticed in the language, that you are curious about, rather than having a teacher push an explanation at you.
Finally, the cliché saying that “practice makes perfect” has never been more true than in the language learning world. Learning French involves a lot of practice, but there are a few great tips to practice without even needing a passport.
I have touched lightly on some of what you will find in French. Don’t put these things up front. Don’t think that the mass of grammar rules need to be mastered before you can enjoy the language. That is what they did to me in school. It was when I broke away from that, and immersed myself in content of interest, reading, listening, watching movies, and conversing with people, that I started to fall in love with French. That stimulated my motivation, reduced my frustration, and induced me to spend the time necessary to achieve fluency in this lovely language, “mon premier amour” among languages.
Another ça phrase in the neighborhood of ça va, ça marche can just be generally used to check if someone is okay with something. You can also say “comment ça marche?” to ask how something works (like a vending machine or a cell phone).
By no means do I expect you to become the next linguistic mastermind. Simply put, the entire French language is composed of 37 sounds. Most of them exactly similar to English and others which have no place in our language. If you took a good listen to each phoneme (correct linguistic term for sounds that a language chooses), you’ll have a better understanding of French pronunciation. Check out this site and go through the sounds, all the exercises can be completed well within an hour. This step can be skipped until you have a more concrete understanding of the language, or not even accessed at all. I know many intermediate French speakers who know nothing about linguistics or French phonetics. Also, try reading this article which provides very useful pronunciation tips: French Phonetics.