338 million people around the world speak French, either as a first or second language. In the U.S. it is the second most studied foreign language after Spanish. Not surprisingly, there are many ways to study the language:
French Today has lessons and audiobooks that focus on teaching French the way it’s actually spoken first and foremost. Using their materials, you can become familiar with grammar and vocabulary concepts while also developing an understanding of what that grammar and vocabulary really sounds like in action.
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.
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.
Today’s guest post is from Zack, (@zackjsimon) who is a long-term reader of the blog and has sent me this guest post idea for a concept that you all know I like to write about for as many languages as I can!
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.
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.
English is a part of the Germanic family and is linked to many European languages by descent or influence. It was also a big mooch in its formative years, with over 50% of its vocabulary stemming from Latin or French.
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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Your deadlines. This also plays a major role in determining how much time you should dedicate to learning. If you need to learn French as fast as possible for an upcoming trip or move, then you will need to dedicate as much time as possible to learning the language.
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.
If you learn these and other conversational connectors in French, your conversations will reach new heights. You’ll be able to hold the other person’s interest and make your sentences sound less “raw”. You’ll find you’re chatting longer with French speakers. This extra practice in turn will make you an even better French speaker.
Learn greetings and goodbyes. These are useful phrases and words to start with, since most people begin their interaction, and end their interaction in similar ways. The “zh” in the following pronunciation guides sounds like “j” and “sh” mixed together.
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!
French is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. The grammar and sentence structure are different from English, but simpler. Because both languages have Latin roots, they also share thousands of cognates – words that sound the same and have the same meanings.
From a practical standpoint, I’ve found that anytime I’m at a loss for the right French word, coating an English word in a heavy French accent is a surprisingly effective strategy. I remember during my first week in French class, I was trying to say that a certain French word exists in English but has a different meaning.
On top of that, many parts of German grammar are the same as English since they are both part of the Germanic family of languages. Older Anglo-Saxon texts are particularly close to the German language. Even more recent classics, such as Shakespeare, are closer to the German roots of English.
Almost all European languages share countless cognates with English thanks to their shared roots, history, and evolution. Take the English words “identification,” “attention,” and “direction,” for example. The very same words exist in French with the very same ending and just a slightly different pronunciation.
“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
If you’re on the computer, just Google “French conjugations” or “conjugation” of any verb and you will find what you are looking for. The same is true, by the way, with pronouns, adjectives. Anything you want to look at, you just Google and it will be there.
You’ll be one of many fellow French language learners. French is also the second most widely taught language other than English throughout the world. It’s taught on nearly every continent. This means that there are many, many French learning resources out there and you’ll have a wide network of other French language learners for support.
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.
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.
Things often seem like a big deal when they’re really not. You can use this to quickly disarm a tense situation in which someone thinks you’re upset with them, or just to comfort someone who’s having a hard time. Notice that the n’ is usually left off in spoken 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.
If you are more advanced, read out loud over the voice that is reading, and study how your pronunciation differs. Pay close attention to the word grouping, where the reader breathes, and don’t forget to respect the liaisons and the eventual glidings.
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.
First of all, anything is possible with the right method, motivation and dedication. Some language programs will definitely prepare you with practical language elements within the timeframe they promise, but you will definitely not be fluent. You won’t be able to talk with anyone about absolutely anything in French, but you will know some of the basics that can help you survive in France without being completely lost.
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.
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.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning French, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online French program: