Growing up in Montreal in the 1950s I had French every day at school – elementary school and high school – starting from grade two. After ten years, as I entered McGill University at the age of 17, I couldn’t hold a conversation in French and had great trouble understanding the language.
French grammar may at first seem strange to an English-speaker, but its rules are actually easier and less irregular than English grammar. Once you have a handle on French grammar, the rules are effectively unchanged for Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Since they are all derived from Latin, the Romance languages have several grammatical rules in common: adjectives come after the noun they modify, all verbs are conjugated, the subject-verb order is inverted when asking a question, and all nouns have a gender designation. Being familiar with one Romance language will allow you to pick up others more easily.
Yes, but what about the grammar and other difficulties of French? Well, here is a quick summary that can help you. Don’t try to remember anything here. Just use this, and other resources, as a reference as you set out to discover this lovely language on your own.
You have to get used to what in English we call the ‘w’ words: what, where, when, why, who, how: “quoi” , “où” , “qui” , “quand” , “pourquoi” , “comment”. You should get used to those at the beginning of your studies, as they are essential for making statements and asking questions. Try Google Translate to see what the corresponding words and structures are in French to questions you have in English.
So how do French speakers talk so fast, anyway? Well, part of it is the language itself, as mentioned above. But also, not everything that’s being said is necessarily crucial. This little bits of linguistic fluff do not require a whole lot of thought to put together.
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 plenty of language courses that will teach you how to deal with specific situations, like asking for directions or ordering dinner. These situations are strictly controlled, though, and so are the resulting conversations.
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.
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.
It’s easier to learn than you think. You may have heard that French is a difficult language for English speakers to learn, but that’s not really the case. French is actually considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. This is a big benefit if you’re hoping to learn French fast!
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It’s spoken on 5 continents. From the streets of Paris to the shores of Africa, the islands of the Caribbean and everywhere in between, French speakers can be found in North America, South America and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and even in formerly French-occupied parts of Asia. This makes it an extremely useful language for travelling the world.
With Babbel, you can learn French without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
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?”
Never rely on a translator to translate entire documents. They do not work because there are several expressions in french that do not mean what they say literally, which is how translators obviously take them.
Mastering this language is also a matter of correctly reproducing phonemes and intonation (the « melody »). Here are some instructions to introduce you to the pronunciation of the 20 to 21 consonants and 11 to 16 vowels of the French
Story is context, and context is key. Once you have your source material, arrange it into usable segments. If you’re using a movie, try not to break it up mid-scene or leave out a lot of content between sentences. Aside from this, you can use as much or as little of each source as you like. I might advise against designating the French-language Lord of the Rings box set as your one and only source, but if you’re really determined then I wish you luck on your journey.
Very soon you’ll discover that whereas in English verb forms don’t change much for person, in French every form of the verb changes, depending on the person, and tense and “mood”. We call these verb changes, the different conjugation forms of verbs. It’s very difficult to remember these conjugations. You can spend all kinds of time pouring over conjugation tables. In my experience it’s a very unsatisfying thing to do because you forget them. You might remember them for tomorrow’s test and then you forget them, so you constantly have to refer to them and see them in context.
Aiming for a B2 level of a language is therefore a more specific and results-focused goal, and, thanks to the criteria provided by the Common European Framework of Reference, it’s also measureable. It’s much more attainable than aiming for the vague notion of “fluency” (which, seems to elude even fluent speakers!). It can easily be made time-bound by keeping in mind the criteria needed for each level and making yourself a schedule with your goals in mind.
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.
It can help you learn other languages. French is an excellent foundation for learning other similar, Latin-based languages. These include Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and even some English, since about one-third of modern English comes from French. Believe it or not, learning French will help you improve your English vocabulary!
Consider this sentence in French – made up almost entirely of French-English cognates: L’ancien restaurant est à proximité du musée d’art. The cognates for “restaurant”, “museum” and “art” are virtually unchanged. Stretch your brain a bit and you might notice that ancien looks like “ancient” and proximité looks a lot like “proximity”; the simpler alternatives to these words are “old” and “near”. Put it all together and you get: The old restaurant is near the art museum.
Add to that the fact that the third person singular On form is usually used in place of the first person plural, and you don’t even have to think about changing the pronunciation for the majority of verb forms in the present indicative.
Memorize 30 words and phrases each day. In 90 days, you’ll have learned about 80% of the language. The most common words make up the greatest percent of interactions, so start by memorizing the most common words.
Learn how to ask for help. This is important particularly if you need the other speaker to speak more slowly or to repeat themselves. Make sure to look up the individual words while you’re practicing, as the English translation and the French meaning can be different.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn French online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
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.
Hello from Istanbul – my new home for the next two months! My mission is to speak conversational Turkish by mid August! This will bring the total number of languages I’ve dived into this year to four (Tagalog, ASL, Dutch & now Turkish) as I had initially set out to do. I’m only giving myself
Each unit is in the form of a checklist with links to online lessons and other resources. I recommend spending at least a week but no more than a month on each unit: study/practice each item in the list and then go back through them again more quickly to cement your learning before moving on to the next unit. And of course you can go back to an earlier unit any time you like.
Whether you are going to spend a few days with friends for a leisure trip or if you are on a business trip, nothing will be more useful to you than to be able to slip a few words in the language of your interlocutors, who will appreciate your effort and will be certainly more willing to help.
Don’t worry, video updates in Arabic are coming soon 😉 Today I’ve just recorded the first of many videos to document my time in this country, and it should be on my Youtube channel by Monday (need time to upload HD videos on slow connections, as well as subtitling). But first, it’s time for another
Enfin can be confusing. It can mean “finally” or “after all,” or it can just be a pure filler word. It can also be used to indicate impatience or frustration. When used as a filler word, it’s often reduced to ‘fin.
If you want to have more “tools” added to your arsenal of French words, it’s a lot easier to continue on with a conversation. I would recommend using google, word reference, and/or a French dictionary to help you translate ANY word you stumble upon (reading, writing, or listening to the news). Follow up finding the definition with writing it down in a journal or notebook, maybe even make a correct French sentence using the word! All the extra trouble takes no longer than a minute and will allow you to retain words better. I know that in Italian, I look up words all the time, but only a small fraction of them will stick in my memory unless I write it down somewhere or use the word soon. As a little tip, reading is by far the best way to get more vocabulary and useful verbs. My mom and my friends (who don’t understand French) miraculously have the ability to understand French sentences which contain English cognates.
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.)
This is especially true with speaking French. French includes sounds that don’t even exist in English. When you’ve only ever spoken one language, forming your lips and tongue into new shapes to make unfamiliar sounds can feel jarring, like hearing a wrong note in a well-known song.
Never heard of it? It’s spoken by less than half a million people in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It wasn’t included on the list because Frisian is rarely studied as a second language, so finding a textbook or tutor outside the North Sea would be near impossible.
Like all romance languages, French has a few difficulties for prospective speakers. There are more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table). Pronunciation is especially difficult in French, with vowel sounds and silent letters.
I will most definitely take your advice. I am learning French at school and I’m not doing too well at all. We had exams earlier this month and I am sure that I failed because I did not finish the papers. The rest of the students did and so I felt stupid and wanted to just quit the class. My teacher said my biggest problem is my lack of vocabulary since the way that I speak is quite nice. Reading this article though has just given me the extra push that I need to stick with it. I really believe that I can do it now. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
You’re probably noticing a pattern. There’s no getting around it, ça is a word that comes up over and over in French conversation. Trying to talk without it is like trying to prepare a three-course meal without a knife.
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? ).
Don’t forget to mimic natives! This may sound weird or silly, but if you hear something, say it out loud a few times – copying their intonation and pronunciation. My American friend would overhear French people talking and essentially mimic them, it works though because you’ll sound more and more like a native, fluent French person.
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.