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!
Well, there you have it! By practicing everyday for 30 minutes to an hour a week, you will definitely achieve something depending on how effective your practice is. I know at first it goes slowly… I started going through Italian now and I feel as if I’ve hit a wall with what I can say. After you get a good foundation, you can move faster and faster, hopefully achieving that conversational-level before your next trip to France. Bon courage.
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!
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.
Over the years many friends have asked me the question, “David, How can I learn French fast?” There are many ways to master this beautiful language quickly. There are many different approaches to learning foreign languages and some work better than others. In this article I’ll share 7 methods have worked best for me.
Some French videos on YouTube are really well done, and provide a fun support to learn French. So do French songs, French movies, French blogs,French podcasts, the many French apps… There is so much to choose from nowadays!
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.
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In Afrikaans, there is no conjugation of verbs (write, wrote, written), gender (think gato or gata in Spanish) or pronouns (my, mine; who, whose). In other words, you’ll hardly be a grammar slave if you take up this logical language.
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.
We have adopted an objective and efficient approach to learn how to speak a language easily and quickly: we suggest you to start by memorizing words, phrases and practical expressions that you can use in everyday life and that will be useful when traveling.
Time for another video in Chinese! This is actually part of the summer project of improving many languages, and as such it is the first in a series of many interviews with natives of the languages in my list of 10. Yang Yang works as the Mandarin speaking presenter for the TV show “Hello Hollywood”.
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.
You’ll hear the word bon a lot. Literally, it means “good.” In spoken French, though, it’s often used as an interjection. It can signify decisiveness, similar to “right” or “OK” when used at the beginning of a sentence in English.
French can seem difficult to pronounce at first, and even a little difficult to understand. It isn’t like English, Swedish or the tonal languages. French tends to roll along in a fairly monotonous range of tones. There are the nasal sounds which seem to sound the same, but aren’t.
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.
Conjugate verbs properly. Again as a basic french learner, learn to conjugate the verbs properly. If you’re going to write the verb as it is then the whole sentence goes wrong or sometimes becomes meaningless.
Learning a new language is really good for you. Learning a new language like French has some incredible benefits for you mind and body. It can help your brain to grow, become sharper, multitask better and even delay the onset of dementia. Check out all of the benefits of learning a language for even more reasons why it’s so great.
When my friend Anthony Lauder introduced me to conversational connectors a few years ago, they blew my mind. They’re a great technique for sounding more like a native speaker, for removing the awkwardness from conversations, and for giving yourself time to recall vocabularly.
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.
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.
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.
I would strongly recommend any beginner student to take private French classes (at least a couple) and have a native French speaker check their pronunciation. My audiobooks are great because they are all audio based but nothing beats a real French native to at least check your pronunciation and give you customized pointers to keep you on the right path…
If you think that’s confusing, you’re right. The good news is that when you meet someone for the first time, you can usually just shake hands. Then just watch how other people interact. Because it’s such a common practice, you should quickly be able to determine what the standard is where you’re staying.
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.
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.
Once you’re done with a video source (or part of one) give yourself a rest and then try re-watching it a month or so later. See if you can speak along with the audio, or if you can simply watch and understand what’s being said. This last part of the method is not only important for tracking your progress, but continuing it. Keeping familiarity with source material after you’ve already learned it will help build and maintain a base for fluency.
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.
Learning French is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning French online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. French is a close cousin to English with thousands of words in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free French lesson.
You can’t – you’ll have to learn the language first. After you do, you’ll probably speak slowly for a long time until you get more comfortable with the language, intonation, pronunciation, etc. Then you can begin speaking quickly.
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.
Discover the French cognates. These cognates are your friends and can make your language learning much easier and faster. Once again, simply research a list of all of the cognates (a Google search of French cognates” or “French English loan words” usually does the trick). Take advantage of the vocabulary that you already know!
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.
Language Training is where you develop your language foundation. Here you’ll build language skills with everything from full conversations to writing. Our Course curriculum has won numerous accolades over the years. Dig in and find out why.
You can think of it as a box of tools. Except, in this case, most of them are multitools. Those that have more specific uses are like screwdrivers: basic tools that can be used in a variety of situations.
Babbel’s French course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. You can practice online or via your iPhone or Android device. Whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.
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.
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.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in a French-speaking country. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of French vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming French radio and TV online, watching French films and doing multimedia lessons online.
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!
Reading, watching and listening has a remarkable effect on your brain. Simply by being exposed to French, your brain is put to work. It starts trying to understand new words by making connections to previously learned words and seeks to make sense of any new structures. Basically, you’re learning without feeling like you’re learning. After a while, you’ll find yourself using French words and constructions that you didn’t even study thanks to your brain’s ability to soak up vocabulary and grammar while reading a book or watching a series.
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).
I bet you don’t talk like this in your native language. More likely, you enrich the information you communicate by adding phrases to show your mood or level of politeness, or to simply transition smoothly between topics.
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.
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.
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: