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.
It’s important to note the conditions of the study, however. The students’ schedule called for 25 hours of class per week plus 3 hours of daily independent study, and their classes were generally small, with no more than 6 students. In other words, these were almost ideal language-learning conditions, something that is important to keep in mind, since many of us don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to learning French.
When studying verb tenses, for example, practice saying the same sentence using every different pronoun in the same tense. Then, practice changing the sentence into a negative sentence and into a question. Later, you can then practice saying the same sentence in different tenses with the same pronoun, in the negative form, in the question form, etc. You can even make your own flash cards to help you with this.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a French grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to get started with French. Books could get you reading French after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
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.
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!
You’ll notice that many other “–tion” words appear in French almost exactly as they do in English, especially British English, which never replaced the “s” in words like réalisation with a “z” as we’ve done in American English.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One great element of the language is that interrogatives are beautifully easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You love me?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.
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.
If you have access to English subtitles for your video sources and really need to use them, go ahead. This isn’t “cheating,” because it still requires you to figure out what’s being said in French. You can also use French subtitles to check yourself, but be aware that, for some sources, subtitles may differ from the audio.
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.
Here’s an example of how they work. When someone asks you “How is your hotel room?” instead of answering with “um … good”, which pretty much ends things right on the spot, you might add in phrases and expressions to create a more organic feel to what you are saying. You could say: “To tell the truth, that is a good question. The hotel room is good. Thanks for asking. How is your hotel room?” . This is exactly the same answer with conversational connectors added in.
If you’ve decided to give French a try and you’re eager to start (or continue) learning the language of liberté, egalité, and fraternité (the French national motto), here are a few hacks to learn French fast and and optimize your efforts.
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Covers all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
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.
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.
Every day, start a new “entry” in a notebook by marking the date. Play your video. Try to understand and hold as much of each sentence in your memory as you can. When the sentence ends, pause. Begin writing out the sentence and speak each word out loud as you’re writing it. You might have to replay a few times to get the entire sentence. You might have to do some quick research, or look through a dictionary for a mystery word when you only have a vague idea of how it’s spelled beyond the first few letters. You might need to turn to an internet message board to ask a question about the usage of a particular phrase and then observe the resulting debate between native speakers. This is a process. Enjoy it.
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.
Your New Year’s Resolution may be to “learn French,” but what does that actually mean? Vague final goals like this are both frustrating and unproductive. After all, how will you know when–and if–this goal is ever achieved? Instead, try making some SMART goals.
Learn French step by step. A light introduction to French grammar and vocabulary. Concise and entertaining. This French course is based on level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
For all of you who are saying, “I don’t know any French people or anyone who can speak French…” have no fear! Try to convince somebody you know to learn French with you! Conversations by yourself aren’t fun at all, but saying “bonjour” to someone learning the language with you will actually be meaningful. Having someone else learning the language can serve a person to make you strive for better results or study when you don’t feel like it.
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…
I have seen people approach lists of vocabulary by looking at the French and seeing if they can understand the English; this is good to build your understanding of French, but not your speaking ability.