As a language nerd, I’m a big fan of Benny Lewis, whose “Speak from Day One” approach should be, I think, language-learning gospel. He’s written several posts about why learning Czech, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Hungarian, and other languages is not as hard as you think. His point is that with the right attitude and approach, learning a new language—despite what detractors might claim—is never as difficult a task as it’s often made out to be.
English is historically a Germanic language, but after the Norman Invasion in 1066, French became the official language of the nobility for over 300 years. As a result, several thousand French words trickled down into common English usage. By the time of Shakespeare, English had transformed into a truly hybrid language with French words accounting for half of English vocabulary. There are the obvious transplants like rendezvous, femme fatale, and croissant, but you might be surprised to learn that thousands of ordinary English words come from French. Without even exploring the rest of the alphabet, French has given us the words action, affection, agriculture, alligator, amusement, application, architecture, and attitude.
Famous Hungarian polyglot Kato Lomb once said that language learning success is a function of motivation plus time divided by inhibition. I would use the word resistance instead of inhibition. A person’s inhibition is only one form of resistance to learning a language. Frustration with teaching methods is another, and in some ways more important form of resistance.
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 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.
Interesting. While technically French was my first foreign language, I hadn’t studied it until last year, though I had been in touch with it since I was a kid (both my parents had studied French language in college).
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned some French this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
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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.
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.
This one is used as a contradiction but also kind of a filler phrase, actually. While writing up this list, I was actually listening to a French television show in the background, and I actually heard en fait about twenty times, actually. I actually did.
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!
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.
Why is that some people are worse language learners no matter how hard they work? Among the many emails/tweets and in-person comments I get about those who have tried and failed to learn languages, what comes up more often than not is something along the lines of “I know that I can’t ever learn French/German/Chinese
If you search “learn French” on the major search engines you will find that there are many sites offering basic language instruction. Many of these sites offer free audio and video lessons. The general structure is that these sites offer instruction in basic areas of knowledge such as counting and numbers, asking directions and common phrases.
By far the best way for rapid learning is to take a formal class. Often this means enrolling in a university, community college or language school and taking a serious course for credit taught by a professional instructor or professor. By taking a formal course you’ll get to learn the important fundamentals of the language. However, this method is difficult as my people are busy working or studying and don’t have time. For more information check out the French classes section of our website.
Practice frequently. Without practicing what you learn, you’re not going to get very far. Even learning a language quickly takes a certain amount of commitment and time. As long as you work hard and practice what you’re learning, there’s no reason for you not to learn French well!
Listen to things in French. Put on some French music, or your favorite movie dubbed in French. Seek out French cinema, and French television shows and radio stations. Practice imitating what you’re hearing.
“Accord du verbe. In French, the past participles in compound tenses and moods sometimes have to agree with another part of the sentence, either the subject or the direct object. It’s a lot like adjectives: when a agreement is required, you need to add e for feminine subjects/objects and s for plural ones.”
Because Immersion is not practical for many people; language courses are the 2nd best way to learn French. Courses provided through your high school, local college, accredited university, or French Universities all are effective ways towards fluency. Honestly, 6-months of “intensive” French courses will have you getting started effectively and quickly.
Of course, some part of learning French is going to be fun. Students who learn with my French learning audio method À Moi Paris say it is fun: the learning revolves around lively characters, and their story progresses through the audiobooks, getting more complex as your level of French increases.
If you’re a French beginner, however, one thing you can do to avoid the spoken/written disconnect is to take advantage of instructional resources that take spoken French into account. Here are just a couple:
Browsing italki. italki is my go-to place to find native German speakers. The prices are reasonable (especially compared to private, face-to-face lessons) and you can meet in the comfort of your own home.
I am a 13 year old girl and I want to learn French. But I cannot join any french classes because of my school timings. Please tell me any kind of software or program that can help me learn french at home. 🙁
Spend some time just focusing on sound and spelling so that the words and sounds in your target language are no longer foreign to you. Study the alphabet. Listen to pronunciation guides on YouTube, watch movies or series with subtitles in your target language, or use Rocket Language’s Hear It Say It audio recognition to learn to recognize and repeat sounds.
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.
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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.
But what languages are the easiest to learn for English speakers? The Foreign Service Institute ranked the 9 least difficult languages for English-speaking folks. Check them out and let us know about your experience learning these languages.
Knowing some common French greetings and good-byes will be indispensable when traveling in French-speaking countries. Saying hello and good-bye in French will quickly become second nature because you’ll use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.
Spanish pronunciation is fairly easy for English speakers, with only ten vowel/diphthong sounds (English has 20), and the easy-to-master letter ñ. Like Italian, the orthography is clear and simple; words are written as they’re pronounced, which makes reading easier. Grammatically, Spanish has fewer irregularities than other romance languages too.