According to the Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule, you can use 20% of the effort spent on learning new vocabulary for 80% comprehension in the language. That means that by learning the most frequently used vocabulary first, you are able to understand and communicate in a language much faster. One again, the internet is your friend here, and there are countless sources that provide lists of the most frequently used words in each language that can help you start your learning the practical way.
No great achievement ever happens overnight, and learning French is no different. The first step to learn French is to make some smart, realistic goals to help yourself organize your time and plan your studies.
Overloading yourself in this manner daily will definitely show improvement, even if you are a beginner and know nothing! Watching the news not only challenges your oral comprehension, you’ll pick up on how the French tell the weather, how they introduce one another, and how they pronounce words, which is extremely important for the later steps. Watching your favorite videos with subtitles/ dubbed doesn’t cost you a thing a gives you more exposure to French.
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.
Along with many of the French words that migrated into English came vestiges of their former pronunciations. Consider words and expressions like montage, déjà vu, bourgeois, comprise, brochure, filet mignon, chauffeur, lingerie, and encore. Without knowing it, you actually use many of the sounds found in French regularly.
Likewise, 2 months, 2 weeks, or 10 days isn’t really indicative of the amount of time and work you need to put in to learn French. These timelines are merely attention-grabbers that aren’t promising you “instant skills,” but are rather promising the basics in as short a time as possible. This can be done through the use of learner-friendly teaching methods and by teaching you the most practical vocabulary and grammar first. It will, however, take much more time to be able to fully converse in French in a variety of different situations.
This method is so obvious, I kind of didn’t want to include it to the list. If you don’t know what immersion is, click on the following link where I beautifully describe it in another article: Immersion in France. Essentially immersion is moving yourself to a francophone area for some time. Immersion will have you speaking French so fast you won’t believe it, however you must avoid other English speakers as if they have the plague (including the French people who want to practice their English with you)!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Many polyglots (folks who know more than one language) swear by the “shadowing” technique for learning a language quickly. Go outside and put your headphones on. While you play the language, walk briskly. As you’re walking repeat out loud and clearly what you’re hearing. Repeat, march, repeat. This will help you connect movement with the language and to retrain your focus so that you aren’t obsessing about memorization.
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.
In most French-speaking countries it’s considered good manners to greet everyone. So, whether you’re speaking to a clerk, a waiter, or just bumping into someone on the street, take the time to say a polite bonjour before you proceed. This also means that when step on the bus or train you should say a quick bonjour to anyone within hearing distance.
Other rules, especially those about the pronunciation of vowels, should be learned as you immerse yourself in the language. One tool that can help you is Pronunciator. As for intonation, one of the essential rules is that the accent of a word or phrase always bears on the last syllable or last word. To mark this difference, the penultimate syllable is weaker than the antepenultimate.
I’d like to share seven steps so you’ll know how to speak French. This is the language hacker’s approach in how to learn French. You can use this approach whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been learning French for years.
Know your learning style. Are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? This means do you learn best through looking at the words yourself, through hearing them spoken to you, or through listening and seeing and associating actions or feelings with them.
Learn French in context: check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided pronunciation.
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.
The traditional meaning of quand même is along the lines of “all the same,” or “still,” and it’s used this way. But it also tends to be used as a filler word quite often, to the point where it’s difficult to say exactly what its function is. A lot of the time. you’ll find that it’s used for emphasis.
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!
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Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today’s French to adults for 20 years in the US and France. Based on my students’ goals and needs, I’ve created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it’s spoken today, for all levels. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!
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.
French was my first love when it comes to languages. There’s an expression in French: “On revient toujours à son premier amour.” It means you always go back to your first love. I love French. I love all the languages that I have learned, but I have a special affection for French.
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.
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.