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:
French also uses an imperfect tense—the imparfait—which has only one set of endings (unlike Spanish), contains only one exception (être, meaning “to be”), and is used in exactly the same way as the Spanish imperfect. In order to form the imparfait, take the present indicative Nous form of a verb, slice off the conjugated ending, add the imparfait ending, and voilà! You’re in business.
French grammar, explained in a way you can actually understand. Many English speakers have not studied grammar in school, so the method shouldn’t expect them to know the difference between an adjective and an adverb, or what a direct object pronoun is.
On the following pages you’ll find a basic French language course for beginners, covering most everyday situations from ordering a meal at a restaurant to asking for directions. Many topics come with video or audio links, so that you can hear French spoken and get the chance to practise your accent.
Your resources. What resources do you have available? Fortunately, we have more French learning resources at our fingertips than ever before. Take advantage of as many resources as possible when making your study plan. The more interactive and fun, the better!
Find a penpal, or skype buddy who speaks French as their native language. There are lots of programs over the internet or through colleges and local language schools that can set people up with people who speak French.
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.
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Another great method is to go to France or any other French-speaking countries. For North Americans a great idea is to go to Montreal or Quebec City in the French-speaking province of Quebec. This offers opportunities for study in full-immersion native-speaking environments. Indeed, by learning in such an environment you can learn much faster. However, a lot of people cannot afford taking such trips and do not have the time. Again, our classes page offers lots of information about classes available in several major cities.
Keep a journal, document, or book with all of the vocabulary you learn in one place. If you’re a member of Rocket Languages, the “My Vocab” feature, which lets you save vocabulary and compile a list for future study, is fantastic for this.
While those of us who are very experienced in the language will have a lot to say about it (I used to translate French professionally for instance), we can forget what it’s like for those who are starting off, and it’s why I think Zack did a great job summarizing how it isn’t that bad, despite having learnt the language for such a short time. As such this is a nice guide for those of you just starting to learn French, especially if you dabbled in Spanish in school first.
So now that you’re armed with language that can be applied to all kinds of conversations, go out and start having some of those conversations! If you’re not in a situation yet where you can talk to native speakers, you’ll at least be able to start listening for these words and phrases in video content or on the radio, which will help you be that much more ready when the time comes!
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.
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? ).
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.
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.
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.
Another ça phrase for good measure. This phrase has a more specific usage, as it usually falls into the category of making plans. Plans are important because they mean more opportunities for conversation! You don’t want to miss or misunderstand someone asking if you want to hang out again.
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).
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.
Pronunciation is the biggest difference between French words and their English cousins. For beginners trying to learn French, correctly pronouncing words can be a significant challenge. You can probably guess the meaning of French words like hôtel or phonétique, but the accent marks are probably unfamiliar. French pronunciation must be precise and written French reflects this with five different kinds of accent marks. The difference between où (where) and ou (or) is all in how you say it. Mispronunciation can lead to real confusion, but once you recognize the accent marks it becomes much easier to pronounce words you’ve never seen or heard before. With the help of Babbel’s speech recognition feature you will be able to practice your accent and help ensure that your French is understandable.
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!
I actually had a student who learned French in three months. He spent about 14 hours self-studying per day (needless to say he didn’t work), took two hours of private French lessons with me five times a week, and he had an amazing memory. Furthermore, he was a math and coding genius. And a musician.
The adventures of Mary (from “A Moi Paris – The Beginnings”) continue. In a fun and enticing realistic story in the present tense, you’ll learn a ton of really useful French vocabulary and grammatical structures.
To learn French fast, memorize 30 words and phrases a day by labeling things in your house with the French word. Continue to immerse yourself by reading French children’s books, as they’re an easy entry into French sentence structure. Also, try listening to French radio stations and repeating as many phrases as you can. To practice your writing skills, keep a French journal, even if you only write a few sentences a day.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap and you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
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.
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.
I would love to get in contact with a native speaker to practice. I have been teaching 12-14 year olds French but I am forgetting the upper level grammar. I don’t feel as fluent as I used to be. I would love to start by writing…speaking…
This is one of the first phrases most people learn. Consequently, it’s easy to dismiss its importance and incredible versatility. Basically, ça (it, that) is a handy noun and aller (to go) is a handy verb.
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.
Meeting Up With German Learners. On MeetUp.com you can find weekly German meetups in many major cities around the world. I’ve also been successful using CouchSurfing to connect with German learners and native speakers.
Don’t let the third “irregular” group scare you, though. Not only does it comprise the smallest of the three groups, it’s also considered to be a “closed-class,” meaning that all new verbs introduced into the French language are of the first two “regular” classes.
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It’s all about the level. According to the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), a guideline used to define language achievements, there are three basic language level groups broken down into two levels each.
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!