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.
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.
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.
Most of the “learn a language fast” advertisements seen online promise incredible results like “learn French in 1 month,” “2 weeks” or even just “10 days.” They typically don’t go into great detail about how they’ll actually help learners achieve this, which leaves most wondering, “Is it really possible?”
Today, I want to mention one of the most important points in my life, when my destiny changed and my faith in the traditional system of study hard, get a job, work up the ladder, and retire with as much money as possible, was absolutely shattered and I decided to start over from scratch, and why I’m really glad that I did. Sorry it’s a little long, but I do want to give the full picture so you have the context of how my philosophy on life evolved dramatically in a very short time.
This step is crucial. Why do you want to learn French? Is it because you have family or French origins? Is it because you’re going to visit France soon? Is it because it’ll help your professional or personal endeavors? Is it because you want to read the original French text of Les Misérables or Madame Bovary? Whatever the reason, you need to take it, write it down, and place it somewhere you’ll notice often. This will be your motivation during those days you don’t feel like practicing… it’s all psychological. Without the will power or dedication, you won’t be any closer to French fluency. Especially if you’re learning French by yourself. I just started learning Italian on my own and my motivation is speaking to my girlfriend and my upcoming trip to Italy.
By grade three I could recite from memory the 16 French verbs that used the auxiliary verb “être”. But by grade 11 I still couldn’t speak or understand very well. Yet I eventually became fluent in French, graduated from a leading French university and have had a love affair with the language ever since. What is to be done? What advice do I have for the beginner?
French Today has lessons and audiobooks that focus on teaching French the way it’s actually spoken first and foremost. Using their materials, you can become familiar with grammar and vocabulary concepts while also developing an understanding of what that grammar and vocabulary really sounds like in action.
There’s the futur proche, which will be extremely familiar to speakers of English and Spanish. It simply combines the conjugated form of the verb aller, meaning “to go,” with an infinitive. It’s equivalent to saying in English, “I am going to .” There’s also a futur simple that, like the imparfait, uses only one set of endings that are added to the “future stem,” which is usually just the infinitive or, for the irregular verbs, the infinitive with the final “e” chopped off.
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.
It’s a great career asset. French is very useful in the business world since many multinational companies in a wide range of sectors use French as their working language. France is also the world’s fifth biggest economy. French is essential for anyone interested in a career with an international organization like the ones we mentioned above.
Never heard of it? It’s spoken by less than half a million people in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It wasn’t included on the list because Frisian is rarely studied as a second language, so finding a textbook or tutor outside the North Sea would be near impossible.
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.
The top ten most common French words are: être (to be, being), avoir (to have), je (I), de (of, from, by, than, in, with), ne (not), pas (not; step, pace), le (the; him, it (referring to a masculine singular noun)), la (the; her, it (referring to a feminine singular noun)), tu (you), vous (you, yourself).
Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised French phrasebook.
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.
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.
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!
If you’re getting frustrated regularly, reconsider your source material. It could be too challenging or not lively enough to hold your interest. If you would rather watch Amélie than a Rohmer film, now’s the time for honesty. If you would actually rather watch Rohmer but are in denial about being a film snob, now’s the time to own it. If the material doesn’t seem to be the problem, try cutting back on the number of sentences.
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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!
They say learning other languages is difficult especially when you want to learn to speak French but it really isn’t that hard. What you do need to make it a whole lot easier is a program that teaches you to speak French with an easy to follow system.
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.
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.
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.
This exclamation is typically followed by exasperated hand wringing over the difficulty of the pronunciation, the seemingly endless list of exceptions to every grammar rule, the conjugations, and so on. Now that I’ve officially eclipsed the three-month milestone in my French language studies, I’d like to dispel, once-and-for-all, the (surprisingly) pervasive notion that French is somehow impossibly difficult to learn. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
Speak in French. This is one of the most important components to learning French. You have to speak the language, even if you feel embarrassed by how little you know. Everyone starts off not speaking well, but with practice you’ll improve.
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.
With Babbel, you can learn French without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
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.
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!
When in doubt, check out how babies learn things, they do it best. I’m afraid you’ll have to dive right into the nightmare if you want to train your ear. If you can’t hear people talking directly or you prefer to take steps, it can be done with movies/series/games in French, with french subs. Reading while listening helps a lot. After this, try some french YouTube videos.
It’s spoken on 5 continents. From the streets of Paris to the shores of Africa, the islands of the Caribbean and everywhere in between, French speakers can be found in North America, South America and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and even in formerly French-occupied parts of Asia. This makes it an extremely useful language for travelling the world.
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.
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.