French for Beginners – What You Need to KnowThere is too much emphasis on grammar in French instruction, and I believe this is unhelpful. We need to immerse ourselves in the language right away, by listening to and reading stories. Initially these should be short, full of repetition, like the mini-stories at LingQ. Then, as soon as possible, the immersion should consist of compelling content, audio with text.
The most common response I receive upon telling someone that I’m learning French—from English and French speakers alike—is something along the lines of, “French is so hard! I can’t believe you can speak like this after only three months!”
In most classroom settings you will do a lot of writing, but less speaking. Speaking the language and immersing yourself in it is extremely important and a way to become more efficient at the language more quickly.
“To paraphrase Tolstoy, all happy language learners resemble each other. They develop a passion for the language they are learning. Each unhappy language learner, on the other hand, finds his or her own reason to be turned off. I got turned on to French flair long ago and my passion for French has stayed with me for over 50 years.”
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.
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.
“It is said that ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.’ David is a great teacher who inspires. He has great patient and explains french pronunciation very nicely. He is very friendly with pleasant personality. I am sure anyone will love to learn french from David.”
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.
One thing I recommend insofar as pronunciation is concerned, is to get used to making the ‘euh’ sound. “Je”, “le” “me” etc., and the unaccented “e” at the end of words. There are lots of ‘euh’ in French. The French use “euh” the way English speakers use “aah” or “umm”, as a spacer or breather between words or phrases. You kind of have to pick up on that as soon as you can and have it flow through your pronunciation.
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.
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Now that you understand it is useless to ask “how long will it take to learn French”, I suggest you read this blog article: my twelve tips to learn French efficiently. Let me warn you though there is no loophole – no secret magic pass. Just sound advice on how to direct your French studies.
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.
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.
Stick to quality sources. Your sources don’t all have to be broadcast by Canal+, but stay away from more casual YouTube videos of people partying, filming natural disasters, etc. These can be funny but don’t always contain the most reliable content and, as you probably already know, they can take a sudden turn for the tragic or the gross.
Grammatically, though, it’s relatively easy. Danish has only nine verb forms, including the passive, which is peculiar to Scandinavian languages but familiar to English speakers. Danish has a lot of Germanic-based cognate vocabulary too: “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday”, in Danish, are “Mandag, Tirsdag, Onsdag.”
Native speakers won’t be shy about correcting you, and the more you speak and make adjustments, the more natural it will become. There are some great French online courses that will get you speaking quickly, and don’t worry if your pronunciation is a little off, or if you forget how to conjugate such and such verb, or if you forget which preposition to use. Just remember: everyone starts off speaking any language they learn like a baby.
French grammar may at first seem strange to an English-speaker, but its rules are actually easier and less irregular than English grammar. Once you have a handle on French grammar, the rules are effectively unchanged for Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Since they are all derived from Latin, the Romance languages have several grammatical rules in common: adjectives come after the noun they modify, all verbs are conjugated, the subject-verb order is inverted when asking a question, and all nouns have a gender designation. Being familiar with one Romance language will allow you to pick up others more easily.
You have to get used to what in English we call the ‘w’ words: what, where, when, why, who, how: “quoi” , “où” , “qui” , “quand” , “pourquoi” , “comment”. You should get used to those at the beginning of your studies, as they are essential for making statements and asking questions. Try Google Translate to see what the corresponding words and structures are in French to questions you have in English.
I’d always assumed the Swedes were just good at everything, hence their omnipresence on North American hockey teams. She firmly denied these superpowers. “English is a lot more like Swedish than you realize.”
One excellent free resource is YouTube where you can watch lots of videos and learn lots of basic vocabulary and phrases. You will find lots of dedicated online French teachers like myself on YouTube who have provided lots of useful materials for learning beginners French there. One great place to start is our FrenchLearner channel here!
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in French for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some French and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
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.
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 knowing that you’re learning.
You can guess some words out of the context, but the idea here is not to train your understanding capacity, but train your speaking ability: work on your pronunciation, memorize common sentences and expressions, get the courage to speak out loud.
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!
There are languages, like Japanese, that have no gender and no number. French has both. In French, pronouns and adjectives have to agree, even verbs have to agree. For a quick explanation you can Google. In the case of verb agreement in French, you may want go to Lawless French . It tells us that
In the passé composé, the first person singular form of manger is J’ai mangé, which literally translates to “I have eaten,” but it is also used to say “I ate.” Unlike English or Spanish, French uses the same tense to express both concepts. There is a passé simple, but it’s an antiquated literary tense that is seldom used in contemporary spoken French.
English is a part of the Germanic family and is linked to many European languages by descent or influence. It was also a big mooch in its formative years, with over 50% of its vocabulary stemming from Latin or French.
But I did design a simple 8-step French fluency program to become fluent in French FAST. Fluency has multiple definitions, however I found that most people simply want to be efficient in conversations while some want the ability to read & write. If this is you, then keep reading. Before we start, let me just say that becoming fluent in any language is no easy feat, it will require a lot of work on your part if you want to do it quickly. So how do I become fluent in French fast? Let’s get started.
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.
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.