338 million people around the world speak French, either as a first or second language. In the U.S. it is the second most studied foreign language after Spanish. Not surprisingly, there are many ways to study the language:
I have been learning french for the past few years and feel I am making good progress…except when it comes to understanding spoken french. I can make myself understood in french but am generally lost if they respond with anything more than a few words. What do think is the best way to improve comprehension in french – is it particularly difficult or just me?
Ça va? (literally “it’s going?”) asks someone how things are. The usual response is ça va, which means things are fine. Ça ne va pas, on the other hand, indicates things are perhaps not going so well.
Since its humble origin as a provincial dialect of Latin, French has developed into a global language, spoken in 33 countries on five continents. Beginning in the 18th century, the French empire expanded its reach, bringing its language to new colonies far from Europe. In the same way that French first emerged from Latin, dozens of distinct French dialects are now spoken around the globe: in parts of Canada and the U.S., Haiti and other Caribbean countries, most West African countries, and parts of South America and Polynesia. French is also one of the official languages in France’s neighboring countries, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Some people are intimidated by these verb forms or moods in French, without realizing that we have the same patterns in English. The English conditional, of course, revolves around the word “if”, as in the sentence “I would go if…” etc. The same is true in French with the word “si”. Type some “if” sentences in English into Google Translate to see how French deals with this issue.
Babbel’s French course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. You can practice online or via your iPhone or Android device. Whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.
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?
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.
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.
So if you want to be able to speak French, you must train with audio. But not any audio: the speed is essential, and should be adapted to your level, as should the content. Never train with something too challenging.
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.
The moment a native French speaker starts to speak with her about something that isn’t the way to the bathroom, how she’s doing, or what she would like to order, she’s stuck. She speaks enough to get by, but not enough to fluently communicate. While she may “speak French,” I probably wouldn’t recommend that she puts it on her resume just yet.
Keep it fun. The selection process itself should be enjoyable. Look for sources you can watch multiple times in a row, and look for content that you find genuinely interesting. What film character would you most like to be for Halloween? What topics would you like to be able to discuss fluently? If you love soccer, track down some French language sporting event videos and acquire all the soccer vocabulary you’ll need to argue about teams at the bar. If you love movies starring Romain Duris (and who doesn’t?) compile your favorites. Look for language you want to make your own.
Unlike other academic subjects, learning a language is a continuous, never-ending adventure that requires constant practice. Don’t treat it the same way you would treat learning another academic subject and live in fear of making mistakes.
Once you have quite a wide vocabulary, you can start translating things you see every day in your native language. You might listen to a song and as you are doing this, start thinking about the words and tenses you would need to translate this into French. The same can be said for road signs, menus or even conversations. Although this might sound tedious, sometimes you’ll think of a word in your native language and realize you don’t know the French equivalent. This is a good way to keep your skills up and to make sure you don’t forget things.
Consider this sentence in French – made up almost entirely of French-English cognates: L’ancien restaurant est à proximité du musée d’art. The cognates for “restaurant”, “museum” and “art” are virtually unchanged. Stretch your brain a bit and you might notice that ancien looks like “ancient” and proximité looks a lot like “proximity”; the simpler alternatives to these words are “old” and “near”. Put it all together and you get: The old restaurant is near the art museum.
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.
If you’re on the computer, just Google “French conjugations” or “conjugation” of any verb and you will find what you are looking for. The same is true, by the way, with pronouns, adjectives. Anything you want to look at, you just Google and it will be there.
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.
Gain confidence and perfect your pronunciation with Rosetta Stone’s pioneering speech recognition technology, which compares your speech to that of thousands of native speakers, so that you can correct and improve.
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.
Now that you have some realistic goals in mind, it’s time to make a study plan. A study plan will help you to organize and maximize your time, keep motivated, set goals, and make sure your brain gets the repetition and structure it needs.
Whether you are going to spend a few days with friends for a leisure trip or if you are on a business trip, nothing will be more useful to you than to be able to slip a few words in the language of your interlocutors, who will appreciate your effort and will be certainly more willing to help.
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.
“If you live with people and you share a life with them and you speak their language, they trust you.” – Peter Rohloff, MD, Wuqu’ Kawoq (Maya Health Alliance) I have always found languages to be beautiful. Having learned to speak seven languages – some of them fluently, and others at a more basic level
French can seem difficult to pronounce at first, and even a little difficult to understand. It isn’t like English, Swedish or the tonal languages. French tends to roll along in a fairly monotonous range of tones. There are the nasal sounds which seem to sound the same, but aren’t.
Another great resource that you may use for learning French quickly are podcast websites. This sites have lots of free podcasts. A podcast is simply an audio French lesson stored on an audio MP3 file. You may visit iTune’s website and download individual lessons directly to your PC, laptop or iPad. Additionally, a great place to discover online podcasts is our learn French by podcast page!
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn French online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
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…
Considering French is considered by some to be among the world’s “hardest languages” (yes, seriously, Parisians will insist on this; luckily, you’ll get a lot more encouragement in the rest of France, Belgium, Switzerland and definitely in Quebec), I think a change in attitude is in order, so that those of you learning this language can get a bit of encouragement!
Grammar is incredibly important to learning a language. To speak it properly, you’ll need to understand how verbs work, how present, past, and future tenses work, and how genders work with nouns. We say things forward in English e.x. The bathroom, whereas the french (and the rest of the world) say things backward, taking longer to say it e.x. the room of bath.
It may be so. You may have “covered” it. But would you be able to remember all these words after… a week? Let along be able to use them in a conversation, nor deduct by yourself the grammar constructions that rules the sentences.
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.
When you read, whether out loud or silently, think about what the sentences express. If your sentences are from a movie, imagine yourself as the characters. Try acting out both sides of a dialogue, complete with gestures and facial expressions. You might not want to do this in the break room at work, but you get the idea.
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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.
On average, many speakers are considered fluent in a language by the time they’ve reached a B2 level or higher. This is a level which allows them to comfortably interact in almost all social situations.
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: