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?
Also, sounds appear to melt together from the last syllable of one word to the beginning syllable of the next word. These are things you have to get used to as a beginner. You have to be aware of these things, notice them, and eventually you will get used to them. Trust me.
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.
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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!
Aiming for a B2 level of a language is therefore a more specific and results-focused goal, and, thanks to the criteria provided by the Common European Framework of Reference, it’s also measureable. It’s much more attainable than aiming for the vague notion of “fluency” (which, seems to elude even fluent speakers!). It can easily be made time-bound by keeping in mind the criteria needed for each level and making yourself a schedule with your goals in mind.
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.
Still others can give you clues as to what you shouldn’t pronounce, including faux pas, buffet, coup, and laissez-faire. Even the dreaded liaison rears its ugly head in the words vis-à-vis (pronounced “vee-zah-vee”) and bon appétit (pronounced “baw na-pey-tee”).
Things often seem like a big deal when they’re really not. You can use this to quickly disarm a tense situation in which someone thinks you’re upset with them, or just to comfort someone who’s having a hard time. Notice that the n’ is usually left off in spoken French.
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.
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.
The difficulty of each skill depends on the person. For many, reading in French is easier than writing or speaking, but for some, speaking is the easiest. You’ll discover what your strong points are as you start to learn the language.
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.
Learning French is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning French online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. French is a close cousin to English with thousands of words in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free French lesson.
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.
Listen to things in French. Put on some French music, or your favorite movie dubbed in French. Seek out French cinema, and French television shows and radio stations. Practice imitating what you’re hearing.
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.
Believe it or not, you actually already know some French words before you even begin studying it. While a foreign language may seem like “Greek” to you, the majority of foreign languages actually share some words or roots of words. These words that look or sound like words in your language and have the same meaning are called cognates.
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.”
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.
It’s easier to learn than you think. You may have heard that French is a difficult language for English speakers to learn, but that’s not really the case. French is actually considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. This is a big benefit if you’re hoping to learn French fast!
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If you want to start learning French from the bottom up, you’ve come to the right place! Lawless French for Beginners is a self-study course divided into 30 loosely themed units consisting of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation lessons; cultural tips; and assorted listening exercises and quizzes along the way. Keep reading for some info and advice on making the most of this course, or go straight to the lessons.
Take a look at the two verbs in bold for a moment. Whereas the Spanish version uses the imperfect subjunctive, the French phrase uses the imperfect indicative (standard past tense use of the word, like English) to express the exact same idea. In French, the imperfect subjunctive is a stodgy literary tense that nobody even uses anymore!
Why Video? Video provides you with more context than audio alone. You’ll be working out what people are saying, so visual clues help. Also, involving your senses more fully will keep you alert and engaged. More than anything, video makes things more entertaining. With video, you’ll be able to learn while feeling cheerful and relaxed.
When studying verb tenses, for example, practice saying the same sentence using every different pronoun in the same tense. Then, practice changing the sentence into a negative sentence and into a question. Later, you can then practice saying the same sentence in different tenses with the same pronoun, in the negative form, in the question form, etc. You can even make your own flash cards to help you with this.
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.
This is why many students feel stuck in their French studies: with so many different French tools out there, they waltz from one video to the next, one free lesson to the next, but lack a logical and progressive approach.
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:
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.
Thus, new words like googliser, textoter, and téléviser take the regular forms. Even among the irregular verbs, you’ll be able to pick up on patterns that make their conjugations fairly predictable. Also remember that, as was the case with the –er verbs, the verb forms of the irregular verbs are pronounced mostly the same, though there are some exceptions.
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.
Here it is! My one month point in my 3-month Mandarin mission, shared on video! The first few seconds are me reading a prepared text off camera to practice speaking
Children’s books are a great place to start when learning to read any language. Since they help children learn their native language they are a great way for someone learning the language can get a handle on reading it.
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.
You will slowly get more and more used to the conditional and the subjunctive. Continue your enjoyable discovery of French, through listening and reading, and your confidence in this seemingly scary looking verb forms will gradually grow.
Do yourself a favor and save this list on your phone or use it to make a set of flashcards. It’ll be an effective add-on to any language program or course. It’s not that you don’t need to learn vocab and grammar. It’s just that you’re going to want to apply that vocab and grammar to real life, and this will help you start.
If you want to have more “tools” added to your arsenal of French words, it’s a lot easier to continue on with a conversation. I would recommend using google, word reference, and/or a French dictionary to help you translate ANY word you stumble upon (reading, writing, or listening to the news). Follow up finding the definition with writing it down in a journal or notebook, maybe even make a correct French sentence using the word! All the extra trouble takes no longer than a minute and will allow you to retain words better. I know that in Italian, I look up words all the time, but only a small fraction of them will stick in my memory unless I write it down somewhere or use the word soon. As a little tip, reading is by far the best way to get more vocabulary and useful verbs. My mom and my friends (who don’t understand French) miraculously have the ability to understand French sentences which contain English cognates.
This one is used as a contradiction but also kind of a filler phrase, actually. While writing up this list, I was actually listening to a French television show in the background, and I actually heard en fait about twenty times, actually. I actually did.
First, keeping a vocabulary journal help you keep all the practical words you’ve learned in one place. In addition, just the process of writing down a word and whatever translation, notes, image or mnemonic device can be used to memorize this word helps you to memorize it! It’s also a fantastic future reference for studying and can be used anywhere and anytime you have a few minutes free.
This beginner French method is framed around an actual story featuring realistic characters and dialogues so that you’ll have fun along the way and feel your progress as you follow the characters from chapter to chapter.
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.
There are hundreds of ways to learn French for free on the web. From French grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
However, it’s highly recommended that you gradually expand your vocabulary at least to the 1,000 most commonly used words in French. With just 1,000 words, you’ll be able to understand about 80% of written texts.
You French learning goals. Would you like to dedicate an equal amount of time to all language learning skills? Or are you more interested in speaking and listening than reading and writing? If you plan to prioritize some skills over others, make sure to incorporate this into your plan.
Don’t worry, video updates in Arabic are coming soon 😉 Today I’ve just recorded the first of many videos to document my time in this country, and it should be on my Youtube channel by Monday (need time to upload HD videos on slow connections, as well as subtitling). But first, it’s time for another