After a while, you’ll find yourself using 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.
Time for another video in Chinese! This is actually part of the summer project of improving many languages, and as such it is the first in a series of many interviews with natives of the languages in my list of 10. Yang Yang works as the Mandarin speaking presenter for the TV show “Hello Hollywood”.
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.
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.
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.
If you have access to English subtitles for your video sources and really need to use them, go ahead. This isn’t “cheating,” because it still requires you to figure out what’s being said in French. You can also use French subtitles to check yourself, but be aware that, for some sources, subtitles may differ from the audio.
Covers all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
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.
Learn to conjugate the verbs. Try to remember that verbs in french need to be conjugated according to their pronouns; there are three different conjugations, because there are three different kinds of verbs: verbs that end in -ir, -er, and -re.
Along with many of the French words that migrated into English came vestiges of their former pronunciations. Consider words and expressions like montage, déjà vu, bourgeois, comprise, brochure, filet mignon, chauffeur, lingerie, and encore. Without knowing it, you actually use many of the sounds found in French regularly.
Modern spoken French and the French you might have studied in books/schools are VERY different. In any language, there will always a difference in spoken vs. written form but the French really take this to the next level!
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!
All languages present some difficulties for a learner. A language is at the heart of the behaviour of another culture, and a form of expressing our thoughts and feelings that has developed in ways different from what we are used to. We need motivation to stay on course, in order to get used to the new patterns of that language.
The circumflex you find in many words usually signifies that an “s” used to be present but has since fallen out of use. Thus, words like hôpital and forêt translate to “hospital” and “forest” in English. There are many more tricks like this, and though they can’t always be perfectly applied, these examples should give you a sense of just how much linguistic history the two languages have in common.
You’re probably noticing a pattern. There’s no getting around it, ça is a word that comes up over and over in French conversation. Trying to talk without it is like trying to prepare a three-course meal without a knife.
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.
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? ).
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”).
In addition to these tutorial channels you can also find lots of French music on YouTube. Listening to music is a wonderful way to get a good feel for the sounds of the words. Another way I like to use YouTube is to simply watch French newscasts and listen to how the language sounds.
Did you survive that with your sanity intact? Great! It may look like a lot to wrap your head around, but it’s actually not, especially in spoken French. In fact, the difference between written and spoken French is so vast that the first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, and third person plural forms of the verb manger are pronounced exactly the same despite having written forms that appear to vary substantially.
When you see question words in your reading at LingQ, save them. You should do this not only to remember these words, but because the LingQ system will give you lots of examples of these words in use. The examples usually come from lessons you have already studied. The advantage of looking at examples from lessons you have already studied is that you probably know the words. Very often, if you’re reading in a grammar book you are provided with examples, where you don’t know the words. That’s not so helpful.
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I have a friend who went to Bordeaux for a few weeks and learned the basics to get around. She can successfully ask for directions, navigate her way through a train station, and order a glass of her favorite wine. According to her, she “speaks French,” which, of course, she does. But she’s far from fluent.
Another romance language, Italian has the great feature of readability. Italian is written as it is spelled. For learners, reading comes fluidly once a few new phonemes are learned (like –ghi- or –ci-).
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.
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!
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.
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.
I bet you don’t talk like this in your native language. More likely, you enrich the information you communicate by adding phrases to show your mood or level of politeness, or to simply transition smoothly between topics.