At this stage, I will of course suggest you’d take a look at my audiobooks to learn French if you are not already familiar with them. I’ve poured my 20 years experience of teaching French to adults into this method, which will prepare you for both traditional and modern spoken French.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During the four hundred years that followed, a dialect of French known as Anglo-Norman became the language of the crown, the educated elite, the ruling administration and the justice. Even today, the Queen’s assent, which must be given to legislation passed by parliament in order to become law, is still issued in French. How cool is that!
Of course, some part of learning French is going to be fun. Students who learn with my French learning audio method À Moi Paris say it is fun: the learning revolves around lively characters, and their story progresses through the audiobooks, getting more complex as your level of French increases.
You can think of it as a box of tools. Except, in this case, most of them are multitools. Those that have more specific uses are like screwdrivers: basic tools that can be used in a variety of situations.
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.
On the following pages you’ll find a basic French language course for beginners, covering most everyday situations from ordering a meal at a restaurant to asking for directions. Many topics come with video or audio links, so that you can hear French spoken and get the chance to practise your accent.
Another idea is to find your favorite books in French. This will help keep your interest and will help you decipher the text since you already know the plot. It’s good to start simple, since a too-challenging book at the start of your learning will only frustrate you.
Once you’re done with a video source (or part of one) give yourself a rest and then try re-watching it a month or so later. See if you can speak along with the audio, or if you can simply watch and understand what’s being said. This last part of the method is not only important for tracking your progress, but continuing it. Keeping familiarity with source material after you’ve already learned it will help build and maintain a base for fluency.
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.
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.
In the early stages of your learning I strongly suggest to listen to the language as much as possible. This means getting your ears used to the sound of the language and not worrying too much about vocabulary memorization or mastering grammar rules – these come later!
It’s all about the level. According to the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), a guideline used to define language achievements, there are three basic language level groups broken down into two levels each.
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.
Living Abroad – When you speak French well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in another country can become tempting. Cities like Paris, Brussels and Lyon offer opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad; professionals may find the next big thing in growing economies like Algeria, Tunisia and Côte d’Ivoire; and retirees who appreciate the good things in life continue to be drawn to the south of France.
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For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
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 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.
French also uses an imperfect tense—the imparfait—which has only one set of endings (unlike Spanish), contains only one exception (être, meaning “to be”), and is used in exactly the same way as the Spanish imperfect. In order to form the imparfait, take the present indicative Nous form of a verb, slice off the conjugated ending, add the imparfait ending, and voilà! You’re in business.
There are about two-dozen irregular future stems, but these irregular stems also double as the stems for the conditional, which is formed by adding the imparfait endings you already know to the future stem. This might all sound confusing, but the main point is that these verb forms and moods are constructed using things you already know. The more you learn, the more your knowledge builds on itself.
It opens the door to a history and culture. Learning French is your gateway into the fascinating French-speaking world. You’ll be able to access the great works of French writers in their original versions, enjoy wonderful French movies, and understand beautiful French songs. This is true for any of the many places throughout the world where French is spoken.
Dialogue is essential. Idiosyncrasies in speech are good for practice. Listen for speakers mumbling and saying “Euuuuh…” Try to make sure that most of your sources contain at least some dialogue and a lot of continuous speech. You’ll hear where they naturally omit syllables and blur speech. You’ll hear incomplete thoughts and sentences. The longer people talk without breathing, the better. This is the kind of real-world French dialogue for which you need to prepare yourself.
English is historically a Germanic language, but after the Norman Invasion in 1066, French became the official language of the nobility for over 300 years. As a result, several thousand French words trickled down into common English usage. By the time of Shakespeare, English had transformed into a truly hybrid language with French words accounting for half of English vocabulary. There are the obvious transplants like rendezvous, femme fatale, and croissant, but you might be surprised to learn that thousands of ordinary English words come from French. Without even exploring the rest of the alphabet, French has given us the words action, affection, agriculture, alligator, amusement, application, architecture, and attitude.
This is good phrase for transitions between two sentences, giving you a moment to catch your breath and collect your thoughts. It’s another word that’s often used as filler, but when used as a transition it usually translates more directly to “incidentally” or “by the way.”
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.
In the language learning world, mistakes are a sign of progress. Mistakes help you to learn faster. Don’t worry about upsetting native French speakers for being too “bold” and trying to speak with them in their native language. Just go for it! Odds are, they’ll love it and want to help you. Don’t let fear get in your way. Interact in French as much as possible, and you’ll be amazed how fast you can learn it.
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.
“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.”
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.