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.
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.
Another method is “scriptorium,” developed by Alexander Arguelles, which involves writing sentences while speaking them out loud. The method I’m going to share with you now uses elements of both of those and adds video to the mix.
Other rules, especially those about the pronunciation of vowels, should be learned as you immerse yourself in the language. One tool that can help you is Pronunciator. As for intonation, one of the essential rules is that the accent of a word or phrase always bears on the last syllable or last word. To mark this difference, the penultimate syllable is weaker than the antepenultimate.
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.
This method is so obvious, I kind of didn’t want to include it to the list. If you don’t know what immersion is, click on the following link where I beautifully describe it in another article: Immersion in France. Essentially immersion is moving yourself to a francophone area for some time. Immersion will have you speaking French so fast you won’t believe it, however you must avoid other English speakers as if they have the plague (including the French people who want to practice their English with you)!
Standard French contains 13 oral vowels and up to 4 nasal vowels, but it only has 5 different letters for all these sounds. Crazy right? But don’t freak out, it’s just a matter of studying a little bit, listening to a ton of French, and repeating the sounds until your tongue hurts.
The main advantages to Rocket French are that you get a very complete selection of audio lessons taught by native speakers. Furthermore, you get lots more features which don’t exist on the free sites such as interactive games and quizzes. Also, you get access to a forum where you can make friends with other people who are also studying French and get your questions answered. For more information you may read our full Rocket French review where you’ll find a video giving a full inside tour of the course!
Whether you need to increase your learning speed due to a life event or frustration with your current progress, rest assured that you can. If you hear someone speaking French on the television and think “I wish I could talk like that,” stop right there.
Welcome to French, the language of love, literature and all of those fascinating, beautiful sounds. If your French knowledge is limited to “voulez vous coucher avec moi” and you’ve decided to learn French, then we’ve got the perfect beginner’s guide for you.
You can find good resources to learn French pronunciation (like my masterclass “Secrets of French Pronunciation“) and it is indeed important that you memorize and understand the many rules of French pronunciation.
French is also spoken in Belgium and Luxembourg, and it’s the most spoken second language in Europe, making it useful in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic or Greece. It is the lingua franca of half the African continent: from Morocco to Senegal to Mauritius to the Seychelles.
Speak in French. This is one of the most important components to learning French. You have to speak the language, even if you feel embarrassed by how little you know. Everyone starts off not speaking well, but with practice you’ll improve.
A slippery element of the language (and all the Romances) is in false cognates: word pairings that sound the same as an English word, but mean something different. Particular means “private” in Spanish, and eventual means possible. See how that could get confusing?
It expands your online world. French is one of the top 10 most used languages on the internet. This means that knowing French can help you find an alternative view of the world through communicating with the millions of French speakers online.
You’ll notice that many other “–tion” words appear in French almost exactly as they do in English, especially British English, which never replaced the “s” in words like réalisation with a “z” as we’ve done in American English.
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.
Also, verb formation uses many of the same patterns as English. The future tense, for example, is described with komma att + infinitive (will), or ska + infinitive (going to). And verb forms are normally constant, even if the person changes. I am, you are, he/she is would be Jag är, du är, han/hon är.
Story is context, and context is key. Once you have your source material, arrange it into usable segments. If you’re using a movie, try not to break it up mid-scene or leave out a lot of content between sentences. Aside from this, you can use as much or as little of each source as you like. I might advise against designating the French-language Lord of the Rings box set as your one and only source, but if you’re really determined then I wish you luck on your journey.
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.
You’ll be one of many fellow French language learners. French is also the second most widely taught language other than English throughout the world. It’s taught on nearly every continent. This means that there are many, many French learning resources out there and you’ll have a wide network of other French language learners for support.
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!
One downside to using free French learning sites is that the number of lessons are limited. They tend to lack interactive functions such as testing the accuracy of your pronunciation. Furthermore, they tend to lack the full variety of lessons that would be found in a more formal online course. Thus, I strongly suggest considering using an a software package or online French course such as Rocket French.
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.
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Once you’ve reviewed a set 10 times, you can “retire” it. If you go by my recommendations, you’ll regularly have 200-300 sentences to review. That’s a lot. This is why it’s important to not spend too much time transcribing. It’s also a good idea to break up reviewing throughout the day, to prevent the bad kind of insanity (the good kind being learning French this fast).
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.
Some French videos on YouTube are really well done, and provide a fun support to learn French. So do French songs, French movies, French blogs,French podcasts, the many French apps… There is so much to choose from nowadays!
I would strongly recommend any beginner student to take private French classes (at least a couple) and have a native French speaker check their pronunciation. My audiobooks are great because they are all audio based but nothing beats a real French native to at least check your pronunciation and give you customized pointers to keep you on the right path…