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 one of the most widely spoken languages in the world with about 275 million speakers, 77 million of whom are native speakers. Indeed, apart consolidating relations with France – the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe – this language opens the doors of countries on all continents since it is the official language in 29 countries and currently spoken in 8 other countries. Moreover, specialists project that in 2050 8% of the world’s population will be francophone!
Nerdy historical tangents aside, what does any of this have to do with learning French nowadays? Linguists estimate that about a third of English words are derived from French, meaning that, as an English speaker, even before you crack open a phrasebook for the very first time, you have a ready-made vocabulary that you can start using from day one. Do you have six hours to spare? Great—have a crack at this Wikipedia list of shared vocabulary. Second spoiler alert: it’s long.
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.
Today’s guest post is from Zack, (@zackjsimon) who is a long-term reader of the blog and has sent me this guest post idea for a concept that you all know I like to write about for as many languages as I can!
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.
I have touched lightly on some of what you will find in French. Don’t put these things up front. Don’t think that the mass of grammar rules need to be mastered before you can enjoy the language. That is what they did to me in school. It was when I broke away from that, and immersed myself in content of interest, reading, listening, watching movies, and conversing with people, that I started to fall in love with French. That stimulated my motivation, reduced my frustration, and induced me to spend the time necessary to achieve fluency in this lovely language, “mon premier amour” among languages.
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.
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.
There are languages, like Japanese, that have no gender and no number. French has both. In French, pronouns and adjectives have to agree, even verbs have to agree. For a quick explanation you can Google. In the case of verb agreement in French, you may want go to Lawless French . It tells us that
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.
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.
The easiest advice to give is that people should develop a passion for French. I once wrote a long blog post about why I think people should learn French. I called it Why learn French? Six Reasons. Easy advice to give, but a lot more difficult to put into practice. People develop interests and passions for internal, personal reasons. The fact that I became passionate about French is no reason others will. However to quote another French saying “l’appetit vient en mangeant”. (Appetite comes with eating). You might want to give French a start. As I said at the start of my article on reasons to learn French,
Your New Year’s Resolution may be to “learn French,” but what does that actually mean? Vague final goals like this are both frustrating and unproductive. After all, how will you know when–and if–this goal is ever achieved? Instead, try making some SMART goals.
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.
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.
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.
French is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. The grammar and sentence structure are different from English, but simpler. Because both languages have Latin roots, they also share thousands of cognates – words that sound the same and have the same meanings.
The subjunctive is used when there is uncertainty about whether something is going to happen, as in “you have to go”, “I want you to go”, “although you went” etc. Begin by noticing the subjunctive. Don’t worry about whether you can get it right when speaking or writing. Save the subjunctive form of verbs when you think you might have come across it at LingQ. Check it out in Le Conjugueur or in another conjugating dictionary like Context Reverso. Both of these dictionaries are available at LingQ.
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.
You can’t – you’ll have to learn the language first. After you do, you’ll probably speak slowly for a long time until you get more comfortable with the language, intonation, pronunciation, etc. Then you can begin speaking quickly.
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One thing I recommend insofar as pronunciation is concerned, is to get used to making the ‘euh’ sound. “Je”, “le” “me” etc., and the unaccented “e” at the end of words. There are lots of ‘euh’ in French. The French use “euh” the way English speakers use “aah” or “umm”, as a spacer or breather between words or phrases. You kind of have to pick up on that as soon as you can and have it flow through your pronunciation.
Work with what you know. Try to select content that you already kind of understand. Choose videos that feature topics you’re well-versed on, or movies that you’ve already seen a million times in English. This way you’ll know what’s happening more or less and you’ll be able to infer meaning through the overall context. You’ll be expanding your existing French knowledge by placing it in context, while also keeping your sanity.
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.
Accessing this kind of material is made possible by modern technology, including LingQ, mp3 technology, online dictionaries, the Internet and much more that didn’t exist during Kato Lomb’s time, nor when I was learning French 50 years or more ago.
Your American/British friends count as resources! If they know French, speak to them in French… speak, speak, speak! I speak to one of my American co-workers in French and we have amazing conversations in a completely different language. It’s fun, and it allows you to find the weaknesses in your conversational ability.
Change your computer’s operating language to French. Change your Facebook to French now. Change you cellphone, iPod, or iPhone to French. Change your google web browser to the French one. Change your homepage to a French site like fr.yahoo.com. Hell, change your TV to French. You get the idea yet? One word of advice though, when you change the language settings… remember how you did it so you can always change it back if you need to. Everybody who picks up my phone seems impressed that it’s in another language (or very confused). This helps to learning French fast.
In most classroom settings you will do a lot of writing, but less speaking. Speaking the language and immersing yourself in it is extremely important and a way to become more efficient at the language more quickly.
Think in French. Set aside time during the day to practice thinking in French.Go to the grocery store and think about the items in the store and the conversations you have with people. Practice reworking those interactions into French.
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List each tense on a sticky note and put them somewhere you will see them often, such as your bedroom mirror or near where you eat meals. Each time you pass the area, read the notes. Soon you will have them memorized.