“If you live with people and you share a life with them and you speak their language, they trust you.” – Peter Rohloff, MD, Wuqu’ Kawoq (Maya Health Alliance) I have always found languages to be beautiful. Having learned to speak seven languages – some of them fluently, and others at a more basic level
Believe it or not, you already know some French words even before you even start studying it. While French 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.
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 moment a native French speaker starts to speak with her about something that isn’t the way to the bathroom, how she’s doing, or what she would like to order, she’s stuck. She speaks enough to get by, but not enough to fluently communicate. While she may “speak French,” I probably wouldn’t recommend that she puts it on her resume just yet.
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.
Every day, start a new “entry” in a notebook by marking the date. Play your video. Try to understand and hold as much of each sentence in your memory as you can. When the sentence ends, pause. Begin writing out the sentence and speak each word out loud as you’re writing it. You might have to replay a few times to get the entire sentence. You might have to do some quick research, or look through a dictionary for a mystery word when you only have a vague idea of how it’s spelled beyond the first few letters. You might need to turn to an internet message board to ask a question about the usage of a particular phrase and then observe the resulting debate between native speakers. This is a process. Enjoy it.
Free online software like DuoLingo exists to help you learn French! Otherwise, use software such as Fluenz French or Pimsleur to supplement your French language endeavors. Learning aids can be anywhere from nicely affordable ($20) to top-notch expensive ($500). Let it be known, that usually the increase in price is merited by a better product. I do not endorse Rosetta Stone for learning French, check this article to see why: Fluenz French versus Rosetta Stone French.
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.
What’s your language learning goal? Perhaps you’re aiming to reach A2 level in French in the next 3 months. Maybe you’re looking to gain basic knowledge of Italian before your trip to Rome in a couple of weeks. Or perhaps you’re aiming for German mastery. Whatever your goal, setting a goal is the natural thing
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.
Cheek kissing is another common type of greeting in most French-speaking countries. However, the rules for cheek kisses can be complicated matter. The rules change depending on the country you’re in and even the region of the country. For example, in Belgium, it’s customary to greet everyone in your generation or younger with one kiss, but anyone that’s a generation or more older than you should be given three kiss (right cheek-left-then right again). In Paris, most people stick to a four-kiss rule, but in most of the rest of France, two kisses is the norm.
The word bien translates pretty, well…well into English. Like the word “well,” it can signify an overall positive state or hesitance, though not so much a deep hole in the ground. (That would be un puits, just in case you were curious.)
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned some French this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
This was typical. In fact, I was a good student, and did better than most of my classmates in French. I passed all the grammar tests and other school French tests with high marks. Yet when it came time to speak, I could only string words together with great uncertainty, and really didn’t understand what I heard. I certainly didn’t read French newspapers, which were available in Montreal. Nor did I watch French movies. I couldn’t understand them.
Never heard of it? It’s spoken by less than half a million people in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It wasn’t included on the list because Frisian is rarely studied as a second language, so finding a textbook or tutor outside the North Sea would be near impossible.
Consider this sentence in French – made up almost entirely of French-English cognates: L’ancien restaurant est à proximité du musée d’art. The cognates for “restaurant”, “museum” and “art” are virtually unchanged. Stretch your brain a bit and you might notice that ancien looks like “ancient” and proximité looks a lot like “proximity”; the simpler alternatives to these words are “old” and “near”. Put it all together and you get: The old restaurant is near the art museum.
While those of us who are very experienced in the language will have a lot to say about it (I used to translate French professionally for instance), we can forget what it’s like for those who are starting off, and it’s why I think Zack did a great job summarizing how it isn’t that bad, despite having learnt the language for such a short time. As such this is a nice guide for those of you just starting to learn French, especially if you dabbled in Spanish in school first.
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.
Don’t let the third “irregular” group scare you, though. Not only does it comprise the smallest of the three groups, it’s also considered to be a “closed-class,” meaning that all new verbs introduced into the French language are of the first two “regular” classes.
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.
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As a language nerd, I’m a big fan of Benny Lewis, whose “Speak from Day One” approach should be, I think, language-learning gospel. He’s written several posts about why learning Czech, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Hungarian, and other languages is not as hard as you think. His point is that with the right attitude and approach, learning a new language—despite what detractors might claim—is never as difficult a task as it’s often made out to be.
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.
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You might think that you can use good afternoon (bon après-midi) as a greeting the way you can in the United States, but in most French-speaking countries, bon après-midi should only be used to as a form of goodbye.