Learning a new language requires learning a lot of new words. There’s no way around it. However, we have some comforting news for you: you don’t need to know all–or even the majority–of the words in a language to be able to speak it well. In fact, you don’t even need to know half!
Like all Romance languages, French’s Latin derivations make much of the vocabulary familiar to English speakers (edifice, royal, village). Linguists debate the concrete number, but it’s said that French has influenced up to a third of English vocabulary, giving it more lexical common ground with English than any other romance language.
This is one of the first phrases most people learn. Consequently, it’s easy to dismiss its importance and incredible versatility. Basically, ça (it, that) is a handy noun and aller (to go) is a handy verb.
French is the most widely taught second language worldwide after English. Over 100 million people today speak French as a second language or are currently learning. There are several options available when learning how to speak French: hiring a private tutor, enrolling in a language course (in school or online), studying alone with a CD-ROM or audio course, joining an exchange program, or practicing conversational French with a native speaker (a so-called tandem partner). All of these strategies can be effective, although some (tutors and CD-ROMS) can be expensive, while classes and exchange programs are also a huge time commitment. The fastest way to pick up French – and the biggest commitment by far – is still immersion. Moving to a French speaking country requires you to pick up the language in order to live day-to-day. This survival pressure usually produces fluency within a few months. If you do plan to immerse yourself in a Francophone country, it’s not a bad idea to prepare beforehand with one of the methods mentioned above. If you don’t plan to move and don’t have much spare time, an online program like Babbel may be your best bet.
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!
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.
Love the way RS works. It’s simple, logical, and builds up language skills in a progressive and effective manner. When used along with all the online tools – particularly the online live sessions, learning becomes a breeze.
Very early on you need to master the precise vocabulary and the modern pronunciation of French politeness expressions. The French are known to be sticklers on etiquette and you do not want to start off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately French people will expect you to know these expressions, and they don’t realize it’s hard.
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.
Grammar is incredibly important to learning a language. To speak it properly, you’ll need to understand how verbs work, how present, past, and future tenses work, and how genders work with nouns. We say things forward in English e.x. The bathroom, whereas the french (and the rest of the world) say things backward, taking longer to say it e.x. the room of bath.
Never rely on a translator to translate entire documents. They do not work because there are several expressions in french that do not mean what they say literally, which is how translators obviously take them.
Just like with vocabulary, it’s important to make sure you learn the most practical French verbs first. These are the verbs that you use the most in your everyday life. Instead of plunging into all of the different and complicated conjugations, make your life easier by learning the present tense first.
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.
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.
Take a look at the two verbs in bold for a moment. Whereas the Spanish version uses the imperfect subjunctive, the French phrase uses the imperfect indicative (standard past tense use of the word, like English) to express the exact same idea. In French, the imperfect subjunctive is a stodgy literary tense that nobody even uses anymore!
There are abundant grammar resources on the web. Find the ones you find most useful and use them when you are curious about something. Getting used to new grammar patterns takes time. You don’t learn it the first time, not even the fifth time. But eventually it becomes second nature, believe me.
Alors, depending on the context, can mean “so,” “then” or “while.” Don’t be too intimidated by the specifics, though, as it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what it means from the context. It’s often just used as a filler or transition word along the lines of “well” or “so.”
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That’s where mnemonics come in. Basically, mnemonics involve telling yourself a fun, goofy or memorable story, song, or rhyme to associate with a particular word. For example, one trick for memorizing the difference between “au dessus” and “au dessous” goes: If in the air you see a bus, it must be “au dessus.” If on the ground you see a mouse, it must be “au dessous.”
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 French learning goals. Would you like to dedicate an equal amount of time to all language learning skills? Or are you more interested in speaking and listening than reading and writing? If you plan to prioritize some skills over others, make sure to incorporate this into your plan.
Believe it or not, you actually already know some French words before you even begin studying it. While a foreign language 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.
Growing up in Montreal in the 1950s I had French every day at school – elementary school and high school – starting from grade two. After ten years, as I entered McGill University at the age of 17, I couldn’t hold a conversation in French and had great trouble understanding the language.
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.
No great achievement ever happens overnight, and learning French is no different. The first step to learn French is to make some smart, realistic goals to help yourself organize your time and plan your studies.
Like all romance languages, French has a few difficulties for prospective speakers. There are more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table). Pronunciation is especially difficult in French, with vowel sounds and silent letters.
As in English, the consistency between written and spoken French is rather weak, which means that learning how to write and read in French doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to master the spoken language. That’s why it’s a good idea to get familiar with French sounds before moving forward to the second stage and studying writing.
I didn’t know the word for “meaning” in French, so I said the English word “connotation” with a thick French accent. I paused and studied my teacher coyly, waiting for her to correct me. She looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Well, duh! Connotation! Everyone knows connotation!”
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.
I’d always assumed the Swedes were just good at everything, hence their omnipresence on North American hockey teams. She firmly denied these superpowers. “English is a lot more like Swedish than you realize.”
IE Languages offers an e-book on informal and spoken French that comes with numerous audio files, so you can study spoken French directly. You can also get this at a discounted rate with their combo pack, which includes the French tutorial (helpful if you’re still struggling with grammar concepts or you want a complete overview of the language).
Some days, you might read along with the audio. Other days, you might re-watch the video without subtitles. If you’re feeling musical, you might set your sentences to a melody and sing them to your cat. The only rule is to review out loud often, even if you don’t do it every day.
To improve your German quickly, you must speak from the very first day you start learning German. This speak from day one approach is the fastest and most efficient way to learn German – especially if you speak with native German speakers.
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.
Native speakers won’t be shy about correcting you, and the more you speak and make adjustments, the more natural it will become. There are some great French online courses that will get you speaking quickly, and don’t worry if your pronunciation is a little off, or if you forget how to conjugate such and such verb, or if you forget which preposition to use. Just remember: everyone starts off speaking any language they learn like a baby.
They say learning other languages is difficult especially when you want to learn to speak French but it really isn’t that hard. What you do need to make it a whole lot easier is a program that teaches you to speak French with an easy to follow system.