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
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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338 million people around the world speak French, either as a first or second language. In the U.S. it is the second most studied foreign language after Spanish. Not surprisingly, there are many ways to study the language:
Watch BFMTV; a French News channel which airs live from France nonstop,for 30 minutes to an hour EACH DAY, no exceptions. This is the same stuff French natives watch here in France (click here for BFMTV). In addition to this, listen to French music, add it to your iPod, and look at the lyrics / translations (you can find some translated songs here); attempt to read a French articles out loud to familiarize yourself with words and pronunciation (click here for some articles). Try to find French videos or simply watch your favorite English videos in French or with French subtitles! Learning French doesn’t have to be boring at all. Singing along to French songs will have you remembering useful sentence structures and acing your pronunciation. What’s better than your friends getting jealous when they are missing out on all the French fun and not understanding a word?
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.
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!
My “Big Why” is an unquantifiable passion for languages. It isn’t something measurable like “So I can speak to X number of people in the world”, but it has to do with enriching my life with friendships and experiences, which you can’t really measure.
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.
Most of the “learn a language fast” advertisements seen online promise incredible results like “learn French in 1 month,” “2 weeks” or even just “10 days.” They typically don’t go into great detail about how they’ll actually help learners achieve this, which leaves most wondering, “Is it really possible?”
There are plenty of language courses that will teach you how to deal with specific situations, like asking for directions or ordering dinner. These situations are strictly controlled, though, and so are the resulting conversations.
Another great method is to go to France or any other French-speaking countries. For North Americans a great idea is to go to Montreal or Quebec City in the French-speaking province of Quebec. This offers opportunities for study in full-immersion native-speaking environments. Indeed, by learning in such an environment you can learn much faster. However, a lot of people cannot afford taking such trips and do not have the time. Again, our classes page offers lots of information about classes available in several major cities.
Traveling – France is one of the most pleasant countries in Europe to vacation – if you can speak French. Seek out the kinds of genuine places that are out of bounds to non-French speakers. If you get away from Paris hotels and Riviera resorts, you’ll discover that most of the country consists of farms, vineyards and small villages. The common denominator, whether you are in Provence, Champagne or Brittany, is excellent food, world-class wine and inexhaustible country charm.
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.
Learn pronunciation. This is especially important with French, where to English speakers, the written words look nothing like the spoken language. For instance, French has vowels like “eau” which is pronounced “o” or “oi” which is pronounced “wa.” You will need to know how these pronunciations work.
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.
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.
I’d like to share seven steps so you’ll know how to speak French. This is the language hacker’s approach in how to learn French. You can use this approach whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been learning French for years.
Learn how to ask for help. This is important particularly if you need the other speaker to speak more slowly or to repeat themselves. Make sure to look up the individual words while you’re practicing, as the English translation and the French meaning can be different.
One excellent free resource is YouTube where you can watch lots of videos and learn lots of basic vocabulary and phrases. You will find lots of dedicated online French teachers like myself on YouTube who have provided lots of useful materials for learning beginners French there. One great place to start is our FrenchLearner channel here!
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.
Reading, watching and listening has a remarkable effect on your brain. Simply by being exposed to French, your brain is put to work. It starts trying to understand new words by making connections to previously learned words and seeks to make sense of any new structures. Basically, you’re learning without knowing that you’re learning.
Don’t forget to mimic natives! This may sound weird or silly, but if you hear something, say it out loud a few times – copying their intonation and pronunciation. My American friend would overhear French people talking and essentially mimic them, it works though because you’ll sound more and more like a native, fluent French person.
It’s easier to learn than you think. You may have heard that French is a difficult language for English speakers to learn, but that’s not really the case. French is actually considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. This is a big benefit if you’re hoping to learn French fast!
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.
Learning a new language is really good for you. Learning a new language like French has some incredible benefits for you mind and body. It can help your brain to grow, become sharper, multitask better and even delay the onset of dementia. Check out all of the benefits of learning a language for even more reasons why it’s so great.
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Knowing some common French greetings and good-byes will be indispensable when traveling in French-speaking countries. Saying hello and good-bye in French will quickly become second nature because you’ll use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.
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.
Very soon you’ll discover that whereas in English verb forms don’t change much for person, in French every form of the verb changes, depending on the person, and tense and “mood”. We call these verb changes, the different conjugation forms of verbs. It’s very difficult to remember these conjugations. You can spend all kinds of time pouring over conjugation tables. In my experience it’s a very unsatisfying thing to do because you forget them. You might remember them for tomorrow’s test and then you forget them, so you constantly have to refer to them and see them in context.
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.
By far the best way for rapid learning is to take a formal class. Often this means enrolling in a university, community college or language school and taking a serious course for credit taught by a professional instructor or professor. By taking a formal course you’ll get to learn the important fundamentals of the language. However, this method is difficult as my people are busy working or studying and don’t have time. For more information check out the French classes section of our website.
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.
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…
The 21st century has brought more than just new technology and globalization. It’s also brought with it a more fast-paced and impatient society than ever before. We no longer have the time we once had to sit in a language class and study a textbook.
If you’re getting frustrated regularly, reconsider your source material. It could be too challenging or not lively enough to hold your interest. If you would rather watch Amélie than a Rohmer film, now’s the time for honesty. If you would actually rather watch Rohmer but are in denial about being a film snob, now’s the time to own it. If the material doesn’t seem to be the problem, try cutting back on the number of sentences.
How much time you can dedicate to learning French. You should ideally set aside a little bit of time to study French every day, although this time may vary. Even just 10 minutes a day can be helpful, but keep in mind that the more time you can dedicate, the better.
You can guess some words out of the context, but the idea here is not to train your understanding capacity, but train your speaking ability: work on your pronunciation, memorize common sentences and expressions, get the courage to speak out loud.