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.
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Add to that the fact that the third person singular On form is usually used in place of the first person plural, and you don’t even have to think about changing the pronunciation for the majority of verb forms in the present indicative.
This step is crucial. Why do you want to learn French? Is it because you have family or French origins? Is it because you’re going to visit France soon? Is it because it’ll help your professional or personal endeavors? Is it because you want to read the original French text of Les Misérables or Madame Bovary? Whatever the reason, you need to take it, write it down, and place it somewhere you’ll notice often. This will be your motivation during those days you don’t feel like practicing… it’s all psychological. Without the will power or dedication, you won’t be any closer to French fluency. Especially if you’re learning French by yourself. I just started learning Italian on my own and my motivation is speaking to my girlfriend and my upcoming trip to Italy.
Grammar. Learning grammar is equally as important as vocabulary, and you can spend all the time in the world getting to know words, but if you can’t formulate sentences, than all those words are useless.
You’ll hear the word bon a lot. Literally, it means “good.” In spoken French, though, it’s often used as an interjection. It can signify decisiveness, similar to “right” or “OK” when used at the beginning of a sentence in English.
This situation persists to today. The ability of English Canadians to converse in French remains low and recently has even declined. Kids are not learning French at schools, despite a tremendous effort at teaching verb conjugations, reflexive verbs, verb agreement and all the other fine points of French grammar to uninterested little learners. Or is it precisely because of how it is taught?
If you think that’s confusing, you’re right. The good news is that when you meet someone for the first time, you can usually just shake hands. Then just watch how other people interact. Because it’s such a common practice, you should quickly be able to determine what the standard is where you’re staying.
When my friend Anthony Lauder introduced me to conversational connectors a few years ago, they blew my mind. They’re a great technique for sounding more like a native speaker, for removing the awkwardness from conversations, and for giving yourself time to recall vocabularly.
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.
When you see question words in your reading at LingQ, save them. You should do this not only to remember these words, but because the LingQ system will give you lots of examples of these words in use. The examples usually come from lessons you have already studied. The advantage of looking at examples from lessons you have already studied is that you probably know the words. Very often, if you’re reading in a grammar book you are provided with examples, where you don’t know the words. That’s not so helpful.
There are a lot of languages out there sharing common traits with English, which is great news when it comes to language study. When familiar structure or vocabulary is in place, the learning process becomes faster and easier. Hence my friend, the nonchalant polyglot.
Your resources. What resources do you have available? Fortunately, we have more French learning resources at our fingertips than ever before. Take advantage of as many resources as possible when making your study plan. The more interactive and fun, the better!
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.”
Conjugate verbs properly. Again as a basic french learner, learn to conjugate the verbs properly. If you’re going to write the verb as it is then the whole sentence goes wrong or sometimes becomes meaningless.
French can seem difficult to pronounce at first, and even a little difficult to understand. It isn’t like English, Swedish or the tonal languages. French tends to roll along in a fairly monotonous range of tones. There are the nasal sounds which seem to sound the same, but aren’t.
At this stage, I will of course suggest you’d take a look at my audiobooks to learn French if you are not already familiar with them. I’ve poured my 20 years experience of teaching French to adults into this method, which will prepare you for both traditional and modern spoken French.
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 feeling like you’re learning. After a while, you’ll find yourself using French words and constructions that you didn’t even study thanks to your brain’s ability to soak up vocabulary and grammar while reading a book or watching a series.
Your deadlines. This also plays a major role in determining how much time you should dedicate to learning. If you need to learn French as fast as possible for an upcoming trip or move, then you will need to dedicate as much time as possible to learning the language.
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!
Dialogue is essential. Idiosyncrasies in speech are good for practice. Listen for speakers mumbling and saying “Euuuuh…” Try to make sure that most of your sources contain at least some dialogue and a lot of continuous speech. You’ll hear where they naturally omit syllables and blur speech. You’ll hear incomplete thoughts and sentences. The longer people talk without breathing, the better. This is the kind of real-world French dialogue for which you need to prepare yourself.
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.
I bet you don’t talk like this in your native language. More likely, you enrich the information you communicate by adding phrases to show your mood or level of politeness, or to simply transition smoothly between topics.
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
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.
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.
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.
Keep a journal, document, or book with all of the vocabulary you learn in one place. If you’re a member of Rocket Languages, the “My Vocab” feature, which lets you save vocabulary and compile a list for future study, is fantastic for this.
If you are more advanced, read out loud over the voice that is reading, and study how your pronunciation differs. Pay close attention to the word grouping, where the reader breathes, and don’t forget to respect the liaisons and the eventual glidings.
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).
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.
If you want to have more “tools” added to your arsenal of French words, it’s a lot easier to continue on with a conversation. I would recommend using google, word reference, and/or a French dictionary to help you translate ANY word you stumble upon (reading, writing, or listening to the news). Follow up finding the definition with writing it down in a journal or notebook, maybe even make a correct French sentence using the word! All the extra trouble takes no longer than a minute and will allow you to retain words better. I know that in Italian, I look up words all the time, but only a small fraction of them will stick in my memory unless I write it down somewhere or use the word soon. As a little tip, reading is by far the best way to get more vocabulary and useful verbs. My mom and my friends (who don’t understand French) miraculously have the ability to understand French sentences which contain English cognates.
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!
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.
You’re probably noticing a pattern. There’s no getting around it, ça is a word that comes up over and over in French conversation. Trying to talk without it is like trying to prepare a three-course meal without a knife.
Interesting. While technically French was my first foreign language, I hadn’t studied it until last year, though I had been in touch with it since I was a kid (both my parents had studied French language in college).