For centuries it was the language of several European monarchies, thus the language of culture and communication between different countries and kingdoms. This influence was remarkable in the philosophical, literary and sociological currents for several centuries. Actually, France itself has 15 Literature Nobel Prize winners, making it the country with the highest number of laureates in this category.
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.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in a French-speaking country. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of French vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming French radio and TV online, watching French films and doing multimedia lessons online.
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.
Today, I want to mention one of the most important points in my life, when my destiny changed and my faith in the traditional system of study hard, get a job, work up the ladder, and retire with as much money as possible, was absolutely shattered and I decided to start over from scratch, and why I’m really glad that I did. Sorry it’s a little long, but I do want to give the full picture so you have the context of how my philosophy on life evolved dramatically in a very short time.
First, keeping a vocabulary journal help you keep all the practical words you’ve learned in one place. In addition, just the process of writing down a word and whatever translation, notes, image or mnemonic device can be used to memorize this word helps you to memorize it! It’s also a fantastic future reference for studying and can be used anywhere and anytime you have a few minutes free.
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.
If you want to expand your knowledge of French, you will need to know that there are other tenses. Don’t fret; the tenses need not be learned just yet. Conjugating is also what helps you get to know whether you will be looking, you are looking, you looked, you are going to look, you would look, and so on and so forth.
Language Training is where you develop your language foundation. Here you’ll build language skills with everything from full conversations to writing. Our Course curriculum has won numerous accolades over the years. Dig in and find out why.
So now that you’re armed with language that can be applied to all kinds of conversations, go out and start having some of those conversations! If you’re not in a situation yet where you can talk to native speakers, you’ll at least be able to start listening for these words and phrases in video content or on the radio, which will help you be that much more ready when the time comes!
Stick to quality sources. Your sources don’t all have to be broadcast by Canal+, but stay away from more casual YouTube videos of people partying, filming natural disasters, etc. These can be funny but don’t always contain the most reliable content and, as you probably already know, they can take a sudden turn for the tragic or the gross.
Because Immersion is not practical for many people; language courses are the 2nd best way to learn French. Courses provided through your high school, local college, accredited university, or French Universities all are effective ways towards fluency. Honestly, 6-months of “intensive” French courses will have you getting started effectively and quickly.
Aiming for a B2 level of a language is therefore a more specific and results-focused goal, and, thanks to the criteria provided by the Common European Framework of Reference, it’s also measureable. It’s much more attainable than aiming for the vague notion of “fluency” (which, seems to elude even fluent speakers!). It can easily be made time-bound by keeping in mind the criteria needed for each level and making yourself a schedule with your goals in mind.
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.
It’s spoken on 5 continents. From the streets of Paris to the shores of Africa, the islands of the Caribbean and everywhere in between, French speakers can be found in North America, South America and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and even in formerly French-occupied parts of Asia. This makes it an extremely useful language for travelling the world.
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,
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I will most definitely take your advice. I am learning French at school and I’m not doing too well at all. We had exams earlier this month and I am sure that I failed because I did not finish the papers. The rest of the students did and so I felt stupid and wanted to just quit the class. My teacher said my biggest problem is my lack of vocabulary since the way that I speak is quite nice. Reading this article though has just given me the extra push that I need to stick with it. I really believe that I can do it now. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
Many people use their “bad memory” as an excuse for not learning a new language, but we have some comforting news for these people (and even those with great memories): you don’t need to know all–or even the majority–of the French words to be able to speak it well. In fact, you don’t even need to know half!
Learn French in context: check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided pronunciation.
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.
One great element of the language is that interrogatives are beautifully easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You love me?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.
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!