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.
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:
Another idea is to find your favorite books in French. This will help keep your interest and will help you decipher the text since you already know the plot. It’s good to start simple, since a too-challenging book at the start of your learning will only frustrate you.
Browsing italki. italki is my go-to place to find native German speakers. The prices are reasonable (especially compared to private, face-to-face lessons) and you can meet in the comfort of your own home.
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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! 🙂
Gain confidence and perfect your pronunciation with Rosetta Stone’s pioneering speech recognition technology, which compares your speech to that of thousands of native speakers, so that you can correct and improve.
In fact, you should get in the habit of Googling whenever you have a question about French, including grammar issues. It is far more effective to search for an answer to something that you have noticed in the language, that you are curious about, rather than having a teacher push an explanation at you.
Why is that some people are worse language learners no matter how hard they work? Among the many emails/tweets and in-person comments I get about those who have tried and failed to learn languages, what comes up more often than not is something along the lines of “I know that I can’t ever learn French/German/Chinese
Learn the structure of the language. Learn how the verbs work with nouns and with each other. Things that you learn in the beginning of French make more sense as you become more proficient in the language. Look at things like how the pronunciation works.
Memorize 30 words and phrases each day. In 90 days, you’ll have learned about 80% of the language. The most common words make up the greatest percent of interactions, so start by memorizing the most common words.
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.
French grammar may at first seem strange to an English-speaker, but its rules are actually easier and less irregular than English grammar. Once you have a handle on French grammar, the rules are effectively unchanged for Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Since they are all derived from Latin, the Romance languages have several grammatical rules in common: adjectives come after the noun they modify, all verbs are conjugated, the subject-verb order is inverted when asking a question, and all nouns have a gender designation. Being familiar with one Romance language will allow you to pick up others more easily.
If you have access to English subtitles for your video sources and really need to use them, go ahead. This isn’t “cheating,” because it still requires you to figure out what’s being said in French. You can also use French subtitles to check yourself, but be aware that, for some sources, subtitles may differ from the audio.
Learn to conjugate the verbs. Try to remember that verbs in french need to be conjugated according to their pronouns; there are three different conjugations, because there are three different kinds of verbs: verbs that end in -ir, -er, and -re.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning French, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online French program:
The No. 1 and best way to learn French quickly for the average person is to utilize the wide variety of resources available on the Internet. However, while the Internet is a great resource it is important to use it in the right way.
I have touched lightly on some of what you will find in French. Don’t put these things up front. Don’t think that the mass of grammar rules need to be mastered before you can enjoy the language. That is what they did to me in school. It was when I broke away from that, and immersed myself in content of interest, reading, listening, watching movies, and conversing with people, that I started to fall in love with French. That stimulated my motivation, reduced my frustration, and induced me to spend the time necessary to achieve fluency in this lovely language, “mon premier amour” among languages.
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.
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.
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.
However, it’s highly recommended that you gradually expand your vocabulary at least to the 1,000 most commonly used words in French. With just 1,000 words, you’ll be able to understand about 80% of written texts.
I’m impressed with Duolingo. It has helped massively with learning vocabulary and after just 5 months (Although I did have 2 hours a week at school) I’m delighted how much of the written language that I can understand. I’ve now joined a ‘Parlons Francais’ group where novices learn from fluent speakers by conversing visage a visage. C’est tres aider.
By no means do I expect you to become the next linguistic mastermind. Simply put, the entire French language is composed of 37 sounds. Most of them exactly similar to English and others which have no place in our language. If you took a good listen to each phoneme (correct linguistic term for sounds that a language chooses), you’ll have a better understanding of French pronunciation. Check out this site and go through the sounds, all the exercises can be completed well within an hour. This step can be skipped until you have a more concrete understanding of the language, or not even accessed at all. I know many intermediate French speakers who know nothing about linguistics or French phonetics. Also, try reading this article which provides very useful pronunciation tips: French Phonetics.
Everyone who has ever learned to speak French (even native speakers, who learned when they were kids) was once a beginner in the language. They all managed to learn to speak French fluently, and so can you.
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
For all of you who are saying, “I don’t know any French people or anyone who can speak French…” have no fear! Try to convince somebody you know to learn French with you! Conversations by yourself aren’t fun at all, but saying “bonjour” to someone learning the language with you will actually be meaningful. Having someone else learning the language can serve a person to make you strive for better results or study when you don’t feel like it.
According to the FSI, the closer a language is to your native language (in this case, probably English), the faster you will learn that language. They divided their findings into three basic language categories based on the languages’ similarity to English, which determined how long it took learners to reach general professional proficiency or higher: