You will slowly get more and more used to the conditional and the subjunctive. Continue your enjoyable discovery of French, through listening and reading, and your confidence in this seemingly scary looking verb forms will gradually grow.
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.
Never heard of it? It’s spoken by less than half a million people in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It wasn’t included on the list because Frisian is rarely studied as a second language, so finding a textbook or tutor outside the North Sea would be near impossible.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a French grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to get started with French. Books could get you reading French after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Yes, but what about the grammar and other difficulties of French? Well, here is a quick summary that can help you. Don’t try to remember anything here. Just use this, and other resources, as a reference as you set out to discover this lovely language on your own.
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.
So how do French speakers talk so fast, anyway? Well, part of it is the language itself, as mentioned above. But also, not everything that’s being said is necessarily crucial. This little bits of linguistic fluff do not require a whole lot of thought to put together.
French is one of the five main Romance languages – along with Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. The term Romance has nothing to do with how romantic the French are (although they do have their reputation), but instead refers to the Latin phrase “romanica loqui”, meaning “to speak in Roman fashion.” When Latin speakers first began settling in the far corners of the Roman empire, their language collided with indigenous languages and the resulting mix formed new Latin dialects. When the Roman empire was in decline and Rome finally lost control over the provinces, these dialects finally diverged into distinct languages.
You’ll notice that many other “–tion” words appear in French almost exactly as they do in English, especially British English, which never replaced the “s” in words like réalisation with a “z” as we’ve done in American English.
Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised French phrasebook.
If you are lost when you see “conjugate,” conjugating is this: the verb regarder means “to look,” in french. If you want to say “I am looking,” or “I look,” you write “Je regarde,” because when you take off the ending of the verb (which for this case is -er) in the Je form (Je means I), you replace it with “e.” Now, if you wish to say “They are looking,” or “We are looking,” you will need a different ending.
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.
Other rules, especially those about the pronunciation of vowels, should be learned as you immerse yourself in the language. One tool that can help you is Pronunciator. As for intonation, one of the essential rules is that the accent of a word or phrase always bears on the last syllable or last word. To mark this difference, the penultimate syllable is weaker than the antepenultimate.
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.
On average, many speakers are considered fluent in a language by the time they’ve reached a B2 level or higher. This is a level which allows them to comfortably interact in almost all social situations.
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.
There are even conjugating dictionaries like Le Conjugueur. This is one of dictionaries that you can use at LingQ. Don’t rely on memorization. Keep reading and listening. Look things up when you are stumped and stay focussed on things of interest.
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.
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,
But what languages are the easiest to learn for English speakers? The Foreign Service Institute ranked the 9 least difficult languages for English-speaking folks. Check them out and let us know about your experience learning these languages.
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.
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.
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.
If you read this blog before you start learning French, it will help you a lot. It gave me a clear idea of what to look for while learning French. This Blog made the process of learning French much easier. It’s an informative blog to read and learn about French language, especially for beginners.
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!”
English is historically a Germanic language, but after the Norman Invasion in 1066, French became the official language of the nobility for over 300 years. As a result, several thousand French words trickled down into common English usage. By the time of Shakespeare, English had transformed into a truly hybrid language with French words accounting for half of English vocabulary. There are the obvious transplants like rendezvous, femme fatale, and croissant, but you might be surprised to learn that thousands of ordinary English words come from French. Without even exploring the rest of the alphabet, French has given us the words action, affection, agriculture, alligator, amusement, application, architecture, and attitude.
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Consider your current level of French. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to fully understand native speakers, you’ll want to consider video sources that are accompanied by a transcript, subtitles or a “cheat sheet.” Many popular French learning podcasts offer transcripts for their listeners. All of FluentU’s French language videos have interactive subtitles which allow you to see every single word’s definition on-screen, if desired. These kinds of resources are ideal if you need help while watching videos. You’ll still want to try without looking, but this way you can check yourself and make sure you’re not getting things mixed up in your mind. If in doubt, play it safe. French as a language uses a lot of similar sounds and it’s easy to mistake certain combinations of words for others.
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.
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?”
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.
Spanish pronunciation is fairly easy for English speakers, with only ten vowel/diphthong sounds (English has 20), and the easy-to-master letter ñ. Like Italian, the orthography is clear and simple; words are written as they’re pronounced, which makes reading easier. Grammatically, Spanish has fewer irregularities than other romance languages too.
Hence the importance of finding the right French tool to study with. If the method is all fun, and doesn’t have you drill on verb tenses, or tackle grammar concepts, chances are you will not become fluent in French.
Keep it fun. The selection process itself should be enjoyable. Look for sources you can watch multiple times in a row, and look for content that you find genuinely interesting. What film character would you most like to be for Halloween? What topics would you like to be able to discuss fluently? If you love soccer, track down some French language sporting event videos and acquire all the soccer vocabulary you’ll need to argue about teams at the bar. If you love movies starring Romain Duris (and who doesn’t?) compile your favorites. Look for language you want to make your own.
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.
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Believe it or not, you already know some French words even before you even start studying it. While French 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.
French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world with about 275 million speakers, 77 million of whom are native speakers. Indeed, apart consolidating relations with France – the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe – this language opens the doors of countries on all continents since it is the official language in 29 countries and currently spoken in 8 other countries. Moreover, specialists project that in 2050 8% of the world’s population will be francophone!