Bonjour ! Êtes-vous prêt à apprendre le français ?
As one of the most beautiful and romantic languages in the world, learning French will benefit you in more ways than one. Learning the French language will let you converse with over 220 million people and ensure that your trip to France will go smoothly.
Learning a new language can seem daunting, however with the right strategy, you can build confidence in your French in no time. Whether you’re preparing for a trip, hosting a French exchange student or just want to learn the language of romance for fun, here are 10 tips to help you learn French faster.
1) Understand How You Learn
The first step to learning French faster is to actually understand how you learn – are you a visual or auditory learner, or a combination of both? In other words, do you learn best by looking at something yourself or hearing something spoken by an instructor? This will dictate how you approach learning the language. Flash cards may be the best for you if you’re a visual learner while listening to an audiobook may be the better option if you’re more of an auditory learner.
In the majority of courses, you will do a lot of French writing, but most likely less speaking. If you’ve taken foreign language classes before, revisit those materials and try to distinguish which learning tactics worked well for you and which ones didn’t.
2) Learn the Language Structure
As you begin learning French, it may seem overwhelming. However, as you pick more and more things up, things that you learn in the beginning of your training will make much more sense as you improve.
A solid foundation is the key to getting started. The first thing you need to learn is the structure of the French language. You should know how verbs, adjectives and nouns work in conjunction with each other, and learn to distinguish present, past and future verb tenses. When you can apply basic grammar and proper pronunciation to your sentences, you’ll sound much more intelligent when conversing with a native speaker.
As you learn French nouns, always include an indication of its gender, such as a flashcard for le crayon to remember that the French word for pencil is masculine. The gender of nouns in French is not based on an object’s inherent masculinity or femininity, but rather on the ending of the word itself. Analytical learners will appreciate research done by linguists that list which endings are more likely masculine or feminine.
Proper pronunciation is incredibly important when speaking French. From an English-speaker’s perspective, the rules governing which combinations of letters indicate which sound, also known as phonetics, is not intuitive. For example, the French language has vowel combinations like “-oi” that are pronounced, “wha”, and “-eau” which is pronounced “oh”. Learning the basics of French phonetics will take out much of the guesswork in French phonetics.
3) Learn how to Read and Write in French
This is a basic function for anyone who wants to be proficient in French. Learning to read and write will help reinforce the terms, sentences and phrases that you’re learning, as well as teach you new ones. If you’re not ready to pick up a French novel, try something a little simpler like a children’s book (after all, they are designed to help children learn the language, so they can help you too!). Another tactic is to pick up one of your favorite books in a French translation and try reading a few passages here and there. Knowing the plot and literary context will make it easier to take in the grammar and new vocabulary. If you can’t find a book that’s suitable for you, try writing your own. Write in French as much as you possibly can, even if it’s just a few sentences a day or putting together your grocery list in French – this will let you track your progress as you develop your skills.
4) Speak in French as much as Possible
One of the best things you can do to learn French quickly is to speak it as much as possible. No matter how poor you are at the beginning, speak with confidence until you start to grasp the unique sentences and phrases that make the language so compelling. We all had to start out somewhere, but as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.
If you’re searching for ways to inject some French into your everyday conversations, try some of these approaches.
- Narrate your everyday life in French – if you’re taking out the trash, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, writing down a grocery list or driving your car, try speaking some French out-loud to yourself as you complete these day-to-day tasks.
- Interact with a French person – there are plenty of websites and programs that connect students with native French speakers to work on their communication together.
- Join local French clubs, organizations or schools – if you’re in a larger city, there are conversation groups, meet-ups and networks for students of French to meet one another. Use these resources to your advantage by becoming a member and connecting with others in your local area who share your passion.
5) Listen to French
Whether it’s a TV show, a French film, an audiobook or some French music, there are plenty of things you can listen to in order to improve your auditory understanding of the language. When you find something that catches your ear, mimic what it is you hear to reinforce French pronunciation. Professional translators and those who grew up bilingual swear by this method, in which you “shadow” what others are saying. Absorbing French culture by listening not only reinforces pronunciation and intonation, developing a taste for French music, film or television can make learning more fun and engaging.
Listening to native French speakers will let you understand the many nuances of French usage and intonation. The more things you can listen to, the better you will get – so on your morning commute, instead of NPR, put a French audiobook on. Rather than watch your favorite program in English when you get home from work, stream the French version online instead (and turn on subtitles if necessary in the beginning). In the long run, you’ll benefit from hearing how people interact with one another and be better able to apply it to your own way of speaking.
6) Practice Often
You won’t get anywhere without practicing those words and phrases that you’ve learned. You can learn proper French quickly with the proper amount of practice. Here are some strategies to help you shorten the time it takes for you to learn the language.
- Turn the language of your browser to French – browsing Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media will help you understand more of the casual, informal intricacies of the language. It also helps you apply what you’re learning in a practical way.
- Try thinking in French – if you have a loud inner voice, make an active effort to think in French instead of English. This will only further your ability to say words out loud.
- Learn 30 words and phrases every single day. If you stick to this schedule you will learn about 80 percent of the language in only three months. The most common words make up the largest amount of conversations, so start by memorizing the basics.
- Attach labels to household items with the French word and make sure you say the words out loud whenever you use them. From blowdryer to kitchen sink to television, you’ll learn some important nouns quickly after you’re exposed to the labels for a few days.
- Make yourself a stack of flashcards and use them when you’re on the subway, during advertisements while you’re watching TV or whenever you have some time to yourself.
- Never, ever give up – throughout the process, you may sometimes feel like you’re never going to grasp the French language. If you’re struggling, try switching up your learning methods. As long as you diligently practice, there’s no reason you can’t become a fantastic French speaker.
7) Learn the Basics of the French Language for an Upcoming Trips
If you’re preparing for an upcoming trip and are trying to cram some French words and phrases into your brain, start with some of the most commonly used ones in the language. This will help you interact with the locals, order food, find directions if you’re lost or communicate with emergency personnel.
8) French Salutations
These are useful phrases and words to start with, since most people begin and end an interaction in similar ways. Here are some of the most popular ways to say “hello” and “goodbye” in French.
- Bonjour – Hello
- Comment allez-vous ? — How are you?
- Quoi de neuf ? – What’s up?
- Coucou ! – Hey there!
- Allô ? – Hello? (when answering the phone)
- Salut ! – Hi/Bye-bye!
- Au revoir ! – Goodbye!
- Je suis désolé(e), mais je dois y aller – I’m sorry, but I have to go.
- Bonne journée ! — Have a nice day! (often said to shopkeepers when leaving a store)
- À plus tard ! (À plus !) – See you later!
- À tout à l’heure ! – See you soon/see you in a while!
- Je m’appelle – My name is…
Remember to thank the people who help you. Say “merci” or “merci beaucoup” which means “thank you” or “thank you very much.”
9) Ask for Help in French
This is important when you’re traveling the country, as you may likely need to ask for directions or help along the way. Here are some of the most popular ways to say ask for help in French.
- Parlez lentement, s’il vous plaît – Please speak slowly
- Désolé(e), je ne comprends pas – Sorry, I don’t understand
- Desolé(e), je ne parle pas français (très bien) – I’m sorry, I don’t speak French (very well).
- Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous me dire où est… ? – Excuse me, can you tell me where ______ is?
- Pouvez-vous me diriger vers… – Can you direct me to…
- Excusez-moi de vous déranger – Excuse me for bothering you
10) The most Common French phrases
Learn the most common French words to cover the basics. Here are ten survival words & expressions that are a must know:
- Oui / Non – Yes/ No
- Bonjour – Hello
- Au revoir – Good-bye
- Merci – Thank you
- Pardon / Excusez-moi – Excuse-me
- Parlez-vous anglais ? – Do you speak English?
- S’il vous plaît – Please
- Je voudrais – I would like (use along with ‘Please’)
- Combien ça coûte ? – How much does it/this cost?
- Où sont les toilettes ? – Where are the restrooms? (use with ‘Please’)
Bon Voyage !
Now that you know some tips and tricks to learning French faster, you should feel more comfortable about traveling to the country. If you’re dreaming of learning the language of romance, try sharpening your French with any of the above tips today!
Profitez de votre voyage en France ! Bon apprentissage !