There may be several reasons that you would like to learn French. Perhaps you are required to take a foreign language in school or maybe you are interested in French culture. If you're looking for a job in France or looking to acquire French citizenship, you'll most likely be required to learn French.
Whatever the reasons may be, learning French is actually a lot of fun. At first, learning any language can be challenging, but French is a beautiful language and I'm happy you've chosen to learn French in particular.
When you start to learn a new language, it can be very stressful. Learning French is no exception! Don’t let your frustration get to you, learning a language can be difficult at times but is very rewarding. Follow these tips and you'll be on your way to speaking French fluently in no time flat!
Watch French Television
One of the best ways I’ve found in learning any language is by watching the news in that language. You may not understand much of what the newscasters are saying, but there are a lot of French words that sound similar to English words.
The news also has a lot of pictures and videos up in the corners to kind of guide you. There are many commercials between segments on news shows which also allow those learning French to see visual aids while listening to new vocabulary words and learning sentences structure. Commercials are another way to learn more about French culture.
There are also many French television shows which are helpful in learning French. It's also a great way for students to learn conversational French which is very helpful for communicating with French people. I suggest learning vocabulary from the news first, as those learning French won't be able to understand very much just from a sitcom and may find themselves totally lost and not having fun!
Cussing Up a Storm (For Pronunciation)
Another great thing to use is a colloquial dictionary. You’ll want to be careful so that you’re not saying something offensive, but this is a great way to get interested in a language and learn how to really communicate! It’s the difference between saying “Hey, do you have the time,” instead of “Excuse me, good sir, can you direct me as to the time,” to a teenager.
There is this great book called "Hide This French Book" that I recommend for learning French slang. The book has really interesting (and dirty) words to learn and makes it fun with some weird facts about France. If you, for some reason, have no interest in learning the French language but still have the daunting task ahead of you, I suggest starting out with this book. It’ll definitely spark some interest.
Homemade Index Cards
With learning any language, you will learn a lot of new vocabulary words. There are two awesome ways to learn new words. The first way is to write them on index cards. You can always buy index cards with words already written on them, but it’s just not the same as writing them for yourself. It’s kind of like writing definitions to words in middle school, you really learn a lot from the old do-it-yourself, even if you don’t necessarily want to do it.
When you read the words on the index cards, say them out loud. This will help you with pronunciation. Another thing you can try along with using the index card is to say these words when you’re out and about. For example, when you see a car say “voiture.” This is really great when you’re grocery shopping as well. People may think you’re crazy, but you’re on a mission, right?
Getting in the Mood: Don't Force It
If you’re just not in the mood to learn French, then don’t do it. There are two really good reasons for this: You won’t learn anything. If you’re not interested in what you’re learning, it’ll just be a pain and a waste of time. Also if you force it, you’ll be less likely to want to continue learning it in the future.
If you find yourself not interested at all in learning the French language, you might want to identify why and try to find a way to solve the problem. Basically, you’ll want to find a way to make you interested in the language. Immerse yourself in French culture and see if that helps!
Get a Workbook
Get a workbook! Like I said, it’s easier to learn a language when you’re forced to write it down. If you and a friend both need a workbook, don’t share it, because one of you won’t be able to write in it, and instead, will see the answers already written in.
You'll want to have a workbook for each person learning the language. It'll cost a bit more, but the value of learning the language outweighs the cost. I personally recommend and have used French Now! Level 1 and I learned a lot from it. It was fun, too, but I'm a sucker for workbooks.
Learn a Song
A fun way to learn pronunciation is to learn a song in French. There are various children's songs that are great tools for learning French pronunciation. There are popular songs originally written in English that were later translated into French. This is great because those trying to learn French may already recognize the tune.
This not only helps with pronunciation but also with learning new words as those learning French may already know the words in English. It is important to remember that the translation is likely not word for word, so it's a good idea to still look up the exact meaning of the French lyrics if unsure of the meaning of part of the song.
Meena on May 18, 2012:
Great tips! I must second Roz though- understanding French is something I find really difficult, the accent is such that even when they are saying words I know I often can't make them out! Also, I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but the similarities in French and english mean that I understand a lot of French words. But if I say an English word with a very similar French equivilant, Parisians become very confused. I have to try to explain for ages and then they go 'Oh!' and repeat exactly what I said at first in a French accent -.-
nazrul on May 01, 2012:
Thanks for your ideas.Actually I have admitted into a france university and the class will begin in the 1st September.The course will entirely conducted in English but i am afraid without any french proficiency how much i have survived.I want to learn french and how much time it require.please suggest me
Roz on October 28, 2011:
My problem is understanding the spoken french, I can usually say what I want to say and be understood but I can't understand them when they answer me, it is so frustrating, any tips for that
Mike's Corner from Maryland on January 29, 2011:
Terrific language-learning tips, Melbel, great hub!
Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on January 24, 2011:
I'm glad you found the tips to be helpful!
pascal on November 10, 2010:
Great hub! Very nice tips.
Wally on November 02, 2010:
These are definitely great tips, some of which also very useful. Merci!! Wally
France Travel Inf on October 10, 2010:
At the age of 55 I found out you are never to old to learn a foreign language - it just takes a bit more work that it did when younger! I love having a "semi-command" of the language now when we are in France! Making note-cards for learning new vocabulary is my NUMBER ONE trick!
Kudos to all folks out there who are brave enough to try anything new - a foreign language, travel, computers, whatever!
Debbie - Admin for www.france-travel-info.com
DaniellaWood from England on December 02, 2009:
Thanks for the tips, melbel, they're much appreciated as I'm in my final year of my A levels studying French and German at the moment (these tips could apply to both languages). I love French; it's a beautiful language. I've been on a few exchanges over there and you're absolutely right - surrounding yourself in the language brings you on leaps and bounds! I look forward to reading more of your hubs! Merci, Daniella
Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on July 17, 2009:
I'm glad you guys enjoyed my tips. They can really be applied to any language, but I've personally found them useful in learning French. It's definitely a lifelong process for me, but I am thankful that I can at least get around now!
Marie Dwivkidz from UK on July 04, 2009:
Love the colloquial dictionary idea. We have been doing up a house in France for years now, and just as you say, my schoolgirl French taught me how to say 'I beg your pardon would you kindly explain to me why the rate of progress is so leisurely' to the workmen. I could sure do with knowing how to say 'Oi - pull your finger out you lazy slob'!
Amanda Severn from UK on July 04, 2009:
Great tips melbel! I was in Paris about two weeks ago with my 14 year old daughter. I'm not a fluent French speaker, but I've picked up enough over the years, through visitng France, to 'get by' in most situations. My daughter tells me that her school lessons cover such 'useful' topics as naming the contents of her pencil case, and identifying zoo animals. You're right on the money when you suggest using a colloquial dictionary and watching French tv. These are far more realistic ideas for tackling a living, vibrant language, if you really want to communicate with French speakers!
Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on July 04, 2009:
Yes I have struggled with French so some of these suggestions will come in very handy.