French is a beautiful language to learn. From being the language of millions to one of the recognized languages of the United Nations, French has always been in the limelight.
No matter whether in personal or professional life, learning French will always be a boost to you.
So, without further ado, let’s get on with the seven best ways to learn the French language.
1. Always Study French With Audio
Let’s start with one truth that many French students don’t realize but which is key if you want to do more than just read novels or French magazines…
Written French and spoken French are almost 2 different languages.
There are many silent letters, glidings, liaisons, etc… and they are everywhere, including in French verb conjugations and grammar.
Many students are still learning French mostly with written material, or traditional methods that over enunciate every single word.
Formal school curriculum usually focuses on grammar and verb conjugations – the teachers don’t have a choice: they have to cover the imposed curriculum, and that leaves little time for anything else!
For example, the modern spoken pronunciation of “être” in various conjugations is quite different from what you may have studied. Especially in the negative, when you apply all the glidings with the subject pronouns and the one. Check out my free audio guide about the French verb être conjugations and pronunciation.
Picking the right French audiobook is your first challenge, and your choice may very well depend on the success or failure of your French studies.
Now let’s talk about your own study style.
2. Be In Touch With Your Own Learning Style
Do you need to write? Or do you need to listen? Or do you need to read to learn things by heart?
Whatever the method you are using to learn French, make sure you adapt it to YOUR learning style.
This being said, studying French with audio is a must if you want to learn French to communicate: understand modern spoken French and speak French yourself.
I developed an audio-based modern French placement test. Check it out to see if you can understand modern spoken French.
3. Self Studying Is NOT For Everybody
When it comes to learning languages, not everybody is the same. I’ve taught hundreds of students, and I can tell you from experience that some people have an easier time with languages than others. It’s not fair, and it’s not popular to say it… but it’s true.
It doesn’t mean that someone less gifted cannot learn French, but it means that self-studying is not for everybody.
Some students need the expertise of a teacher to guide them through their studies, motivate them and find creative ways to explain the same point until it is understood. Skype and/or phone French lessons can be a good solution.
4. Beware Of Free French Learning Tools
Nowadays every French teaching website is offering something free. Free French lessons. Free tips. Free videos.
I get it. Free is lovely.
However, if the material is not good, then ‘free’ can be a total waste of your time. And your time is valuable.
Be particularly careful about social networks. It’s easy to get lost in there and jump from one funny video to another but in the end, actually, learn very little – or not what you should be learning!
There is also some really good free material out there – if you have not done it already, I encourage you to download my free French learning audiobook.
5. Translate French Into English As Little As Possible
When you are a total beginner, some translation is going to occur. As you advance in your French studies, try as much as possible to avoid translating.
Translating adds a huge step in the process of speaking:
Idea –> English –> French
It makes your brain waste 30% more time and energy and will fool you into making a mistake when the literal translation doesn’t work – which is unfortunately often the case in French!
So if you don’t translate, what should you do?
6. Link French To Images And Visual Situations, Not English Words
Try as much as possible to link the new French vocabulary to images, situations, feelings, and NOT to English words.
When you learn the French expression “j’ai froid”, picture being cold, bring up the feeling, and link the French words to this sensation, not to the English translation.
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By linking the image/ sensation to the French words, you will avoid mistakes since in this particular case, for example, we don’t use “I am’ in French, but ‘I have’: “j’ai froid”
Whatever you do, don’t adopt the English sentence to adapt it to the French – “ah, Ok, the French say “I HAVE a cold” I’ll remember that!”
This is a very important point so I’ll take another example.
When learning French numbers, many students “build” them. They do maths. When they want to say ‘ninety-nine’ in French they think about what they’ve learned and remember this fun (or crazy?) logic ‘four-twenty-ten-nine’ and finally come up with “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf’.
Do you realise the time wasted?
Most French kids know how to count to 99 by age 6.
7. Be Careful With French Cognates
This is exactly why you should be particularly careful with cognates – words that are the same between the two languages.
Many students approach them thinking “ah, that’s easy, I know that one”. But then when they need to use that word, they don’t remember it’s the same word in French as in English.
Furthermore, cognates always have a different pronunciation, and your English brain is going to fight saying that word the French way.
I hear many students having a hard time with the word “Chocolat”. In French, the ch is soft, as in “shave”, and the final t is silent. [Shocola]. Most French students wrongfully pronounce it [tshocolat].
Finally, there are many false cognates: words that exist in both languages but don’t have exactly the same meanings (like entrée in US English (= main course) and entrée in French (= appetizers, first (light) course).
So, cognates need more of your attention, not less!
So, these were some of the best ways to learn the French language. Hope you enjoyed it.
Do tell us if you have any other methods in the comment down below.