Learn French: Online Language Lessons for All Levels
French speakers spread around the planet, not only in France but also in many other countries around the world, including throughout Africa, mostly a result of the French colonial and imperial legacy of the 1800s and early 1900s. Today, about 50 percent of the planet’s native French speakers live in Africa in countries like Algeria, Tunisia, Djibouti, Niger, Mauritius, and Côte d’Ivoire, and with the continent’s massive population growth alone, it’s projected that there will be more than 700 million global French speakers by 2050.After German and Russian, French is the most widely spoken language in Europe; huge proportions of speakers can be found in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, among plenty of other countries where French speakers have laid roots, including Poland, Greece, and the Czech Republic.
Across the Atlantic Ocean over in North America, Canada has about 10 million native French speakers, many of whom are found in the province of Québec, where French is the only official language (it shares co-official status with English in most other provinces). French is the fourth most spoken language in the United States, with major populations of native speakers of dialects of French in places like Louisiana. And if you head further south, you’ll find roughly 10 million speakers of Haitian Creole, a variety of the French language, in Haiti. There’s no shortage of French speakers wherever you may choose to travel! You might want to learn French for its links to other world languages. French, a Romance language, is closely related to all of the other languages in the same family, like Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, to name a few. They all derive from Vulgar Latin, the vernacular variety spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire. That means these languages share a whole lot of cognates, or words that are spelled and sound the same and that have the same meaning across more than one language.
French to learn at different levels:
Level 1: Learn French Basics: French Lesson for Beginners
- Learning French Pronunciation, The French Alphabet and French Accents
French pronunciation is notoriously confusing for non-native French speakers, especially when they are confronted with a French word that looks nothing like it’s pronounced from how it’s spelled (think hors d’oeuvres, for one). The French language is full of funky orthography and very specific pronunciations — silent letters, clusters of vowels and sounds that don’t exist in English.
Don’t worry if you can’t master a typical French accent or French pronunciation right away; it takes time and practice! The best way to remember these rules is just to practice over and over, especially by reading texts out loud. Watching French TV and movies or listening to French podcasts, radio and film can certainly help you master French pronunciation and sound like a native French speaker.
- French Vocabulary
Learning French vocabulary isn’t as hard as you might think. It takes time and practice, but you’ll find there are a lot of French words and phrases that are connected with expressions you already know.
As mentioned above, French is a descendant of the Vulgar Latin spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire. Though English isn’t in the same language family as French (English is a Germanic language), more than a quarter of English words come from Latin, and roughly the same number of English words come from the French language (so, indirectly from Latin). And there are thousands of Greek words that have made their way into both English and French, too. That means you’re going to find a lot of Latin- and Greek-derived words in French vocabulary you already recognize. When you see the French words artiste, academies, or generation, for example, you’ll probably have no trouble guessing their English equivalents.
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Level 2: Basics of French Grammar
- French Verbs and French Verb Conjugations
Verbs are key elements of any French sentence. Whenever you want to express that someone or something does some action or is something else, you need a French verb.
You can recognize when a word you come across is a French verb by noticing the word’s ending. French verbs end in one of three endings: -er (like the verb danser, “to dance”), -ire (like avertir, “to warn”) or -re (like perdre, “to lose”). This makes it fairly easy to figure out when you’re dealing with a French verb as opposed to another type of French word, like a French noun or French adjective. However, these are only the endings for the verbs in what’s called their infinitive form — “to do,” “to be,” “to eat” or “to speak,” for example.
To be used in actual French sentences, these verbs need to be conjugated, which is a technical way of saying that each French verb requires a special ending depending on the subject of the verb (who or what is doing the action of the verb). There are many French verbs that are considered “regular” because they all follow the same consistent pattern of conjugation.
- French Nouns and French Gender
Each French noun has a gender, meaning it’s classified as either masculine (masculine) or feminine (féminin). This doesn’t mean that every person, place, object or idea is inherently male or female; it’s just a system of grammatical categorization that exists in French and many other world languages that affects how speakers use these languages. Often, French gender marking maps to words in ways you’d expect; la mère (“the mother”) is a feminine noun, so it requires the singular definite article la (“the”), whereas le Père (“the father”) is a masculine noun that requires the definite article le. But sometimes these gender assignments can be pretty arbitrary; why is la chaise (“the chair”) feminine while le canapé (“the sofa”) is masculine? A major part of learning French nouns involves memorizing their gender classifications, so it’s important to practice this concept.
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Level 3: Basic French Phrases and French Greetings
To speak like a native French speaker, there are certain must-know French phrases and expressions that will help you navigate your way through a conversation.
The best place to start, of course, is with “hello”! There are many common greetings in French to choose from, the most popular of which include bonjour (literally “good day”), or if it’s about 6 or 7 p.m. or later, bonsoir (“good evening”). With people you know quite familiarly and personally, a salut! (“hi!”) works well, too.
There is no right answer when it comes to how to learn French — or any new language. With so many options for your language journey, it’s no surprise that choosing a learning style or method can be overwhelming!
Of the millions of people who speak and study French as a non-native language, you’ll find folks who have used all sorts of resources to learn the language, some free, some fairly cheap, and some more of a financial investment. There’s no right combination, and it’s up to you to decide which methods work best for you to learn French.
French is fun to learn: The language is not all that difficult and since the French are culture-rich with unique ways of talking, communicating, eating, and dressing, it makes learning the language extremely fun. French is also a soft, melodious language for which reason it often gets dubbed “the language of love.”