Tips to learn French on your own
Tips to learn French better
Part of Learning How to Learn French
Anne’s suggestions to learn French on your own.
- prefer spending a little time studying everyday rather than a big chunk of time once in a while
- set your computer, your cell phone, your e-reader to speak French. Even though it might be confusing at first, it will pay off in the long run.
- get a pen pal – I started my language journey learning English with a pen pal. I was 15, and I’m still in touch with her.
- go and meet Francophones. If you are in France, check out OVS (OnVaSortir.com), if you are in the States, MeetUps (meetup.com) are the way to go. I’m sure your country has a similar site or app allowing you go and meet Francophones and Francophiles. If there is nothing in your neighborhood, create an event. If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment below. That will help others a lot. Merci.
- don’t be afraid to play with the language
- don’t worry if what you’re saying seems basic and overly simple at first
- don’t be afraid to make mistakes
- download tons of relevant French podcasts – at your level and interest – onto an mp3 player. Listen to short pieces, and repeat the words you hear OUT LOUD
- read bilingual books, where one page is in French, the other is in your language
- create your own lists of vocabulary. Organize it in a way you can play with it, changing columns, making flashcards. Review your list often. Soon you’ll find you know it.
- create your own list of phrases. Organize it in a way you can play with it, changing the columns, making flashcards. Review your lists often. Soon you’ll find you know it. A lot of good-speaking French is being able to memorize. The key to memorizing is repeating over and over again.
Ways to memorize
- put post-its with French words to label objects all over your house: table – four (oven) – comptoir (counter), and so on
- memorize a song and its meaning. That means listening and singing along many many times. Move on to the next song. Check out my Pop Songs course.
- watch French TV. Pick one broadcast/series you like and watch it regularly, even if you don’t understand it at first.
- spend a lot of time with French, one way or the other
- find or create a French group to go to. There are probably many in your area, from formal ones to really laid-back ones. Find the one that correspond to your needs.
- find a teacher who will answer YOUR needs.
- remember that learning a language is a long process. Don’t give up after the first difficulty.
- speak at a steady pace. Even if you have to speak slowly at first, the steadiness is really important. You’ll be able to pick up the speed later on, with good habits.
- beware of words that are similar in French and English, such as ‘gouvernement’, ‘administration’, ‘intéressant’, and so on. Make sure that you pronounce all the syllables, including the last one.
Tools to work with lists
- Quizlet – make flashcards and play with them
- GENIUS for Mac
- MICROSOFT EXCEL
Tips for kids to learn French
- watch the same TV program (cartoon, animal show…) every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day
- if you’re able to, make it so that little words such as ‘merci’, ‘s’il te plaît’, ‘oui’, ‘non’, and so on are said in French in your family, instead of the English. You may start with just these words, and move on to more complex sentences as you go along
- make flashcards with French word on one side and your language on the other. Play with them every day. You can create your own family game and rules, or just play ‘Guess how to say….’
- find a great FUN teacher and invite playmates to the lessons. Make sure the environment or the teacher doesn’t turn them off.
- sing a French song a week
- if the child is already pretty fluent and into it, do a dictée. Make it fun though 🙂
- read bilingual books
- read children’s stories in French, or get the tapes for them to listen and read
- get picture books and point out an object on a page, say the word in French and have them repeat OUT LOUD
- go to or organize a playgroup
- put post-its with French words to label objects all over their bedroom: table – lit (bed) – chaise (chair), and so on
- always keep it fun for the child
Methods and books
There are lots of methods and books to learn French out there. Some of them will even say you can speak in 10 days. Unfortunately, that’s a lie. However, these methods constitute a great guide to archive and visit when you need them.
Of course, the best method is to be immersed in the country. Short of being able to be there, the most efficient learning is going to happen in class. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher all the questions you need to. You should never exit a class with a pending question. Once you’ve been exposed to a new lesson, the ball is in your court, you need to practice and that’s where things are going to click for you. Without practicing RIGHT AFTER class and every day after, you’ll loose what you thought you learned in class.
Knowing your level in French
Make sure you know what is expected at each learning level. One of the biggest hindrances in making progress is to want to go too fast or to feel silly because you can’t be as articulate in French as you are in your own language. Instead, you should try to enjoy every step of the way, even if all you are saying seems infantile at first. Check out the European Guidelines to determine language levels in my DELF-DALF course.
Beginning, basic level
At this stage, you’re only listening, reading and repeating. There is no space for real creativity. When asked to create a sentence, keep in mind the reader or the audio file you’re copying from. For instance, if you haven’t studied the past tense, don’t venture in it. You are not going to be able to say everything that’s on your mind. You learn a lot more from repeating what you hear and read. You should be satisfied with memorizing a few grammar structures and repeating them back out loud. You should be ready to memorize lists and conjugations. You should not start from English, but rather to pick and choose from what you’ve studied, and adapt that to your situation. Creativity is not in the picture for now. Short and simple sentences are what we’re looking for.
At this level,
- you’re enriching your vocabulary with lists, a reader or an audio file
- you’re learning French grammatical structures
- you’re getting the idea about verb conjugations, mostly about the present tense
You are still relying on you own language a lot. And that’s okay. The difficult part here is that you have very complex thoughts in your language, and you’re tempted to want to formulate the same thoughts in French. Well, don’t. Keep your sentences short and bland – subject-verb-complement.
Intermediate, independant level
You’re starting to create freely from what you’ve acquired in the beginning level. You have enough vocabulary, enough automatisms to play with. You can talk about personal things without needing to go to you native language so often. Your French is not perfect, but it allows you to have satisfying conversations about a few topics
At this level,
- you’re learning longer lists of vocabulary
- your sentences are longer than they used to and somewhat complex
- you’re able to switch back and forth from present, to past, to future tenses
Advanced, expert level
You’re almost never relying on your own language. You’re able to discuss a wide variety of topics, able to understand what’s said to you too. You can express feelings and use long and complex sentences with relative pronouns and different modes.
Fluent, near native or native level
You’re able to speak French with as much ease as you do your own language. You’re sometimes mistaken for someone from another French-speaking country.