The reasons for learning French:
There are many reasons for learning a language:
- Taking an exam to migrate to a French-speaking country
- Travelling to a French-speaking country for business or pleasure
- Learning for fun as a challenge
- Preparing for an exam at school
- Marrying a French-speaking person
Whatever the reason, the objective remains the same.
Tips for learning French:
Whether it is knitting, wood carving, or learning a language, learning a new skill takes motivation and effort. A critical aspect of learning something new is that it should be an enjoyable experience. So the best way to start learning French is to set yourself an achievable target but most of all realistic.
People learn differently, and the methods of learning need to fit the learner’s learning process. Setting yourself a target and motivation such as an exam, a trip to France, a new job abroad is usually a good motivator. You know you are doing well and progressing when everything falls into place when you start understanding a text or a conversation that you once didn’t. At this point, your confidence starts to grow. The more confident you become, the braver you are at using your French, the braver you are, the more confident you become.
Strategies to strengthen different parts of the language:
Like English, French is a complex language with heavy grammatical rules that don’t always make sense and have many exceptions. So this is where I would start: learn the basics of grammar. Not many people understand their own grammatical rules, and to be fair, they don’t necessarily need to. However, becoming methodical when learning grammar is an excellent way to strengthen many language skills. I am not asking you to become a linguistics professor but only to understand grammatical mechanics basics.
How to conjugate verbs, the different tenses used, how to form an adverb and an adjective. Set yourself one target at a time. For example: learn how to conjugate in the present tense and do this well.
There are many free resources available to help you with grammar and reading online. There are some great YouTubers out there who can help: @learnfrenchwithalexa is one ;). However, I recommend proper courses as they are more structured and follow a progressive framework (learnfrench.com).
Of course, knowing the grammar is not ultimately what will make you fluent: in an ideal world, practising your French-speaking skills with a teacher or a native speaker is the best way to progress. Even better, going to a French-speaking country and immersing yourself fully in the culture and language is by far the best way to learn many languages.
If this isn’t possible, then listening to the French radio or French podcasts such as France Inter, Europe 1, RTL, or France Culture to familiarise yourself with the different ways of speaking and accents is a great way to tune in your French hearing.
Watch French shows on streaming platforms such as Netflix or YouTube with either English subtitles or French subtitles. I would recommend that you watch the show in English first, then watch it again with the French subtitles, and then again without subtitles. Once you understand the context of the story, the words and sentences become more manageable. The more you watch the shows, the more comfortable you will become with spotting new words.
Why don’t you try your writing skills by joining a forum on Facebook or Instagram where people meet and discuss the French language? Books are good too. In an era where everything is on a screen, it is always good to go back to basics and write down words and grammatical rules in your own way. This will make the learning more relatable to you. You can listen to a French book on Audible, for example, and follow it with a hard copy of that book. For example, listen to Le petit Prince and read it at the same time using the book.
Social media such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok give you access to quick lessons. There are some fantastic teachers who will help build your vocabulary and motivate you to learn daily words, phrases, or idioms—speaking of which, I would suggest learning as many idioms as possible as they can be odd and can be misleading in a conversation. You will know when you have reached a proficient level once you start spotting the idioms in a sentence and using them.
There are also numerous excellent applications nowadays which will trigger different learning wires in your brains; their interactive games will help you learn more enjoyably.
In conclusion, like all activities, people tend to give up at some point. The challenge is to keep at it. Remind yourself why you wish to learn French in the first place. It is essential to understand that learning a language is not linear: you may grasp a tricky grammatical point while you may have difficulty mastering a simple A1 level point. Don’t set the target too high but instead embrace every little success! Setting a target too high will be demoralising and ultimately counterproductive.
Bonne chance et bisou bisou!
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