Written and spoken French are almost two different languages. There are too many silent letters, liaisons, rules and exceptions to count. Formal school curriculum often focuses on grammar and verb conjugations because it is part of the imposed curriculum, which does not leave room for much else. I have many friends who studied French with me in secondary school who were unable to carry a slow-paced conversation with me in French. They were however much better at writing and French grammar than I was. My secondary school teacher often said that French natives (like myself) had more difficulty with written grammar than those who learned French formally in a classroom setting.
Waught & Fonseca-Greber said, "The spoken French taught in American classrooms is a fiction, based on ideas about how people should speak, not how they do speak". I have seen many real-life examples of students who have spent ages perfecting their written grammar but struggle with their spoken French. To truly communicate in French, not just pass an exam, you need to be fluent in modern spoken French. One of the best ways to do so is via audio lessons. That is why Learn French with Alexa places a heavy emphasis on audiovisual learning. We give you the audio experience where you practice your listening skills and pronunciation, as well as exercises for your written skills.
Formal learning (such as the Learn French with Alexa subscription course) is great. What is even better is when you supplement it with informal learning that takes place in the form of your day to day activities. Instead of reading in your native language, pick up a French book/novel (suitable for your level) and try making sense of the most repeated words. The more you do so, the quicker you will integrate those words into your French vocabulary. Once you understand the context of the book, the words will follow. Use a French/English dictionary to help you translate. Make sure to pick a book on a subject you love to keep the learning fun and engaging.
The same goes for watching movies and TV series. Alexa recently spoke to one of her Instagram followers who explained that she learned French entirely by watching television. At first, start with watching children programming in French with English subtitles. Once you feel more comfortable, watch it with French subtitles to help you match the words you hear with those you see on the screen. Continue this exercise by watching suitable programming for your level. This is actually how babies learn their first languages, so we know it works.
One of the most popular questions we receive here at Learn French with Alexa is "how do I know if a word is masculine or feminine?" It is the million-dollar question that we wish we could solve. In English, knowing the gender of each noun is not a precursor to perfecting the language. In French, however, all nouns have a grammatical gender. The easy ones to learn are those that have a different feminine and masculine form - they usually refer to people and animals:
The nouns that express entities without gender, such as objects, have only one form. That form can be masculine or feminine. For example, la table (the table) can only be feminine. Other nouns express entities with gender for which there is only one form, which is used regardless of the actual gender of the entity. For example, the French word for person; personne; is always feminine even if the person in question is male. There are also many exceptions which unfortunately must be learned with time.
Our top tip with gender and nouns is to start practising daily. If you can, use post-its to mark certain items in your home (la table, la télévision, la chaise...). As you practice every day, you will start to come across those pesky exceptions. It will also be helpful for you to create a table of masculine and feminine noun endings to study.
Learning French is not for the faint of heart. There will be periods of frustrations, but the more you stick to it, you will start to see la vie en rose.
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