The Best 15 tips for Learning French fast and effortlessly (On you Own, or While Following Classes or Doing a Language Exchange)
I know. You are currently extremely busy with work, children, shopping, running errands, making time for friends, visiting family, etc., and we all want to know the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to learn French.
The major issue for the majority of us: when do we have the time to sit down and study a language?
In this column, we will dive into valuable tips for learning French quickly and easily. We will start with overall French learning advice and then progress to tips designed for people who follow language exchanges or a private/group language learning class.
1. Spend a Little Time on Your Studies Every Single Day
First and before all, you have to spend every week studying French, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. My advice to learn vocabulary is very simple:
2. Set Goals on a Daily, Weekly and Monthly Basis.
Each and every Sunday, I sit down at my desk and go over what I want to finish by the end of the coming week, and what I need to complete at the end of the month to achieve my goals. My daily goals are usually “learn x amount of new vocabulary on subject y.”
Setting goals is an important part of language learning. It is something you should do, too.
Sit down once a week and plan where you want to be the following week.
Do you want to learn how to have a conversation about your favorite tv show? Or maybe you need to go to the doctor, and need to know how to explain to him what has been bothering you? Or perhaps, by the end of the month, you want to be able to write a bit about yourself at a deeper level.
When you determine your weekly and monthly goals, do everything in your power to accomplish them. Stick to your goals at every cost.
When you reach your goals, make sure to reward yourself accordingly.
The carrot on a stick works, people!
3. Learn Ten New French Words Each Morning
Every morning, think of ten (or even more) words in your native language that you do not know yet in French, that could be of use to you, and write them in a notebook or your smartphone (my personal favorite).
Before you take to your first cup of coffee of the day, use a dictionary or the internet to discover the French meanings and translations of your chosen words.
These words are going to be your new vocabulary for the day. You have to repeat these new words all day long, so you can make them stick in your memory.
Take your notebook with you, in the car, in the bag, at your table, always have with you! Easy – and will only take you a few minutes a day.
Learning just ten new French words per day implies a sum of 70 new words per week.
Do not fuss if you’re uncertain you’re using your new vocabulary correctly; it’s about at least presenting yourself to new vocabulary.
4. Are You a Morning- or an Evening Person?
We are all a different person. What may work for one person, may not work for the other. Do you study better in the evenings or the mornings?
Decide for yourself what time of day you are in a better mental state to learn French, and stick to this time to focus on your studies.
5. Find the Right Way For You to Learn French
Usually, kids learn their native language because they are surrounded by it, and have a substantial need to learn it.
We call being surrounded by a language “immersion.”
Children live in a linguistic immersion environment and little by little, as the years go by, kids learn different aspects and nuances of their mother’s tongue.
They learn to read, write, hear and speak. Some things will be easier than others, but they are all rather important.
To learn French quickly and easily, think about how much each part helped you to learn your own language;
Try to remember which method was easier for you.
Personally, I picked up French because of subtitles on the TV and playing video games. That would be reading and hearing mostly.
For instance, if you found it easy to learn how to read at school, try to find easy books in French to read and increase your vocabulary, grammar, and understanding of the way the language works.
I recommend you invest in this frequency dictionary,because it contains all the vocabulary you need, and contains French to English example sentences to practice with.
Or if you enjoyed grammar, look around the internet for grammar activities and word games.
Note: Rumor has it that people who enjoy learning grammar, actually exist. Ha! Who’d have thought? I have yet to meet them.
6. Watch Movies or Series and Listen to Music in French
Find the most opportunities to hear to the language you are learning.
If you happen to live in an area where they broadcast French-speaking radio or TV channels, tune in!
If you have to some work around the house, just let the TV or radio play in the background. Even if you do not consciously realize it, your brain is absorbing the language.
If you do not have access to radio or TV, the internet is your biggest friend. It’s convenient to watch a movie or TV-series as many times as you want, and especially so if it has subtitles.
Tip: Action movies are usually a bit simpler in both storyline and vocabulary used, as compared to more intellectual movies or series.
Afterward, read a plot synopsis to check if you understood what happened in the story. If you’re feeling extra bold, you can even try to write a summary about the movie you just watched. Do it in French, even better.
Listening to French music, audiobooks or podcasts is also an excellent choice when learning it.
You can do it in your free time, while doing your chores, lifting heavy stuff at the gym, while cooking or on the way to work.
It is OK if you do not understand everything that is being talked about.
Even if you do not follow all conversations, you will be exposed to French. Step by step, your ability to understand the language will develop further until you reach fluency.
Keep in mind, yard by yard, life is hard. But inch by inch, everything’s a cinch.
7. Apps, E-books, and Audio Learning Methods for Learning French
I treasure my smartphone. I idolize it. It is the Holy Grail that provides me to access all the knowledge in the world.
Still, I chiefly use it to look at funny cat pics.
The truth is that mobile technology gives us the opportunity to overcome “idle time” by changing “idle time” into “useful language learning time.” Yay!
In example: my smartphone gives me access to five to eight productive hours a week. Or more, depending on how often I ride public transportation or am in the passenger’s seat.
With my smartphone, I can do something useful while I wait for the bus, travel by plane, train or metro, or even when I drink my cuppa tea after lunch.
Audioprograms like Pimsleur or the Michel Thomas method are golden too, although you usually need a bit more than 5 minutes to get into the lessons.
If I have to wait 15 minutes here and there between meetings, my smartphone makes it a whole lot easier for me to accomplish my goals for the day. Goals like learning ten new words or learning new vocabulary about surfing, without feeling overwhelmed or rushed.
In our ostensibly perpetually busy lives, there are many small time gaps. We can and should fill these shortcomings with useful tasks, provided that the technology needed is portable and always accessible.
Spare batteries for everyone!
And of course, a little bit of pure willpower is needed too. It’s always more enticing to fire up Farmville or Facebook and waste 5 minutes of your lifetime than it is to do 5 minutes of foreign language study.
(Darn you and your addictive applications, Zuckerberg!)
8. Make Associations When Learning New Vocabulary
Don’t forget to make associations with words, by way of sound, smell, and visual images.
When learning vocabulary, associate the word with a picture in your head. Mental imagery solidifies new vocabulary.
For instance, for ‘dog’ imagine a gorgeous fluffy dog barking loudly.
When you think of tea, visualize a cup of tea being poured in the morning, the sound it makes and the way the tea smells.
Progress from the simple to the more challenging. A Reminder: Often it is a good idea to push yourself to your boundaries.
Trying to express something a bit more complicated will activate your brain more. You process more information and thus learn more.
9. Research Topics Before Each French Class.
Our following tip is to investigate the subject of your next online or in-person French class. Impress your teacher or language exchange partner by knowing associated vocabulary. Maybe you have encountered questions on the subject that you would like to ask them, or you may have found related topics you want to know more about.
Revisit your investigated topic 10 minutes before you have class and prepare yourself mentally for French. Reading about the material in advance helps you get ready for class and allows you to express yourself better.
Of course, teachers are there to help you understand and practice with you, but dedicating a little time to preparing yourself will not do you any harm. It will help you become fluent faster.
10. Following a Group Class? Actively Listen to What Others in the Class Are Saying.
During group class, some students tune out their fellow students, until it is their turn to speak.
That not a very good idea! Listen to what others say. First off, they may make the same mistakes as you, and both of you can learn from it when the teacher corrects them.
Second, it will get you used to different ways people can pronounce French. You have to get used to hearing it from people all over the world. A native Spaniard speaking French may sound completely different to an American speaking the same language.
Dialects can vary considerably from place to place. The more exposure you get to “botched” pronunciation, the better you will fare with understanding native speakers later in life.
11. Review Your Lessons and Revisit Your Notes after Each Class
At the end of your class or language exchange, do not forget to review any slides and vocabulary or re-read the notes to see the corrections.
If there are words you do not know, write them down and check them later.
The following days, try to review your newly learned vocabulary by writing down what you have learned during your experiences in class, or by talking to someone about the class in French.
12. Meet New Friends and Study Partners at Language Exchange Events
Not only a magnificent way to meet new friends and cultures, but also a marvelous opportunity to get out there and get some real practice with native speakers.
This may require you to get out of your comfort zone, but the results are well worth it.
Another valuable tip: resist the temptation to switch to a more common language, like your native tongue or English!
13. Change Language Exchange Partners or Teachers
Uh oh. Stuck in a rut? Your love language learning life needs some extra spice? We’ve all been there.
Different people teach you different things. I couldn’t stand my 2nd ever French teacher, while I loved my first one. Needless to say, I progressed a whole lot faster with #1 than I did with number 2. If you need change, then don’t drag on, but change it ASAP. It will be beneficial for the both of you.
Also, different accents can bring on a whole new dimension to language learning. In your life, you will probably meet people from all around the world.
Can you imagine speaking only with individuals from Paris or Quebec?
Over time, students tend to get comfortable with certain teachers or accents. However, limiting yourself to a certain way of pronunciation and speech patterns may mean limiting your language proficiency in the future.
It is a good idea to change teachers or language exchange partners from time to time so that you can hear the difference in French pronunciation around the world.
14. Practice an Hour a Week of French with Your Family or Friends.
If you have like-minded friends, this one is easy to pull off. Just get together and promise each other only to speak the language you’re trying to learn.
(I once found myself surrounded by 10 white dudes only conversing in Japanese with each other in a cafe in Rotterdam. Quite entertaining)
Or make a deal with your family. E.g., the Sunday dinner is your mutual French-speaking time. That means everyone will get to know (some) French and benefit from your language classes.
15. Try To Switch Your Mind to French Mode
Possibly the best advice to learn French is to think French. Switch your inner voice to French. It will be challenging at first, but it is a crucial step to real fluency.
Do force yourself to do so. That’s the tricky part: your brain will naturally want to think in your native language. Especially if you lack the vocabulary to express yourself on a wide variety of topics.
If you come across a word or verb you’re unfamiliar with, write it down in your notebook or smartphone that you carry with you at all times, and look it up later. Carrying around a note bloc may seem a bit odd at first, but it will help you.
When learning new words, pronounce each word out loud a couple of times. This helps you to get accustomed to the sound of the word and helps it ingrain the new vocabulary in your memory.
Note: it may be better not to do this in public, as we do not want anyone to think of you as the uncanny foreigner muttering to himself in the corner.
Or, just DGAF and shine on, you crazy diamond.
I truly hope you have found these tips, or at least some of them, to learn French useful. Follow these tips, apply them every day and learn French quickly. Any exposure to French, whether it is in your head, in class or looking up words in a frequency dictionary is beneficial and helps you gain fluency quickly.
Before we depart, do not forget to congratulate yourself on what you already have achieved. Do not focus on the road ahead, but on the journey instead.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts on how to learn French fast and tips for learning French in a classroom setting.