5 Tried and Tested, Authentic Tips To Speed Up Your French Learning
On my very first day of French class, after students had filtered into the room and taken their seats, my teacher stood up, smiled, and launched into a stream of unintelligible words beginning with "bonjour." My classmates and I exchanged dismayed glances as the monologue continued.
Eventually, she clapped her hands, said "Bon. My loves in French, you will be able to understand every word of my greeting, and so much more, by the end of this course." And that is the magic of language learning – making sense of sounds that are initially about as meaningful as a goldfish blowing bubbles underwater. Blub, blub, blub.
Mastering a foreign language requires a lot of hard work. If you want to learn French effectively, take a look at our unique French Frequency Dictionaries. You’ll find 10,000 most common words in French there together with a translation and pronunciation transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Moreover, each entry also has an example sentence translated into English to show you its usage in context.
Tips to Take Your Language Skills to the Next Level
Madame Tellwood was exactly right, by the way. She gave her students a tantalizing peak at the communicative progress we could achieve! After Madame Tellwood's class, I went on to take four more years of French. My formal studies culminated in AP French during my senior year of high school where I ended up earning a 5, the highest score possible, on the AP French exam.
A few weeks after receiving my diploma, I put my skills to the real test by traveling to France for three weeks to stay with a host family in the Alps. A classroom setting with a skilled teacher can be a fabulous way to learn a language, but it is certainly not the only path.
I had several fantastic teachers, but I also sought out many opportunities on my own to improve my vocabulary, grammar, speaking skills, and comprehension abilities. Whether you're learning French in a traditional classroom and looking to supplement your instruction, or learning French entirely on your own, I'm going to share my personal advice for learning effectively and boosting your fluency.
It is daunting to listen to a stream of French, whether from Madame Tellwood, a news anchor, or famous musician. But nothing compares to the pride and satisfaction of beginning to make sense out of this beautiful language.
Without further ado, here are some top-notch tips to take your language skills to the next level, whether you're an absolute beginner or have already mastered the basics. Remember, a relatively small vocabulary is needed to achieve fluency, and much can be communicated with a strong selection of staple words!
1. Go Authentic
What's your goal for learning French? Is it to communicate with native speakers for pleasure or business? Is it to enjoy French films without worrying about subtitles? Is it to savor French literature in its original, untranslated form? Maybe it's to write letters for my love in French! Whatever your primary reason, I can almost guarantee that it involves interacting with real people or authentic materials.
As helpful as textbooks, worksheets, and instructional videos are, none of them replace authentic materials. After learning some basic vocabulary and grammatical structures, I encourage you to dive deeply into as many authentic materials as you possibly can. This is my number one piece of advice, and it helped catapult me head and shoulders above the level of my peers.
Find materials that you love, such as music, film, books, news broadcasts, or even family letters. Arm yourself with a quality bilingual dictionary, determination, and a positive attitude, and dive into some of the suggestions listed below.
2. Get Carried Away by the Power of Music
It's no wonder that French is the language of love – there are so many beautiful and romantic French songs! Also, music is often sung slower than spoken language, which is ideal for beginners whose ears are still getting used to the language.
French pop music often incorporates stories and commentary on deeper societal topics, which makes for interesting listening. Here are several popular songs that are on my go-to French playlist. They are easy to understand, chock full of useful vocabulary and grammar, and best of all, insanely catchy:
- Elle Me Dit – MIKA
- Je Suis – Bigflo & Oli
- La Lettre – Renan Luce
- Mon Preciéux – Soprano
- Tu Vas Me Manquer – Maître Gims
- On Dirait – Amir
To make the most of music as a learning tool, try listening to the songs listed above and focusing on all the words and phrases you are able to understand. Listen again, trying to catch new information this time. Next, look up the French lyrics and read along as you listen the third time. Look up any unfamiliar words and phrases in your bilingual dictionary.
To take your learning to a whole new level, consider trying your hand at translating the song into English for other listeners to enjoy. Visit www.lyricstranslate.com to view translations of the song that others have provided, or to write your own.
Listen to French music while you're working out, walking the dog, cleaning the house, or doing other chores. Spotify and Pandora are two fantastic streaming services with tons of French music from all genres at your disposal.
3. Books, Movies, More, Oh My!
Whatever entertainment and information mediums you enjoy in English, you can find an equivalent for my love in French. If you enjoy audio content, there are a plethora of wonderful French podcasts. News in Slow French is an excellent choice that covers a wide variety of news topics, from science and technology to world affairs and politics. It is easily digestible for beginners.
A classic French book that is wonderful for learners of all ages and stages is "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. You may already be familiar with the English version of this beloved story, but reading it in its mother tongue is a beautiful experience.
It's a children's story, so the vocabulary and sentence structure are simple, while also being incredibly profound and poignant. Check out this touching story for my love in French to deepen your appreciation of the French language and the literature that has been penned in it.
For Movie Fans
Finally, if you're more of a film buff, consider checking out movies such as "Les Choristes," which follows a group of friends in an all-male boarding school for troubled boys in late 1940's France. If you're drawn in by a good romance and like to keep up with all the hype, consider checking out "La Vie d'Adèle," popularized in English as "Blue is the Warmest Color." It's a great film to watch with my loves in French.
To make the most of your film experience, try watching without subtitles and absorbing as much as you can. Or, if you'd like to use subtitles, turn on the French ones instead of English.
This is absolutely one of the most daunting parts of language learning, but also one of the most essential. It's natural to be nervous about making mistakes, but mistakes are just evidence that you're willing to take risks and experiment with the language, which is good!
It's never too early to begin practicing with a native speaker. They can provide helpful feedback on your pronunciation as you ask "Comment vas-tu?" and introduce yourself. As your language skills become more advanced, a language partner can push you to focus more on quality content, good communication, and fluency, instead of worrying incessantly about small errors.
Find nearby language learners or native speakers by searching for French groups near you on www.meetup.com. A good website to find native French speakers from all over the world for language exchange is www.interpals.net. The website has a built-in chat feature, but I found it extremely helpful to find users that I connected with and then talk aloud via Skype or WhatsApp.
5. Think in French as Much as Possible
As important as it is to speak in French as much as possible, don't underestimate the power of consistently thinking in French. You'll find that wiring your brain to comfortably think in French will allow you to speak faster and more confidently, without as much effort to search for the correct vocabulary and think explicitly of the correct gender and conjugations. You'll get into a flow where you just know certain things without having to actively recall them.
You can integrate your love of French into your daily life in various different ways. Consider labeling the items around your bedroom – or heck, even your whole home – in French with Post-It notes. As you're walking around the neighborhood, think about the names of objects as you pass them by. Tree, house, car, sidewalk, dog, etc.
While you're doing chores around the house, run through verb conjugations in your head. Start with present tense conjugations with all pronouns, then move to the passé composé, then l'imparfait, and so on. This will help verb conjugations to become second nature.
If you decide to follow the advice to use as many authentic materials as you can to boost your fluency in French, don't forget to look at our French Frequency Dictionaries. You will get 10,000 most common words listed by frequency and alphabet. What is more, we've carefully selected 10,000 authentic example sentences to show you real-life usage of these words.
By keeping all of these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to achieving fluency in French. Remember that learning extends beyond the classroom and you don't need to be able to regurgitate an entire dictionary to achieve fluency.
Build on your foundation of vocabulary and grammar by immersing yourself in authentic French materials, speaking as much as possible, and training yourself to think in French. I hope your love of French will continue to grow, just as my loves in French have, as you develop your skills. Au revoir, for now!