The Fastest Way to Learn French in 8 Steps

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I've tried just about every program when it comes to learning French. Had I followed my own advice, I would have been bilingual by now! I no longer fear French, nor should you. It is complicated (just like the French), but it isn't impossible. The best way to start is by turning off your Rosetta Stone. Done? Okay good. Now follow these 8 steps and learn French as fast as humanly possible.

alliance française bordeaux france
Alliance Française, Bordeaux 2013
P.S. if you only read the bold points you will have learned nothing!

1. Stop Feeling Stupid *GOLDEN RULE
Common sense? No, not at all. My friend Albina, a native Russian speaker who struggled to learn English said these exact words to me before I moved to France. I have had to repeat it to myself several times. French people WILL laugh at you, they WILL make fun of you, and they WILL think it is AWESOME that you are trying! If you can't take a little embarrassment, then you need a boost of self confidence. You are at the level of a toddler, embrace it, because when they learned English (IF they learned it at all) they were in the same position.

2. Live in France
Now you might be saying YES I would love to do that! NO, go do it. If you have no true ties to where you are (ie. husband/wife, kids, a great job) then go. Hearing the language all day, everyday is the only way you will get accustomed to how they speak. No single program, not Rosetta Stone, not the CDs you have bought for your car, nothing, will help you more. Eat, breathe, and sleep the culture. You'll realize that by living there, you will encounter several strangers to practice with, and going back to rule #1 you will have NO reason to feel stupid! You most likely won't see them again, and they will most likely be very willing to help you speak. *If you cannot live in France see rule #3

3. Take A French Class WITH FOREIGNERS
And take it several days a week. Not everyone speaks English, thus you will be forced to use all of the French that you possibly know; I mean every single french-speaking brain cell in your cranium. You will feel like there is a big wall in your conversation at first, but it gets easier. Hand signals, pictures, Google Translate, and alcohol will make it go very far. Anyone can buy a textbook and read it, but speaking is THE most important part of learning French.

But Danielle, I live in America how can I do this? Take whatever class you can, whether it be at a recreational center, a university, or a club, and try your best to stick to French and not fall into your comfort zone of conversing in English. Once you have basic skills you can use this website to practice with people from other countries

4. Make French Friends
Again, if you don't live in France the website above is perfect for doing so. However, if you are considering studying abroad then find someone. Many universities in France have students posting on bulletin boards who want to learn English. Don't be shy and go meet up with them, because they truly want to learn. Help them out and they will help you as well! If you are older and do not feel comfortable with this then find an American association in the city. Several members (who are usually bilingual) will be happy to help find you someone to meet with for coffee, or a club to join. If you are going to France to learn French, and you are only hanging out with Americans, you have just wasted your time and money. Trust me I made this mistake when I went to learn Italian in Rome, it is a huge regret!

I need to follow this one myself (and I'm sure my boyfriend is sitting there shaking his head saying "Yep."). When he learned English he would try as hard as he could to read, and if he didn't know the word he would highlight it and look it up. Sometimes 5 pages will take you 40 minutes, but it is worth it. The nice thing is that if you go to libraries in France they will have the level that you are taking at school. It may feel dumbed down a bit, but you will be so proud when you realize that you can actually read the book.

6. Watch TV and/or Listen to the Radio
These are usually things you hear NOT to do right? Whether you are in France or America you can live stream just about anything now with the Internet. I, personally, like to watch Friends (in French of course) or Un Gars, Une Fille because they keep my attention, they speak frequently through actions, and you will laugh regardless if you understand or not. ITunes also has podcasts for you to listen to. Just 30 minutes a day to really focus on the pronunciation.

7. MASTER The "R"
I don't care how long it takes or the sweat and tears that go into it, but learn how to say that R!! It took me a year. Once I finally got it, I realized how many more French people said how well I spoke. You will hear the English, Irish, New Zealanders, Australians, and Americans continue to use the 'r,' as if they were speaking their own language. Not only does it make it difficult for the French to understand you, but it makes you look like more of an amateur than you are. If you can only say 10 sentences but you can say it perfectly, that is better than 20 sentences while butchering the language.

8.  Live With A Host Family or House An Exchange Student
So you have the opportunity to live in France; do you choose to live alone, live with Americans, or live with a French host family? DING DING DING: Host Family! Bottom line--you are forced to learn. They also WANT you to learn (my boyfriend's parents were relentless). Many language schools will set you up with an experienced, and well-liked family. If you can't live abroad, consider hosting a French exchange student in America. He or she will not only feel more comfortable in your home, but they will also feel happy that it is not only a learning experience for them, but for you as well.

VOILÀ! Now get to it fellow French students :)

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