“I love French, but it’s si difficile!” is the phrase on every French learner’s lips. Acquiring a high level of French over a short period of time can be a rewarding but difficult journey, requiring dedication and passion.
Having learnt and practiced French over so many years, and also being the lover of linguistics that I am, I undoubtedly looked to the guru theories of Noam Chomsky.
Credited to him is the notion of Universal Grammar, which assumes that all languages have a common structural base, with a limited set of rules. Therefore, under certain constraints, it is proposed that the ability to learn grammar is ‘hard-wired’ due to rules that all human languages share.
Obviously then, we all have the ability to learn French. Contrary to popular belief amongst many French language learners, we are not predisposed to failure. So, just what is the best way to learn French as an adult when it seems oh so difficile?
A friend once introduced me to a very inspiring character, Benny the Irish Polyglot, who speaks 11 languages fluently. Benny’s way of engaging in language learning through experience spoke very true to me, as I have used similar steps for learning fluent French over the years. The idea is to be public, get involved, have fun, and be serious about changing your English environment to French.
The key to learning French passively is to surround yourself with French! Just as it would be if you were living in France.
- Download French TV shows to watch during TV time. Download famous TV shows from torrents or stream them off Youtube, TV5Monde, Le Petit Journal, or listen to French podcasts.
- Switch your mobile, social media, email, and computer to French!
- Choose a French movie for movie night! Only French subtitles or nothing!
Nikki, a French student – “Everything seems much easier than it is, and a stab in the dark is sometimes just as good as a carefully directed pinpoint. Mistakes are literally the only way to fumble your way through the acquisition of a language.”
To really learn French, you must participate with it actively and make it your best friend.
- Converse in French with others learning French, not English! Every little bit counts, even if it is Frenglish! If you have a tutor, ask them to only speak in French with you, and ask questions when you don’t understand.
- Attend conversation groups. Meetup groups are a great place to start, and My French Life have their own casual conversation groups.
- Read something that you might enjoy in French. A French Elle mag, or the French newspaper.
- Find someone inspirational through reading blogs, and noticing what others have achieved through learning language.
- Make your French learning public knowledge! Start a blog sharing your language experience with others, or just tell people! What do you find easy? What do you find hard? What surprises you?
- Most importantly, make short and long term goals. This is key to language learning as it’s hard to gage progression. You also have to show yourself that you are learning French for a reason.
REMEMBER! Language is communication. Making mistakes in language is all about the journey, and even in our native tongue, we can never know everything!
Lucie, a French tutor – “Speaking is the biggest challenge when learning a language. I didn’t know English people to speak with, so when I arrived in Australia, speaking English was almost something new for me. My pronunciation is still a daily challenge!”
What methods have you used to acquire French?
1. Hello Bonjour, via Venture Beat.
2. 1920s cafe scene, via Barista Magazine.
3. Students facing the Eiffel Tower, via CEA Study Abroad facebook.