How to learn French: 10 strategies for reaching your goals
You may be well on your way to French fluency, you may be just beginning, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll always be on the lookout for ways to improve.
From group classes to solitary study, there are a multitude of ways to learn French. And they’re a lot more exciting, interesting and stimulating than anything you’ll remember from school.
Here are our top ten ways to reach your French language goals.
1. Use a French tutor
One of the quickest ways to learn French is by practicing with a native speaker. In her advice for struggling language students, Camille Chevalier-Karfis stresses the importance of finding a native French speaker with teaching experience: a good tutor should not only be able to point out your mistakes, but explain why they were mistakes in the first place, so that you can improve.
It is also imperative that you find a tutor who will tailor the sessions to your own interests and needs – if you find yourself unstimulated, it will be difficult for you to learn. MyFrenchLife™ correspondent Sandra Brown has some fantastic tips for selecting a French tutor!
2. Go to French classes or join a conversation group
The obvious downside of hiring a private tutor is cost, and a cheaper alternative is joining a group class. Although most of your interaction will be with other pupils as opposed to native speakers, this can still be very beneficial.
MyFrenchLife™ correspondent Aimee Thompson has outlined the best French classes in Chicago, while in England the conversation group Franglish is becoming popular, and in Melbourne we run our very own French conversation group!
But wherever you happen to live, you’ll find plenty of options. And studying as part as a group will introduce you to other Francophiles living in your vicinity – always a bonus!
3. Learn French in France
Although not as practical as learning French at home (unless of course you’re lucky enough to call France home!), the benefits of learning French in France are immeasurable.
Whether you choose to enrol in a French language school (head over to About.com for some great recommendations), take the advice of MyFrenchLife™ writer Sandra Brown and hire a tutor or even just immerse yourself with the locals, you’ll find yourself learning at an impressive rate.
Camille Chevalier-Karfis suggests immersion programmes as the most effective way to learn French in France – provided that you carefully select one that will enable you to speak constant French. It’s all too easy to find yourself speaking constantly in English, especially if you spend the majority of your time abroad with Anglo-friends.
4. Immerse yourself
Even if you can’t get to France, it is still possible to learn French by immersing yourself in the language. As part of her DIY language learning program, MyFrenchLife™ contributor Jo Karnaghan recommends reading French magazines and browsing French websites as an excellent way to engross yourself.
The Local also suggests watching French films with the French subtitles turned on.
Exposing yourself to French at least once a day will help you maintain and build on your vocabulary, grammar and overall fluency, as you reinforce the language regularly enough to keep it fresh.
Although learning French with a partner is a great way to keep yourself motivated, a lot of your learning will be done independently. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be boring.
WikiHow suggests labelling objects in your home as a method of effortlessly memorising vocab, as well as learning the cognates (words that are similar or the same as in English). This will help you to feel that you’re making quick progress, meaning you don’t lose heart in the early days.
6. Lots of listening!
Spoken French and written French are virtually different languages, and so it is vitally important that you practice these skills at a similar pace. In a guest post for MyFrenchLife™, Camille Chevalier-Karfis stressed the importance of finding the right audio tool – if you pick something too advanced, it isn’t going to be the remotest help.
The Local also suggests turning your GPS to French in their own innovative top 10 methods to learn the language free and fast. And although this may be daunting at first, it will force you to learn and no doubt consequently be very effective.
7. Get exploring online
With the whole internet at your fingertips comes a bucket load of resources perfect for learning French. Whether you’re brushing up on your reading by checking out the wide range of French articles we have here on MyFrenchLife™, or watching your favourite TV shows dubbed into French, you can constantly be learning.
There are also a number of free resources designed specifically for teaching French. Angela Alcorn from MakeUseOf has a list of the best five.
Be sure also to head over to the French language section on our links page for a list of our favourite online French language experts.
Our top two? Laura K Lawless of French.about.com and Géraldine Lepère of Comme une Française.
8. Get reading
For those of you who already have a good grasp of the French language, it can be difficult to find stimulating ways to continue learning. Reading novels in French can build up your vocabulary, and we’ve also suggested poetry as a unique way to keep progressing.
Find a French bookshop in your city (we’ve got the best in Chicago here) or head online to the foreign language section on sites like Amazon. If you’re looking online but still prefer local, do a quick Google search for ‘order foreign language books online’, and you’ll be sure to find some options within your own home country.
Take a look at MyFrenchLife™ correspondent Kate Wilkins’ reviews of recently released French books – although she’s reviewing the English translations, you can easily find the books she features in French!
9. Write something in French every day
Writing in French can also be a challenging way to practice new structures – try writing a diary or journal in French, or even find yourself a French penpal.
There are many English ‘sentence a day’-style journals that will give you a little prompt or question to answer each day – but rather than responding in English, write in French!
10. Never stop trying
The final, and probably most vital method of learning French is to persevere. We all know it isn’t easy, but it is rewarding and will all feel worth it when you find yourself feeling that much more at home on the streets of Paris!
What are your tried and tested tips for reaching your French language goals? What worked and what didn’t? Share your experiences in the comment box below!Image Credits:
1. Paris by Yann, via Flickr.
2. My French Life Soirée 13/03/2012, by MyFrenchLife, via Facebook.
3. Headphones (hanging in a tree) by Alexandre Dulaunoy, via Flickr.
Setting your GPS to French is such a clever idea! I find French vlogs on Youtube are also a great way to hear some French everyday.
yes I agree about the Vlogs Beth. We previously published an article on this topic which you can find here, and do you have any favourites to add? https://www.myfrenchlife.org/2014/04/30/video-blogging-french-blogs/
The journal idea is brilliant!
Reading children’s or young adult’s story books is another idea. Not only is the language easier to understand and builds up your confidence, but you can also enjoy a gorgeous storyline.
Also tried setting my phone and social media accounts in French. All of a sudden because I was so used to mousing over to a particular word, I learnt the French equivalents!
Hi Julia, I’ve done similar things. For a few years now I’ve had the language of my iphone set to French and often when I’m walking to work I listen to Radio France. I didn’t think I was picking up much, but I have noticed my aural comprehension in social situations is better. Now to concentrate on speaking more!!
Nice one kt! Radio France is awesome. I used to have it as an app on my iPhone and streamed their programs or listen to their podcasts on my drive to uni… it was good prep before French class!
Never stop trying is a such an easy one to say, but such a hard one to really do. It’s sometimes so hard to get motivated and it’s probably the most important element we need when learning a language – or learning anything really.
I totally agree!
I get frustrated because I was very confident (and even considered myself semi-fluent) in French after I finished school but lately have realised how much I have slipped… I was chatting to a French speaker last weekend and they started speaking French to me and I could barely pick up what they were saying let alone answer en Français. Comment embarrassante! :/
I know! You do so well and learn a language completely and then it goes because we don’t persist 🙁 It’s a bit discouraging realising how quickly a language goes, yet takes so long to learn.