Tips for learning French

Learning the language of a foreign country can be overwhelming, however my tips are that if you study a small amount regularly this is very effective.

French is a beautiful language.  It sounds amazing to the ear, it looks lovely in script and when you master even a few words your confidence will grow.

I learned some ‘basic’ French at an evening class as I worked full-time during the day and did not have any spare time to study.  However, whilst I found the lessons useful for increasing vocabulary and simple phrases it is the conversational side of French that I often struggled with – how could I advance my learning to hold a conversation back-and-forth between myself and another person and actually understand their response?

My personal style of learning is by first seeing the information, then writing it down – for example, I will read a list of words but I will never remember them unless I rewrite the words on a piece of paper.  Some people learn by hearing only; others by physical repetition; other people learn entirely visually and retain all information (lucky things!).  In the end, I found a combination of these methods improved my standard of French.

Here are my tips for ex-pats recently moved here hoping to learn French, or for travelers to France who are not native-French speakers:

– Learn some basic phrases – it is amazing how much more appreciative you will feel of French culture when you master ‘bonjour’ ‘merci’ ‘au revoir’ and have it returned to you.  For free French language courses that I found really helped me, try http://www.livemocha.com (you can study at your own pace) or http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages

– Immerse yourself in French daily life – chat to people at the bus stop, in the supermarket, try out your French at the train station.  Living here as an ex-pat it is only natural you gravitate to people from your own country however your French will not progress unless you speak to French people in French.

– Read French newspapers, watch French television, listen to French radio.  Even if you do not understand every word your brain will remember bits-and-pieces and increase your comprehension.

– Enrol in an immersion language class.  You may find that studying in a small group and learning French for the real world (visits to the market, restaurants) works well for you.  There are also local conversation groups you could join – search on Angloinfo or similar.

– If you don’t know how to say it in French, find out!   Everywhere I traveled if I saw a French word I did not know I would write it down in a notebook to look up in the dictionary later.  I set myself a target to learn 10 new words minimum per day which was attainable, and my vocabulary quickly increased.  You could begin to….learn the alphabet, greetings, numbers, time, directions, talk about your job and family life, grocery shopping items, parts of the body and basic medical terms, household items, vehicle parts, transport, animals, special occasions….set a simple goal for learning and you will be more likely to stick to it and not get bored.

– Don’t fret when you make mistakes.  French has lots of grammar, so if you make a mistake, don’t worry, just keep practising until you learn how to pronounce something correctly.  There are lots of audio resources on the internet to help you attain better pronounciation.

– Practise, practise, practise!  As a native-English speaker, my confidence held me back initially but I persevered and tried simple phrases which to my shock were understood (!), so don’t be put off if you do try to speak French and someone replies in English as most people will appreciate your efforts.

Bonne chance!

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