What’s the best way to learn French completely?
In order to really know a language, though, you can’t focus on just one part of it.
If you were already fluent in French and living in a French-speaking country, you’d be using the language every day in a wide variety of situations.
So considering all that, how should you be studying French?
The best possible method involves working out all of your language skills on a regular basis.
Sometimes, combining your learning approaches can seem like a daunting task.
There’s no need to get discouraged, though! If you manage your time and focus on each language element as an individual entity, you can improve your French in all areas, all at the same time.
Let’s get you on the fast track to mastering French completely.
Key Approaches to Combine When Learning French
In order to combine the essential approaches to French learning, you need to know what those approaches are.
Visual learning can include data, ideas and concepts put into visual forms like pictures, charts and maps. In fact, virtually any part of the French language can be put into a visual format.
Learning visually can be a great way of reinforcing to yourself the relationship between seemingly disparate parts of French (such as aspects of grammar) and enabling you to comprehend how you arrived at a specific point. Visual learning also makes grouping parts of the French language together very easy. If you find images and symbols easier to remember than words, it might be an especially useful approach for you to focus on.
Verbal learning techniques use auditory or spoken exercises that help you improve your comprehension.
Typically, this style of learning goes hand-in-hand with talking in the conversational sense, so it’s a great way to improve your current speaking skills. You might feel shy about talking in French at first, but it’s really important to do so in order to improve. The more time you spend talking in French, the easier it becomes!
If you enjoy an active lifestyle or like taking part in games, kinesthetic learning might be of particular interest to you. The kinesthetic learning style involves physical activities and games. Actually carrying out a task can be one of the best ways to learn new information, and many people really benefit from learning by doing.
Auditory learning is a comprehension technique through which knowledge is gained via listening. Out of all of the learning styles, auditory learning is the best technique to take with you on the go, so if you don’t have a whole lot of time or if you move around a lot, you can still find plenty of opportunities to practice French with audio.
Hearing a native speaker pronounce difficult words is crucial if you want to improve your French. Sometimes words and phrases aren’t pronounced how they appear to us and only a native can show us the way.
Learning by writing might not be everyone’s favorite activity, but it’s incredibly useful and even essential (should you want to communicate completely in French). There are many ways in which you can practice your written French. Even if you only do a little per day or week, it’s good to keep up with it.
It’s important to keep in mind that using different learning approaches isn’t just useful for varying and mastering your basic French skill sets, it’s useful because each approach offers unique advantages for learning new information. Using all of these approaches at once is your surest bet for cementing that information.
For example, seeing French words written down (and writing them down yourself) will often help you remember how to pronounce them when you’re speaking. Acting out movements while speaking enables us to establish much more fluency when we do it in reality. Languages are about more than just speaking (or writing or reading), and switching up your learning approaches will give you a much better foundation in French.
Combining Your French Learning Approaches
What are the best ways to combine these approaches, though? When total comprehension is at stake, it pays to have a game plan in place. If organization’s your bag, you’ll love what we have in store for you!
Create a weekly learning plan that combines all elements of learning
In order to see an improvement in your French, it’s important to focus on all elements of learning at the same time. It doesn’t have to be confusing: One day you could dedicate to listening, and another could be focused on writing. Even if you only spend a short amount of time during the evenings learning a little French, it doesn’t matter. Regular, bite-sized learning will improve your language skills much more quickly than irregular, huge learning sessions. You can make up your own schedule, but here’s an example you could follow:
Monday: 2 x 30 minutes French listening exercises
Tuesday: 2 x 30 minutes French speaking exercises
Wednesday: 2 x 30 minutes French writing exercises
Thursday: 2 x 30 minutes French visual exercises
Friday: 2 x 30 minutes French kinesthetic exercises
Resources and Activities for Using Each Approach
Make sure you set out in advance the types of learning techniques and styles you want to focus on each day. Starting the week with a set program in mind will make learning much easier and enable you to focus on the task at hand. We have lots of suggested resources and activities for you below, so make sure you take notes for each learning style.
A great resource that can be integrated into just about any form of French study is FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Remember, focusing on all types of learning is the best way to improve your total comprehension simultaneously. Crossing over learning styles will also enable you to retain information much more easily.
How to practice French through visual learning
There are many great visual tools out there for you to use and it’s never been easier to take a visual approach to French learning.
Mind mapping different words or ideas is an easy and effective way to use visual learning as part of your weekly plan. Mind maps work particularly well with verb tenses and unusual vocabulary. Visual plans of any kind make the language structure much more accessible and easy to digest.
Bubbl.us is a handy site to check out when using mind mapping as a learning tool. You can brainstorm your own ideas and store them digitally. This means you can take your French with you wherever you go!
One great subject for mind mapping to learn French is use of the passé composé. Using the passé composé as a center point, for example, you could branch off into the verbs être and avoir. You could also use different categories to show cases in which the verb tense is not appropriate and/or how to alter regular verbs within the tense. Sometimes, seeing grammar and other information right before your eyes is the best way to learn.
Flashcards are another useful option when trying to nail your visual learning. Picking specific French vocabulary topics or French grammar points to focus on each week will help you get to grips with the subject matter at hand.
Continuing from the example above, you could make flashcards for être and avoir verbs in the passé composé based on which ones use which endings. Alternatively, you could use flashcards to understand different food groups, daily activities or place names.
How to practice French through verbal learning
Even if you’re learning French alone, you still need to practice speaking. Speaking out loud while you’re out and about might be nearly impossible (unless you’re very confident), but it’s still possible to practice speaking in your own time and get used to French pronunciation.
Talking out loud about your day when you get home is a great way to practice your verbal skills and get used to speaking French out loud. Describe all of the things that you did during the day out loud.
You might even want to record yourself and play it back, to really get an understanding of what you’re saying.
If you do decide to record yourself, there are many ways in which you can listen for improvement. Rather than trying to improve everything at once, though, try focusing on one element at a time.
One week, for example, you might want to focus on pronunciation alone and choose a paragraph from a French newspaper or website to read out loud. Start off slowly initially, so that you can really get your head around the different word pronunciations.
As you listen back, try to distinguish what’s being said without reading the original text. As you get more confident, you’ll be able to speak faster and add new words to your exercises.
The website Verbal Planet is a good resource for verbal learning. The site hosts many online language classes with qualified tutors to help you improve your French. Classes are interactive and designed specifically to help your spoken comprehension. Its live conversations are probably the best route for practicing your verbal skills. You can sign up completely free!
If you ever get stuck for topics to talk about in speaking exercises, here are a few ideas:
- Your favorite film
- A city you’d like to visit
- Your most recent holiday/vacation
- Your daily routine
- Going shopping
- How to prepare a meal
- Your family and home life
How to practice French through kinesthetic learning
Role-play exercises are a particularly useful kinesthetic learning tool, especially if you’re heading to a French-speaking country any time soon. Reenacting ordering a coffee or boarding a bus are good ways to practice your speaking skills and getting used to how you would act in the real situation.
More often than not, when we’re in a foreign country, we forget words we’d normally remember very easily. Practicing common activities in French will not only aid your learning but also give you more confidence when the time comes to actually do them in a French-speaking environment.
Scenarios to consider might be a trip to a café, ordering at a restaurant, asking for directions, visiting a local market or meeting a friend for coffee. Find a conversation partner and pick your roles! You can switch the positions that you take so you both get a chance to practice all of the conversation.
To take full advantage of the kinesthetic approach, add movement to your conversations. Acting out parts as you speak will help you to remember much more clearly what to say in the real situation. As you move, you’ll associate each action with a language point. When you play out the scenario in real life, it’ll be much easier for you to remember.
Sometimes, though, you might want to be a little more playful when it comes to kinesthetic learning.
Using play scripts and songs in French is a wonderful option to improve comprehension and have a little fun as you’re doing it.
The website Play Script and Song is a useful resource for finding French scripts and speaking activities online. Choose a script and get acting!
Pick a character with your partner and decide on a scene. You can rehearse a particular scene as many times as you want. Before you begin acting, it might be worth having a read-through in order to fully understand what’s going on. Then, move through each scene in character.
This is a great way to shake up your learning routine a little.
How to practice French through auditory learning
Rocket Languages offers a whole pile of audio lessons. Each language lesson has an audio track packed with reinforcement tests to ensure that what you learn really sticks. As with other auditory tools, they’re designed to be taken on the go. Even if you’re very busy, you can still make time for French audio!
There are also hundreds of podcasts out there which contain native dialogue pieces and auditory vocabulary tests.
Coffee Break French, for example, uses linear storylines to help you to improve your French. Each week, a French speaker reads out a new development in a continuing plot line and the hosts pull apart the sentence structure. The podcasts move from beginner all the way up to intermediate/advanced, so any and all French learners can benefit from checking them out.
If you want a true slice of French life, though, watching a French TV series is the way to go. Most television shows contain idioms and real-life language and are a useful way to pick up new sayings and understand different conversational tones.
If you want French drama, “Plus Belle la Vie” is a great example: It’s a weekly serial focused on the lives of a neighborhood in Marseille.
“Braquo” is a police-based action series, set around a group of policemen who decide to take the law into their own hands.
If reality TV is more your thing, “Coup de Foudre au Prochain Village” is a very popular show that involves sending a busload of city girls across several French villages in search of love!
Watching an episode a week will help you to get used to hearing French spoken by natives and to improve your listening skills. Many French TV channels have an online replay option and therefore most series can be located on the internet. Using sites like TF1, Canal+, France TV Pluzz and Arte TV, you can keep on top of French television, no problem!
How to practice French through written learning
In French schools, children can be found bemoaning the dreaded dictées, dictation exercises which teachers use in order to challenge their understanding of tricky spellings and gender agreements. The task might be tough, but when done regularly, it’s very effective in helping you improve. If you don’t have a French teacher on hand, there are many websites out there which contain pre-recorded dictation exercises.
To Learn French is a useful resource for writing in French and contains many different dictation topics. Pick a topic, listen carefully to what the teacher says and copy it down in writing. There are different levels of dictation, so choose one in which the speed and level of vocabulary feel right to you.
Another useful website for written lessons is French by French. The site is split into different comprehension levels, through which you can select written and aural dialogue pieces. Each section contains useful language points, slow and real speed dialogue and listening and written exercises. Try listening to the dialogue first and writing down what the participants are saying. If you need to pause and go back, don’t be afraid to do it! After all, you’re working at your own pace.
If dictation gets a little trying, though, keeping a diary is an alternative and easy way to practice your written French every day!
You don’t have to write pages and pages of text—just a sentence or two about your day will be enough to keep your writing skills fresh. If you’re feeling ambitious, try to describe a past or future event in your diary, or a specific memory that you have.
Looking forward and back will enable you to make good use of French tenses and explore your vocabulary, too.
Focusing on different activities each week will keep learning fresh and fun. Changing your activities up is the best way to keep French new and to learn French completely, no matter what your level!
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