What does learning French have in common with elephants and bicycles?
First, learning a new language is a bit like attempting to eat an elephant.
You’ve heard this metaphor before (I promise, elephant lovers, we’re not condoning actually eating elephants). You can’t just swallow the whole thing at once—you’ve got to take it one bite at a time. And maybe spend some time cooking and seasoning the metaphorical meat to make it more appetizing.
As for the bicycle, riding a bike and learning a language are both acquired skills. Approaching French when you’ve got nothing behind you, no previous knowledge or experience to back you up, might seem a little bit daunting. Luckily, you can always pop on some training wheels to get started, and perhaps have a trusted loved one steady you by holding your seat.
The easiest way to learn French is to have plenty of support and to take things slow and steady.
If this learning process is undertaken in the right way, it can actually be a really easy and enjoyable thing. Learning how to understand the language takes a little planning, so as long as you approach it strategically, you can become a French speaker within no time at all.
How to Prepare Those Bite-sized French Chunks
Get your hands on a great French-English dictionary
Arming yourself with the learning essentials is the best way to go about picking up French at a fast pace.
If you have the right kinds of books waiting for you, no tricky language point will beat you! A great French-English dictionary is possibly one of the most important things you’ll purchase as it will open up the door to French vocabulary.
While many can be accessed online, it’s worth investing in a physical copy to keep on your bookshelves for reference. The “Collins French Dictionary” is always a great option to have on hand and will see you through any language problem.
Load up your phone with a few learning apps
Now that having access to portable devices is a very real part of our lives, we can take our lessons with us wherever we go. If you commute to work or find yourself with a lot of spare time, plugging into a French learning podcast can be a great use of this time.
Programs such as Coffee Break French, Learn French With Alexa and FluentU are great all-rounders and steadily progress to more advanced levels.
Find a great easy grammar book
If you really want to make a go of it in French, it pays to arm yourself with a top-notch grammar book and to delve right in.
If you incorporate grammar into your lessons early on, you’ll be able to make leaps and bounds forward in your comprehension ability. “The Everything French Grammar Book” is a great place for beginners in the language to start and will introduce you to all sorts of different rules and lessons.
Source an essential vocabulary builder
Having a great grasp on French vocabulary will really set you apart from the rest. If you want to advance quickly, it’s worth focusing on your words.
Luckily, there’s a ton of websites and books out there dedicated specifically to French vocabulary that you can easily integrate into your routine. Barron’s “French Vocabulary” book will give you insight into everything you need whereas Language Guide will act as a great digital reference.
The #1 Easiest Way to Learn French: The Bite-sized Approach
Taking a bite-sized approach to the French language will make learning much easier and enable you to progress at a much more rapid rate.
While taking it slowly at first might seem frustrating, it will ensure that you absorb the maximum amount of information possible. Pretty soon, you’ll be making huge leaps in French!
Start with the essential vocabulary points
Starting to learn French is a bit like plunging into the deep end of pool when you’re still in floaties. Unless you have a direction in mind, it can be easy to get lost. Getting to grips with the basic language points that you need to use can be the best method to focus your learning. When you begin, it’s best to stick to simple.
Learning basic greetings and descriptions is one of the first things that you should do and will provide you with the building blocks you need in French. Describing yourself, learning to approach a French speaker and how to ask for essential items will give you great focus in French and make moving on to complex conversation easier. Luckily, there are many resources out there which make use of essential early vocabulary and will give you the leg up that you need. For example, try anything written for French-speaking children, such as children’s books and children’s news websites.
Vocabulary is one of the main foundations of French and by approaching it little by little, you’ll have built up a surprising amount soon.
Use a phonetic guide to help with pronunciation
New languages come with a whole set of new rules and when you’re beginning to speak a language for the first time, things can seem a little more tricky. While French pronunciation does take a little getting used to, it’s much simpler than many people would have you believe. It’s just a matter of approach. When you’re taking steps forwards in your vocabulary, it’s worth backing it up with a few phonetic lessons in order to help develop your accent.
The French accent is actually easier to master than you would think, it just takes a little practice! There are many phonetic guides and interactive sites out there which will help you to hone your speaking skills and when you’re first starting out, it’s useful to practice individual sounds at a time. WordReference has a particularly useful page which lists all of the types of phonetic accents you can come across in French, and is worth taking a closer look at each day.
If you want to hear French being spoken, however, try focusing your attention on authentic French content made for native speakers by native speakers, such as movies, music videos, interviews and more. You can simply listen, repeat and practice yourself!
Tackle simple conjugation rules first
In French, there are a number of conjugation rules to get your head around but if you focus on the most common when you’re starting out, then you’ll be able to say a surprising amount of things. The verbs conjugations for avoir (to have) and être (to be) are the ones that you’ll use the most often, and can be learned in relatively no time at all.
Better yet, many verbs follow the same types of patterns in their conjugations and can be used according to the same rule. There are three types of common verbs, those that end in r-e, e-r and i-r. Master these first! Divvy up your newly-learned verbs and practice what each type does when conjugated.
Follow the three major tenses before everything else
In general, you’ll find yourself using the present, past and future tenses most frequently in French, so focusing your attention on these three tenses should be your top priority. Many common verbs follow the same patterns in each of the tenses, so altering a sentence to make sense is often very simple to do.
When you’re first starting out, expressing what has recently happened, is happening or is about to happen can often be the easiest way to get by and will give you a great foundation upon which you can build more complex tenses down the line. Getting the basics down will make your self-expression much more accessible and get you talking French at a much more rapid rate.
Vary your learning method with audio, visual and interactive materials
When we undertake new lessons, it pays to approach it strategically, planning out our time and lessons in advance. The trouble with sticking to a rigid plan, however, is that it often causes us to become stuck in a learning rut and ultimately to become bored with what we’re undertaking. By varying the method by which you learn, you stand a much better chance of staying motivated on your learning journey. Approaching the same lesson in different ways can enable you to understand it in ways you never even considered before.
Looking at different parts of the French language according to audio, visual and interactive learning methods will really help you to absorb your lessons. Learning apps like FluentU are a great way of varying your learning style and enabling you to get the most out of your lessons.
With the interactive subtitles and downloadable transcripts on FluentU you can both listen to and read French text at the same time, enabling you to grasp French pronunciation. Following a narrative also makes learning much easier. Your brain is naturally wired to expect what will come next in the dialogue!
Go ahead and sign up for a free trial to see what the app is all about.
Take your learning with you on the go!
The world of portable learning is really huge. If you’re taking your first tentative steps into French, then you’re really well catered to. Committing to as little as 15 minutes per day of French lessons, in whatever form, can really make the difference in your progression. French podcasts are great resources for making sure you’re exposing yourself to as much of the language as possible and will teach you all sorts of highly useful information.
Try and speak a little French every day
The best way to learn a new language is through total immersion but for the majority of us, it’s simply not possible. The next best thing we can do is try to talk a little bit of French every day in order to get used to how it sounds and how it’s used. Joining a local speaking group or signing up for Skype lessons can be a helpful way of speaking French.
Verbling is a site where you can easily find a native teacher to assist you with speaking practice and correct your mistakes. You can schedule regular online lessons right on the site for continued learning or look for someone to help you with any specific sticking points in your progress.
You can also take matters into your own hands. Many podcasts contain sections of dialogue or question and answer. If you want to practice speaking, you can pause the tape and respond out loud, listening to the response in order to test yourself. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try and describe your activities around the house as you go too. While doing this in public might not always be possible, in the comfort of your own home you can speak as you wish!
Tackling French one step at a time is a surefire way to success.
Sectioning off each element of the language will make learning as a whole a much more logical and easy journey.
It will enable you to focus more time and attention on each element. Rushing in head first to a new project is all well and good, but when it comes to language learning slow and steady really does win the race.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.