Let me give you a language learning tip that will last all year.
It’s especially pertinent to beginners. You ready?
Here it is: Search for vocabulary that leads to more vocabulary.
It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly effective.
And this makes the months of the year a great place to start.
Not only will you actually use them to, well… talk about the months of the year, but when you think of things in terms of “a year in French,” all sorts of useful vocabulary comes to mind.
You’ll get a little pronunciation practice, a handy list of vocabulary to expand on and valuable confidence in the simple things in life—like being able to say the date in French.
How to Learn the French Months of the Year
Here are a few tips to make committing the French calendar to memory a cinch.
Use a French calendar
Oh gosh, so obvious. If you start using a French calendar (which will work just fine even for your English language appointments), you’ll get used to looking at the months written in French. Also, you’ll benefit from Monday being the first day of the week (as it is in French), which is far more logical. Sunday always feels like the end of the week, am I right?
You can even use this French calendar to help you stick to a study schedule. If you’re on a fast-track to immersion, it can be helpful to set goals and keep track of activities you prefer to study with (French movie Friday, y’all!).
This calendar includes the day and month in both French and English, plus has phrases for each day of the year.
If you’d rather print one and get started right now, you can print this 2016 calendar, or pick one of the many calendriers (calendars) from this web search.
Switch your phone to French
Imagine waking up every morning to find a vocabulary flashcard essentially on the screen of your phone. Not only is having your phone’s calendar and the displayed month and day of the week in French useful, but you’ll also pick up on some great technology vocabulary.
All you need to do is change the language settings on your phone. It’s a great first step to immersion. Before you know it, certain words will become second nature!
Sing a song, take a quiz
So maybe you aren’t gung-ho for the full-on immersion experience (but please give it a shot!). Instead, you can do an interpretive dance, learn a short opera in French—erhm, rather, I mean… sing a song or take a quiz.
Here are a few songs to commit the French months to memory:
Here are a few quizzes to make sure you know them like the back of your hand:
- Quizlet (This one includes other related vocabulary, if you want to give yourself more of a challenge.)
Finally, to see essential French vocabulary like months being used in action and real-life context, try FluentU.
The French Months of the Year and How to Enjoy Them
So all that leaves is learning the months themselves. If you click on the name of each month, it’ll lead you to the pronunciation of each (which is super important!).
What better place to start than Le jour de l’An (New Year’s Day)? Let’s start the year off by making une résolution (a resolution): learn French! But if you’re feeling less ambitious on the first day of the year, at the very least wish your loved ones bonne année ! (Happy New Year).
Janvier is also the time of year in France for l’Épiphanie (Epiphany). It falls on the sixth of the month, and is a Catholic holiday celebrating the Wise Men visiting Jesus in his manger.
Expect there to be une galette des rois (a king’s cake) at gatherings this time of year. Whoever gets a slice with la fève (the small figurine hidden inside the cake) becomes le Roi (the king) or la Reine (the Queen) and gets a crown!
Il fait froid ! (It’s cold!) If you’re in France, then février certainly means the start of l’hiver (winter).
And while it’s not quite as commercialized as it is in the States, le jour de la Saint-Valentin (Valentine’s Day) still happens this month, or as the French often call it: la fête des amoureux (literally: lover’s day).
In France, it’s a holiday mostly for lovers, not a day to send every family member and friend a greeting card. But if you happen to have un(e) petit(e)-ami(e) (a boyfriend/girlfriend), then send a je t’aime (I love you).
Yup! Just like the planet but said with a French accent. Pâques (Easter) usually falls in the month of mars (though it does sometimes like to sneak into the month of April).
And much like in the States, Pâques is a time to color les œufs (eggs), eat le chocolat (chocolate) and wait for les cloches (bells) to fly over and leave chocolate. Oh wait, are you not familiar with the magical flying bells? Check out this post for an explanation.
While Pâques may not always be a mars event, La fête de la Saint-Patrick (Saint Patrick’s Day) certainly is. Yet another holiday that’s largely similar across the Atlantic. Spend the day wearing vert (green), drinking une bière (a beer) and, of course, trying to find un pot d’or (a pot of gold).
Ah ! Il pleut ! (Ah! It’s raining!) If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in France in the month of avril, you’ll be subject to beautifully stereotypical scenes of Paris in the rain.
Avril is also a time of the year in France where lots of students and workers have les vacances (vacation). It’s the best time of year to take le train (the train) to la campagne (the countryside) or le Sud de la France (the South of France)! Well, I can dream, can’t I?
Le printemps (spring) is in full swing! Les fleurs (The flowers) are in full bloom, along with les touristes (tourists). Mai is one of the most popular times of year to visit France, so if you happen to be visiting this time of year, prepare for the crowds.
A major attraction is the Festival de Cannes (Cannes film festival). Located in le Sud de la France, it’s a large festival de cinéma (film festival) for schmoozing and watching the newest film releases.
Il fait chaud ! (It’s hot!) Grab your lunettes de soleil (sunglasses) and soak up the sun. In France, the weather is perfect in juin to hit la plage (the beach). L’école (school) may not officially end until the end of juin, but l’été (the summer) has already begun to gear up.
In France, it’s a popular time of year to attend un festival de musique (a music festival). In fact, France is among the many countries that celebrate an international day of music called la fête de la Musique, falling on le solstice d’été (summer solstice), where there are les musiciens (musicians) playing around every corner, all over the country!
Juillet proves to be a month of national pride for many countries. Whether it be Independence Day in the States on the 4th, Canada Day on the 1st or the French holiday le quatorze juillet (the 14th of July), aka la Prise de la Bastille (the storming of the Bastille), aka la Fête Nationale (the National Holiday).
It celebrates the beginning of la Révolution française (the French Revolution), where they stormed la Bastille—a symbol of Louis XVI’s regime. Expect les feux d’artifice (fireworks) all around France!
Everything is fermé (closed)! That’s août in France for you. It’s the hardest month during which to get anything done. And so, it’s the best to se reposer (relax).
Avril was merely a warm-up for all of the voyages (travels) you’ll embark on in août. With jours fériés (bank holidays) galore, expect the lines at l’aéroport to be long, and les hôtels (the hotels) to be booked.
Ah, the fun is over, or depending on your perspective, has just begun, because it’s la rentrée (back to school season). Whether les élèves (primary and secondary school students) are heading to école (grade school), collège (middle school) or lycée (high school), or les étudiants are gearing up for université (college), they’ll need their heavy cartable (book bag).
What better time of year to start amping up your own French studies and act in solidarity with the French élèves, étudiants and professeurs (teachers)?
Now that the school year has settled in, it’s time for a bit more fun. Even though the French don’t really celebrate Halloween (Halloween), since we Americans are obsessed with it and it’s fun to pronounce in French, we should at least touch on it.
The holiday is gaining popularity in France, especially among young people. If you ever find yourself living in France, then it’ll be no problem at all to sculpter une citrouille (carve a pumpkin) or se déguiser en sorcier/fantôme/princesse (dress up as a wizard/ghost/princess).
Go ahead and say “Friandises ou bêtises !” (Trick or treat), even if the French aren’t as committed as you are.
Ah, automne (fall) in France! Les feuilles (the leaves) begin to turn orange et jaune (orange and yellow), and families all around will start making beaucoup de soupe (lots of soup).
Thanksgiving obviously isn’t celebrated in France, but maybe you can find some unsuspecting French friends to serve une dinde (a turkey) to, or be lucky enough to find des canneberges (cranberries) for a sauce.
However, what the French do celebrate this month is l’Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale (Armistice Day of the First World War), or l’Armistice de 1918. It falls on the eleventh of November, and remembers les soldats (the soldiers) who died during WWI.
C’est la fin de l’année (It’s the end of the year)! And while it’s certainly the time of year for Noël (Christmas)—which has lots of great vocabulary that you can find here, here and here—some French also celebrate an interesting little holiday on the sixth of décembre called la Saint-Nicolas (a celebration of Saint Nicolas).
You may have heard the name Saint Nicolas around Christmastime in the States, but in parts of France and Belgium, they celebrate the actual saint day of Saint Nicolas. Parents often give petits cadeaux (little presents) and les bonbons (candies). In some places, they even put the treats in les chaussures (the shoes)!
You made it through an entire year in French!
Now, imagine you actually spent a year reading, writing and listening in French. Immersion really is a top way to learn the language. After experiencing these months of the year immersed in French, you’ll really be an expert!
And One More Thing…
If you want to the easiest, most natural way to learn French vocabulary, then you won’t want to miss FluentU. FluentU takes music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into French learning experiences. FluentU lets you learn real French, the same way that people speak it in real life. FluentU has a diverse range of great videos like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series:
FluentU brings French videos within reach with interactive captions. Tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
Tap on the word “suit,” for example, and this is what appears:
And FluentU’s “learn mode” lets you learn all the vocabulary in any video with questions. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. And it uses that vocabulary to recommend examples and videos so that you get a 100% personalized experience. Start using FluentU on the website or practice anytime, anywhere with the iOS or Android apps.
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