how-to-learn-french-speaking-fast

Time Flies… but You’re the Pilot: How to Learn French Speaking Fast

Is it just too good to be true?

Maybe you’ve seen those ads promising to get you fluent in a week or even days.

A few clicks, two easy payments of $99.95 and one week later, you find your French level exactly in the same place.

Now, disillusioned, you wonder, “How do people do it? Can I really learn to speak French fast or will it take years to get to the level I want?”

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that while there are a few lucky individuals who have that rare language-learning gift, most of us simply need more than one week to become conversational.

The good news, however, is that it may not take nearly as long as you think!

With four practical study steps to accelerate your learning, you’ll be well on your way to speaking French faster than you can say, Mon dieu… le temps passe vite! (My god… time goes by fast!)
 


 

Time Flies… but You’re the Pilot: How to Learn French Speaking Fast

Learn a foreign language with videos

1. Create a Monthly Plan of Action for French-speaking

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

This Benjamin Franklin quote may be overused, but for good reason: it’s 100% accurate.

If you’re trying to accomplish any task aimlessly, you’re bound to slow down your progress. That’s why you must come up with a structured plan of action for exactly where you want your French level to be in four weeks and then, after that time has passed, re-build your plan for the next four weeks.

How will this speed up your learning?

Planning out a curriculum for the entire month may seem like overkill, but trust me… it’ll make all the difference for your French learning pace.

Most people sit down to study for one hour but spend 20 to 30 minutes flailing. Why? Because they didn’t have a plan. Get yourself prepared using this process and I promise that you’ll waste less time and see faster results.

How it works:

By working in monthly increments, you’re allowing yourself to plan ahead without getting overwhelmed. Just like a teacher would make a syllabus for each semester, you’re building your own curriculum for each month and tracking your progress.

Start by asking yourself two questions:

  • How much time can I realistically commit to learning French each day? (Remember, the more time you put in, the more progress you get out!)
  • What are my goals by the end of this month? Be ambitious but realistic. You know your current level and you should be aiming high for where you want the next level to be.

Now you’re ready for consistent French practice with a purpose. The nitty-gritty of your curriculum will depend on your personal learning style, strengths and weaknesses—and you’ll be using the ideas below to flesh it out. But as a general rule when getting started, try to focus primarily on vocabulary and grammar.

Yes, reading and writing are essential to becoming totally fluent in French, but at this time, your goal is to learn to speak as soon as possible. Focus on listening and speaking exercises right now and a couple of months down the line (or whenever you’re starting to have basic conversations in French) begin to incorporate reading and writing activities into your monthly plan of action.

2. Build Sentences with Verb Flashcards

We all know how powerful flashcards can be with learning new vocabulary, but try to push yourself with a verb flashcard game that forces you beyond rote memorization.

How will this speed up your learning?

Rather than just memorizing your verbs from French to English, this activity will get you conjugating and incorporating other vocabulary to contextualize your sentences.

In other words, it gets you constructing real sentences right away. You’re not just memorizing definitions and putting off the necessary grammar. Think of it as strategic multitasking for your French studies that’ll push you closer to your end goal: actually speaking in French.

How it works:

The first thing that you need is a few packets of 3-by-5 cards. For all you techies out there, I hate to break it to you: this works much better with good old-fashioned paper cards. Most flashcard apps only allow you to flip over one card at a time and, as you’ll see, this activity requires you to flip over three cards simultaneously.

Try to find three separate colors for your 3-by-5 cards. Let’s say white, pink and green. The white cards will be just verbs, the pink cards will be verb subjects and the green cards will refer to a verb tense in the past, present and future.

Next, head to this list of the top 100 most commonly used verbs in French. Write the first verb on that list on one side of a white flashcard and in French only. One card for one French verb. No English. Repeat until you have 20 to 25 cards (or however many new verbs you can handle this month).

Take out three green cards and write “Present Tense” on one side, Passé Composé (compound past tense) on another and “Simple Future” on the last. For now, these are the only verb tenses that you’ll be working with because they’re three of the most basic and commonly used. When you’ve mastered these three basic tenses, you’ll be able to go back and add more to your green flashcard pile.

Finally, you’ll want to take six pink flashcards and write the following (remember, one word per flashcard): Je, tu, elle/il, nous, vous, elles/ils (I, informal you, she/he, we, plural/formal singular you, they). These are the subjects of your sentences and will help you with your conjugation.

Now you have three distinct piles: verbs, subjects and verb tense. Flip over a white verb card, then a pink subject card and finally a green verb tense card. With all those components, you’re ready to create an original sentence in French.

For example, you may have the cards Je, (I) Marcher (to walk) and “Simple future.” You would say something like “Je marcherai au cinéma.” (“I will walk to the movies.”)

And don’t stop there! Add some context to your sentence. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it should be something.

3. Listen Actively to Authentic French Materials

Can you understand French speakers when you hear them? Listening skills can be difficult to build—that’s why it’s so important to start getting used to French pronunciation, accents and the cadences of spoken French right from the start. To do this, you’ll need to use active listening with French video and audio resources.

How will this speed up your learning?

Active listening ensures that the French words don’t flow in one ear and out the other. It’s a technique that helps you get the most learning value out of every audio or video clip.

This is in contrast to “passive listening,” or playing French in the background and not necessarily interacting with it. While passive listening can help you absorb and understand French over time, it’s not the best strategy if you’re trying to learn as efficiently and quickly as possible.

One of the greatest advantages of living in the 21st century is that we have access to amazing technology that allows us to immerse ourselves in real French from the comfort of our own homes. There are endless options for these resources so, in this post, we’ll just be focusing on a few that I find especially helpful for improving your speaking and comprehension skills quickly.

How it works:

Ask yourself these questions to ensure you truly understood the content and would be able to respond to it in a real-life situation.

  • What would be a good summary of what I just heard?
  • Who were the characters (or who was speaking)? Describe them.
  • If I could ask those characters one question, what would it be? What would I expect them to answer?
  • What was my favorite and least favorite part?
  • Would I recommend this to a friend? Why or why not?

By asking yourself these specific questions, you’ll test your comprehension and practice sentence formation. In other words, you’ll be speaking just as much as you’re listening!

Successful active listening is much easier and faster with the right materials. You want audio that’s challenging but not overwhelming, and has content that naturally sparks questions.

One that stands out is Disparue(s), a French true-crime podcast that focuses on the disappearance of Marie-Paule Rochette in 1952. Not only is this a great series that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, but it’ll also expand your horizons and expose you to a different accent than you may’ve heard before as it’s made in Montreal, Canada.

You can also check out the documentary “November 13: Attack on Paris.” You probably remember the tragic terrorist attack hitting the headlines back in 2015, but this is an opportunity to listen to the survivors’ stories in their own words. Much more than just practicing your French, you’ll get a feel for an event that not only shaped French culture and history but also showed how strong the nation is in the face of adversity.

Here’s a resource you might already have but never thought to use. You know that little CD that comes with those self-study books and has tons of audio on it? The one that you probably threw away after opening or left to accumulate digital dust on your iTunes account? Yeah… go dig that up.

Those audio files are incredibly useful because they’re tailored to your learning needs and are literally designed to help you progress as rapidly as possible. Don’t underestimate those little compact miracle workers and make sure that you include them in your monthly plan of action.

Finally, looking for a near-endless supply of real French that won’t be too hard for you? FluentU is your best bet. FluentU provides authentic French videos, like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more, that’ve been transformed into language learning experiences.

Each video comes with interactive captions—click any word for an in-context definition, pronunciation and visual learning aid. There are also flashcards and exercises tailor-made for the videos so you remember what you’ve learned when you’re done watching.

Since the videos are organized into genres and learning levels, it’s easy to find ones that work for you. You can also download the audio-only files, or take the whole FluentU program anywhere thanks to the mobile app! Check out the full library for free with a FluentU trial.

4. Get Out There and Start Socializing

You couldn’t read a book on how to swim and then just dive into the pool (well, you could… but it wouldn’t be pretty).

That’s because there’s a huge difference between theory and application. So the next step in your French learning program is to get out there in the community and make sure that you’re practicing with other people!

Most language learners are very sympathetic and encouraging so it should be easy to find a great group where you can go speak freely in a comfortable atmosphere. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even make a new lifelong franco-friend.

How will this speed up your learning?

Well, this should be pretty self-evident. It’s all about practice, practice, practice. The more you speak in French, the faster you’ll get better at speaking in French!

Again, there are endless amounts of resources for this but I’ll just touch on a couple that can be the most helpful for fast learning no matter where you’re located.

Ideas for real French speaking:

The website Meetup.com is an amazing resource to find language clubs in your city and, usually, there’s already one established for learning French. If not, however, you’re in luck because you can always start one! There’s also the Alliance Française (French Alliance), which has regular meetings in nearly every major city in the U.S.

But maybe you’re a bit too shy for those or simply don’t have a car. No problem! There are many online conversation exchanges that’ll allow you to speak with natives every single night. These resources won’t just push your French speaking skills, but will also get you out of your shell and, again, maybe even be a place to meet new friends with similar interests!

 

You now have a recurring monthly plan that’ll get you speaking French fast. Remember, language learning is a process and you’ll see your level jump quickly some weeks and more slowly in others. The important thing is that you keep up the hard work, constantly push yourself and interact with people. If you follow these four simple tips, you’ll be speaking French in no time at all!

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