If you’re looking for advice on how to learn French, it helps to know that there are a few tried and true tricks that can help you pick up on and speak French in the fastest time possible.
If French happens to be the first foreign language you’re looking at learning, it might seem like it’s also the hardest to learn, and that’s because every new language you learn becomes easier and easier to master.
The reason why it might be hard to learn your first foreign language might be because you’ll develop a deeper understanding of which strategies work for you and which ones simply aren’t viable.
Once you understand how to speak French, you’ll focus on the techniques that were effective for every other language you tackle after learning French.
Before we share some tips and insights on how to learn French (or any other foreign language for that matter), let’s take a look at the basics you should keep in mind!
How Long Does It Take to Learn the French Language?
The first factor you need to keep in mind when considering the timeline for your French studies is the amount of time you have to devote to your studies. You also must consider factors like your age and how similar French is to your native language.
Being a member of the Romance language family, French is a language known for its presence of what linguists refer to as cognates. These words stem from a single proto-language and have similar spellings. The words ‘summer’ and ‘Sommer’ are examples of cognates.
Many English words might sound similar to French words, but even though we might spell (and pronounce) some words similarly, they might still have different meanings. An excellent example of this is the French word ‘librairie,’ which sounds like the English ‘library,’ but the French term means bookshop, not a library.
Another thing you must consider when researching your facts about learning French is fluency. When we talk about speaking a language fluently, it’s generally best to refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).
When you’re ‘fluent’ in a language, it implies that you can naturally and consistently speak the language and that you understand humorous expressions and idiomatic sayings when you’re conversing with native speakers.
The CEFRL states that language learners must be able to produce clear, detailed text on a range of subjects and interact with spontaneity and fluency to reach this level of language mastery.
How Hard Is It To Learn to Speak French?
According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, French isn’t considered among the most challenging languages to learn. The most difficult languages to learn include the likes of Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Polish, and Danish.
According to the American institute, it should take an English speaker roughly 24 weeks to learn to speak French on an advanced level.
What Are the Benefits of Learning the French Language?
Learning French can assist you with expressing your creativity and discovering new sides of yourself you never knew existed. Not sure if you should learn to speak French and what the benefits of adding this language to your linguistic collection would be? Here’s why it might be the best decision ever!
It’s Beneficial for Travel
The language barrier has never gotten in the way of the spirit of adventure. If you’re able to speak French, you’ll be able to easily navigate through even the most hidden parts of France. You’ll literally have a passport to a whole new world.
Aside from allowing you to navigate your own way by reading road signs, train tickets, and menus in France, your French language skills will also help you form relationships with the locals.
And since you’ll be able to navigate your own way, you can get off the beaten tourist path of France, discovering the true gems that are out of reach for English foreigners.
The French Life
Regardless of whether you’re looking to enroll at a French university or your traveling to the country to gain more work experience, learning French and understanding the local language will add heaps of value to the experience.
When you’re living in a setup where you’re forced to speak the French language among native French speakers, it’ll also fast-track your journey to fluency while learning French. We’ll branch out on this topic a little later too!
The world is much more connected today than it has ever been, and the sweeping tide of globalization means that there are more companies operating across international borders too.
Professionals looking for ways to stay competitive in the global market can harness the power of the French language. It’s pretty much a no-brainer for success.
The African continent, as well as Western Europe, use French as one of its main business languages, and these emerging markets are loaded with opportunities for business growth.
And by adding a language like French to your business game, you’ll be showcasing your brand’s multicultural, international, and inclusive nature too.
Train Your Brain
Language is an excellent tool for keeping your brain fit and in shape. If you take on the task and start to learn French, you’ll expand your intellectual horizons.
In fact, there are few better ways to exercise mental muscles than by learning a new language. As you pick up on French, your brain will make connections between words and their meanings, take apart and put grammatical structures together, and force you to do a whole lot of active listening too.
How to Learn French Quickly
We’ve come up with a clear and concise list of tips and tricks that’ll help you with learning French in the quickest time possible.
After you’re done reading through this post, you’ll be equipped with a solid plan for progressing in French every day without spending too much time pouring over grammar books and vocab lists.
Sounds good, right? Let’s dive in!
#1 – Learn Some French Every Day
The most important thing you can do when it comes to learning any new language is to make a daily commitment to the cause. It’s much more effective and efficient to study 20 minutes every day than spending several hours on a language course once a week.
Even the hardest of languages, like Chinese and Arabic, become much easier to learn if you learn a little every day. But if you’re not consistent in your efforts, it’ll show up and make the language almost impossible to learn.
The first step to success, thus, is to commit to learning French every day!
#2 – Don’t Fear Making Mistakes
So, you already know that the first golden rule of learning a new language is consistency. But the second golden rule is to not be afraid to make mistakes. Because you will err while you learn French, and that’s okay because it’s part of how we learn.
It can feel uncomfortable to speak a foreign language because you’re afraid of looking stupid for mispronouncing some words.
But it’s one of the most important elements for becoming a successful language learner because when you accept that you’ll make mistakes, you’re accepting that it’s a growth process that requires trying new things even if they’re scary.
It’s inevitable to make mistakes when you first start learning French. But the best part about these mistakes is that nobody will laugh at you. Whenever you make a mistake, you learn something new. So as a language learner, making mistakes is one of the best things you can do.
#3 – Practice, Don’t Just Study
When we learn new grammar, expressions, and vocabulary from textbooks, it’s called studying. But when we apply that knowledge to the real world, it’s called practice.
Even the most dedicated students in the world won’t retain the knowledge they’ve studied if they don’t practice their new skills. So, the best way to speed up your learning process is by finding opportunities to speak French.
#4 – Practice Out Loud
It’s critical to practice your French language learning skills out loud. Even if you’re just repeating the same ten phrases about where you live and work at first, thinking about the words and whispering them under your breath won’t cut it. There’s just something special about speaking French aloud that can help fix words and sentences in your long-term memory.
Learning a language is very similar to learning to play a musical instrument. You can’t learn to play the instrument by imagining what it would sound like if you played the notes. But when you play the notes in sequence repeatedly, they become second nature and don’t require you to rethink them every time you play them.
#5 – Have a French Conversation with Yourself
Practicing conversations with native French speakers is really valuable, but it’s not the only place to gain experience and exposure. Regardless of whether you’re talking to a French native or to yourself in the mirror, the simple act of speaking French is always beneficial to the learning process and enhances your French vocabulary.
It might seem like an odd thing to do when you practice with just yourself around, but it really works. Even if you practice for just five or ten minutes a day, you’ll start noticing progress pretty quickly.
Once you get into the habit of chatting to yourself in French, it’ll also make it easier for you to strike up conversations with native French speakers.
#6 – Use a Language Exchange App with Native French Speakers
Language exchange apps like Tandem and HelloTalk are changing the way language learners embrace new languages. These apps make it easier than ever for learners to find native speakers of the language they’re going to learn so they have someone to exercise and practice with.
Apps like these also simplify the process of setting up a language exchange that can help both parties learn the other’s language. We highly recommend a language exchange app to help you practice speaking French with other French speakers.
To get started, you can keep it simple by sending each other text or voice messages where you’re speaking French. After you gain some confidence, you can move things up a notch by including telephone calls and video calls, which are all facilitated through the app.
#7 – Use Media to Your Advantage
Using media to learn French is very closely tied to the very first tip we shared on how to learn French quickly – which is practicing every day.
Regardless of whether you listen to French speakers on a podcast, watch a French film, or read a French book, as long as you make French part of your everyday routine, your language skills will benefit.
Podcasts are a great way to give yourself some French exposure every day. And the good news is that there are a lot of free French podcasts available.
As your French improves, you’ll be able to enjoy French films and tv shows aimed at native French speakers, and finally, you’ll be able to tackle French literature.
Literature is a great way to improve your French language skills, but it’ll be most beneficial for your vocabulary. Remember that the focus should be on extensive reading instead of intensive reading. So instead of focusing on short passages and studying them in detail, read for enjoyment and do so copiously instead.
#8 – Avoid Learning Long Vocab Lists of French Words
Many new language learners believe that the best way to learn a new language is by spending a lot of time memorizing long lists of vocabulary. But that honestly couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our brains aren’t wired to learn a language like that. By memorizing vocabulary, you’re only storing the words in your short-term memory. At most, it’ll stay there for a couple of days before disappearing.
You only add new words to your long-term memory when you encounter them in different contexts like books and conversations. You can also do this by finding new ways to express your ideas and thoughts in a foreign language.
You can use all the to-do’s we’ve included in this list to learn French but memorizing vocab lists is not the way.
#9 – Consider Taking a Class
French is among the most studied languages around the world. And formal French classes are great for learners that have the time and finances to commit to a full-time program. These classes are much more intensive than self-directed learning.
Still, since they offer feedback from teachers who know the French language, it’s easy to identify and correct mistakes in the class environment.
Another benefit of French classes is that the content is presented in a fun and interactive way. Plus, having other learners around while you’re learning a new language can be very beneficial in your own studies too. Keep in mind that you don’t have to commit to full-time classes.
Many cities and communities offer free or relatively cheap language learning classes, and since French is a popular language, you’re likely to find a class near you.
Even if you work a full-time job or are tied up in studies, attending a French class once or twice a week can significantly improve your French language skills in a measurable way.
#10 – Enroll Online
There are a lot of expert-designed online French courses and programs that are reasonably priced. But keep in mind that the premium courses also come at a premium cost. These online courses are all designed to help you learn French in your own time and many of them were created by native French speakers with the goal of making language learning easier.
They’re often more interactive and engaging than many of the free courses and resources out there, so it might be worth the investment.
The good news is that there’s no shortage of online French courses and apps on the web and on your phone. The supply is virtually endless and covers pretty much everything from French grammar wikis to online forums and French classes.
Just keep in mind that the trade-off of free products usually revolves around sacrifices in quality, so perhaps investing in a reputable online course is worth every cent!
#11 – Consider Immersion Learning
French immersion learning or some other form of language travel is the most intensive and extreme learning option out there, and it’s definitely not for everyone.
But, immersing yourself in a new culture and place that doesn’t speak the language, you use at home will force you to make rapid progress in your French learning experience as you struggle to communicate with those around you.
If you’re considering an immersion program, however, make sure that you have at least some foundations in place before picking yourself up and plunging into a totally foreign locale.
Use resources like language textbooks and online classes and practice some basic French before making the big transition through French immersion.
Kickstart Your Journey by Learning French Words and Phrases
Anyone that’s just starting to learn French should try to get a basic understand of numbers, vocabulary, and common French phrases.
You want to focus on words that’ll give you some foundation to fall back on when you meet French people. Not sure where to start? Here are some useful French phrases!
- Au revoir ! (ohr-vwahr!) — Goodbye!
- S’il vous plaît.(seel vooh pleh.) — Please.
- Je vous en prie. (zhuh vooh-zahN pree.) — You’re welcome!
- Merci. (mehr-see) — Thank you.
- Pardon/Excusez-moi. (pahr-dohN/eks-kew-zey-mwah.) — Excuse me.
- Est-ce que vous parlez anglais ? (ehs-kuh vooh pahr-ley ahN-gleh?) — Do you speak English?
- Comment allez-vous ? (koh-mahN-tah-ley-vooh?) — How are you?
- Comment vous appelez-vous ? (koh-mahN vooh-zah-pley-vooh?) — What’s your name?
- Quelle heure est-il ? (kehl uhr eh-teel?) — What time is it?
- Où est-ce que je peux trouver… ? (ooh ehs-kuh zhuh puh trooh-vey….?) — Where can I find . . .?
- Où y a-t-il un supermarché ? — Where is there a supermarket?
- Où sont les toilettes ? — Where are the toilets?
- Je cherche la gare. — I’m looking for the train station.
- À quelle heure ouvre/ferme le musée ? — What time does the museum open/close?
- Vous pourriez me recommander un bon hôtel ? — Can you recommend a good hotel?
- J’ai perdu mon passeport ! — I have lost my passport!
- Nous avons deux valises. — We have two bags.
- Combien coûte un ticket pour l’aéroport ? — How much does a ticket to the airport cost?
- Je voudrais acheter un billet. — I would like to buy a ticket.
- À quelle heure faut-il arriver ? — When (at what hour) should I arrive?
- au coin de la rue — at the street corner
- Continuez tout droit. — Continue straight on.
- Tournez à droite ! — Turn right!
- Tournez à gauche ! — Turn left!
A Note on Pronouns
As you start building up your French vocabulary, you’ll have the tools to talk about people, places, and things around you.
But you can also categorize word types by topic and create targeted lists so you’ll learn one topic and word type at a time. With that being said, here’s a list of the basic pronouns you can start out with:
- je — I
- tu — you (informal)
- il — he
- elle — she
- on — we (informal)
- nous — we
- vous — you plural/formal form
- ils — they (masc.)
- elles — they (fem.)
Basic French Grammar
It’s essential to structure sentences properly by using the correct French grammar. And just like with any other foreign language, there’s no single easy way to learn French grammar.
Here are some aspects to keep in mind though:
Nouns are masculine or feminine, and understanding how they work and which patterns to follow is worthwhile.
In French, they use the “la” article for feminine nouns and the “le” article for masculine articles. They also use “I” when the noun starts with a vowel. And whenever the article is indefinite, they use “un” for masculine and “une” for feminine.
French verbs and conjugation
French verbs change based on the subject. There are regular rules and there are also exceptions known as “irregular”. It’s important to learn the rules for French verbs and conjugation for regular and the most common irregular ones too.
The French language has 12 active verb tenses. You should start with the present tense (indicative present), past participles (which are used to form the past tense), and the irregular future tense.
Final Thoughts on How to Learn French
French is one of the most popular foreign languages to learn in the world, and it’s also one of the most frequently used.
The French language has more than 300 million speakers spread across just about every continent on earth, making it the 5th most commonly spoken language in the world.
French is an important cultural and official language, which is why it’s always a good idea to learn this language for the sake of diplomacy and global business.
But we all know that it takes time and dedication to learn a new language. Luckily, this post has armed you with 11 easy ways you can make the process of learning French a little easier.
If you follow these suggestions and try to make studying, practicing, and using French as part of your daily life, you might be surprised to see how quickly your French will improve.