Is it hard to learn French? Tutor Roman N. shares three things you might think make it difficult to learn French that are actually totally false…
Some of you may have been fascinated by French culture and French language for a while, but you haven’t yet taken your first step toward learning this beautiful language. In my experience, I have found these three reasons to be the most popular excuses:
- “I’m too old for this — it’s too late to start learning a second language.”
- “My French pronunciation will never be good enough.”
- “How am I ever going to speak French and all the insane number and variety of verb conjugations?!”
I have heard, “I would love to speak French, but…” from students and strangers, and sadly they usually finish their sentence with one (or all three) of these excuses.
And this is understandable since these three stereotypes do appear quite plausible. In fact they appear so plausible that many will never even try to see if they are correct. But what if we try to take a close look at each of them?
1. “I’m too old for this — it’s too late to start learning a second language.”
This one is traditionally supported by the popular belief that kids learn a second language faster and better than adults. First of all, this truth mostly applies to children who, at a very early age, were exposed to a certain language environment — perhaps they moved to a French-speaking country or were growing up in a bilingual household.
On the other hand, we have children who don’t begin learning a second language until primary or secondary school, but there really is no proof that these children retain the language any better than a first-time adult.
I have had a lot of students, adults and children of different ages, and I must confess that material covered with adults in a few hours would take me way more time and effort with children.
The truth is, adults have many advantages as language learners. Adults have a more profound understanding of various concepts, highly developed cognitive and academic skills, and overall, better concentration.
One of my last students was 70 + and after having taken just ten hours of French classes he truly impressed me by his powerful grasp of the language. A few months later he went to France and got around with no problems. Still think you are too old to learn French?
2. “My French pronunciation will never be good enough”
This is a very popular reason among my American students and it also happens to be very untrue. I teach three languages and French is not even close to being the most difficult one in terms of pronunciation.
Besides, for native English speakers, the number of “difficult” French sounds is quite limited and many vocal and phonetic exercises used in language learning, public speaking and speech improvement techniques can do the job even if you only practice French pronunciation 15 minutes a day.
3. “How am I ever going to speak French with all the insane number and variety of verb conjugations?!”
This one is hard to argue if we focus on the real number of all existing irregular french verb conjugation forms. There are many. But if we look at the ones we actually need, we see an absolutely different picture.
As you learn conjugations of only one verb from a particular group, you also learn how to conjugate a few others from this group. But yes, it is still quite a task and you need to communicate as soon as possible.
Therefore you can and should use structures which will help you to take a short cut.
As an example, instead of memorizing plenty of different forms in future tenses for the verbs belonging to different irregular verbs group, you can just memorize how to conjugate the verb aller (to go) in present tense (preferably all six forms to agree with subject pronouns: je vais, tu vas, il/elle va, vous allez, nous allons, ils vont) then add any verb you want in infinitive on the top of it.
This way, instead of memorizing many verb conjugations in future tense, you can use “I am going + any verb in infinitive form”. Just knowing six conjugations of the verb aller and only one infinitive form of any verb you need to use, you can still get your point across. It is not entirely the same, but this is an acceptable deviation from strict grammar since it dramatically increases your communicative possibilities.
Try it and you will see! Most of my beginner students start telling me about their plans and things they are going to do in the future after their third or fourth class, and I find it amazing.
To wrap up I would like to quote Kato Lomb, – an amazing lady who spoke 16 languages although she had studied to be a chemist, when at age 86 she said to her 54 year old friend: “You are so lucky because you can still learn so many languages!”
Thank you for reading! And remember, when you’re ready to begin your language-learning journey, studying with a private French tutor is one of the best ways to ensure you reach your goals.
What challenges you in your study of French? Join the discussion in the comments below and we’ll provide even more tips and tricks to help you out!