With the right study plan in place, you can make learning to speak French a lot easier! Take this advice from French tutor Carol Beth L. to create a study plan that is, in a word, magnifique!
If you are learning French or know people who are, you may have realized that many people have different ways to approach learning new things. What works well for you may not work well for another person, and vice versa, and each approach may have varying results. When it comes to learning French, here are a few things you can try.
1. Take a class
This is a very effective method for many people – provided, of course, that they are diligent and keep up with homework and studying on their own. Depending on where you take your class, those without much time may be able to find a class that does not require much homework. Language conversation classes often have very minimal amounts of homework. Keep in mind, however, that classes with little or no homework outside class are unlikely to allow students to advance very quickly on their own. This is also true of classes that meet less frequently, since learning a language takes constant repetition.
2. Find a tutor
If you don’t have time for a class, need individual help with your class, want to go at your own rate, or need to accommodate a complicated or busy schedule, a French tutor may be able to help. Tutors typically help just one person at a time. If it is appropriate to you and your tutor, some tutors may accept more than one student in a subject at the same time.
3. Set aside time on your own to study
Usually, those without a schedule for keeping up with regular practice on their own advance less quickly because they do not study as much or at all. Some people begin learning French knowing that they will not have much time to study on their own. If this is your case, be sure that your methods can accommodate this. If your time is limited, keep a set of vocabulary flashcards or a small notebook with vocabulary and grammar notes with you at all times, and you can pop them out when you have a minuted or two free. You can also find great resources online to help you practice, such as blogs and YouTube videos for learning French.
4. Be consistent long-term
Learning a language doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without regular practice. If you stick with it only a short time, or study sporadically, you are not likely to advance quickly. If you have a set time every day or even 3-4 times a week to study, practice, and reinforce what you have learned, you will progress steadily.
5. Connect with others who speak French locally
Find a French language meet-up, conversation groups, or start your own. Depending on your area, Meetup.com can be a valuable site to find other francophiles. Sometimes universities or colleges may be able to help you find francophone connections. The Oldenborg Center at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, for example, organizes foreign language conversation tables at lunch time for its students. Community members must pay for their meal, but are otherwise welcome to join. Try searching online for French conversation groups in your area.
Depending on your level and interests, this could include cartoons, children’s movies, comedies, documentaries, or any one of a number of other genres. Lower level students often start with subtitles, but transitioning to watching without subtitles when you reach the right level can be a big deal – it means you are understanding enough to follow everyday conversation. Remember also: subtitles don’t necessarily have to mean English subtitles. For many students, French subtitles for the spoken French can be as helpful as or more helpful than the English. By following spoken and written French simultaneously, you are reinforcing both forms and the connection between them.
7. Keep a diary or journal
Even at a low level, you can do this. Use the limited language you have and find a few simple things to write something about your day. I began this at the end of my first year of French from middle school, and when I came back to school after the summer, I had one of the best retention rates in the class.
8. Read in French
When you see how the experts write, you will begin to pick up on patterns they use. If you are not very advanced, look for children’s books, such as fairy tales or comics. Asterix et Obelix and Tintin are two popular French comics series.
9. Travel to a French-speaking country
This is perhaps not for those on a tight budget. If you have money to set aside for a vacation or study program abroad, however, it can be a wonderful opportunity. Some exchange programs will allow for classes or homestays that will permit a French immersion environment. As a tourist, you can also see the country, go on tours (including tours in French), and learn about its history. It may take a higher linguistic level and more persistence to convince people to speak to you in French if they know some English. Even if they use their English to try to help you, however, people will appreciate your efforts to speak French.
10. Get a penpal
You might exchange only a few letters or emails, or you could find a life-long friend. Either way, it’s a another way to practice your French and learn about a native-speaker – and for them to learn about you. Penpal programs are out there, often because the programs’ founders value the international exchange they foster. A few websites that offer penpal services include Students of the World, interpals, and mylanguageexchange.com.
Working with a tutor is one of the best ways to improve your French quickly. TakeLessons tutors are available to help you learn French and many other subjects either in-person or online via Skype. Schedule your French lessons today!
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!
Photo by Harumi Ueda