If you are reading this article it’s that you have already searched on the Internet for a "magic recipe", or at least sound advice, either to start learning French, or to improve your french in view of sitting an exam or taking a trip to France, or at to another French-speaking country.
If you think that a fast, and applicable to all, simple, free, effective, fun, entertaining solution exists, go your way! We are all different and unfortunately unequal in learning a language. A universal and efficient method does not exist, although it is clear that certain principles are fundamental to progress in a foreign language as in other areas, private or professional: work, perseverance, curiosity, affinities, repetition, time, exchanges, failures, patience, fun and laugh. All this comes into account in learning French.
Old Language Teaching Methods
Beware of simplistic advice that suggests remembering pre-made catch-all phrases, because you will quickly realise that nothing ever goes the way you had planned it when imagining your dialogue at home, at your desk, with your books and your pre-made phrases. Worse, you may find yourself talking completely out of context, look silly (which won’t kill you though) and fail the mission you had set for yourself (obtaining information, buying a transport ticket, take part in a conversation, seduce…)
However, if you persist in your search for tips to learn the beautiful language that French is, without taking a French course (It’s expensive, I don’t have the time, I’m too shy, it’s complicated, I’m afraid…), here is a list of the worst advice to achieve learning french, you could read or hear.
1. Learn set phrases by heart
You will never be told enough; all that lacks spontaneity is highly unadvised. You cannot improvise interaction with a French speaker with a set up pre made phrases. Same as with proverbs and idioms. If you use too much of them and inappropriately, the person you are speaking to will feel like he is eating a too salty dish.
This is why it is perhaps best to follow French lessons to practice speaking more or less spontaneously and gain confidence.
Which is why it is preferable to follow a french course to practice speaking spontaneously and gain self-confidence.
2. Underestimating the importance of grammar
It’s true that grammar learnt on its own will not get you far enough. It is also true that even said wrong, a simple phrase is usually easily understood. However, once in France, once you will have met your basic needs (eating, getting around, asking for directions or booking accommodation, etc.), you will experience fairly quickly the need for deeper conversations, and more developed social relationships with French people. You may also need (not that I wish you too) to speak to local authorities or use our medical service. In these situations, grammar could save your life!
As in society, the more correct your complex message is, the better your will be understood which will make relationships easier. Grammar is simply a tool that will serve to communicate. As all tools, you need to know how to use it to make the most out of it and it being effective. It is not easy to understand all the intricacies of grammar when learning French alone, French courses have the advantage of explaining the concepts but also helping you to put them into practice. And if you’re in France, it’s even better because you can go from theory and training in your French course to practicing it with French people!
3. Wanting to translate each word into your own language
What a funny idea! And most of all, what for? What is the point in that? If you want to find yourself with translations that mean nothing, there are already specialised websites for that, such as google translation to cite only one! Even a translator may not use literal translation.
It’s true that once in France there is probably a reassuring side to understanding every word.
But these words are used to build a message, and it is the whole message you must understand. French courses enable you to understand that the arrangement of words in a sentence vary from one language to another, not to mention that the punctuation, intonation, and the intention of the speaker will connote the message. Nonverbal communication also adds meaning that a simple translation cannot provide.
4. Being in a hurry
Impatience is your worst enemy. If learning a language, and French in particular, could be accurately measured in hours, we would already have mentioned this selling point. But here you are, it’s not just tomatoes you are buying, it’s a language you wish to own.
And this takes time. It also depends on the conditions in which you intend to learn the language, on your work and your motivation. See your learning French experience as a sport. You have to train regularly and accept not meeting your expectations from time to time: everyone is allowed to not always be on great form.
5. Overestimating your capacities
Again, as a professional athlete, do not set yourself unreachable goals in terms of time and levels. Go at your own pace, depending on the time you have. If you would like to sit an exam, anticipate your preparation. Put the odds on your side and remember that pleasure is the major asset of successful learning.
Finally, to maximize your learning French experience; register in a French course and if possible in France and take advantage of the advice which will be given to you by your teachers.
Learning French alone with a miracle cure is difficult, probably even impossible! So a trip to France is a must do… all you need now is to pack your suitcase!!!