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Simple Tips for Learning the Language

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Most of us think we can speak a bit of French. Dusty memories of verb conjugations and tenses few of us understand even in English though, are of little use once we actually set foot in the country and suddenly realise that the average conversation goes at a slightly quicker pace than we remembered! So it pays to Learn The Language Before You Move.

French You Already Know

So, what to do? The good news is we already know several thousand words in French. Our shared histories have left us with more than a few words in common. For instance, words ending in 'ion', 'ible' and 'able' are essentially the same. Try doing that in Croatian!

Plus, the tenses thing really only matters if you're planning on living in the country. For most situations, the present tense will do just fine! Even if that means that your old French teacher would cringe, it doesn’t really matter if you’re saying ‘I drink beer’ instead of ‘I would like to drink beer’ when you’re making new friends in a bar.

Unlike our French counterparts who are regularly exposed to English speaking 'culture' through music and film, we have to try a little harder to pick up the basics, although there is a lot more French music making its way into the UK charts than ever before.

French in Everyday Life

If you are a sportsman or woman, perhaps you can see if there are any teams or organisations in your twin town who would be interested in an exchange. Once the event is over, you'll be surprised how inhibitions come down after a few drinks - and remember, don't be afraid to make mistakes, as it's often the best way to learn! You know how charming it is when a foreign person tries to communicate with you, even when they get it wrong. Far better to give it a go than just shout loudly in English.

Cheap or Free Tips for Learning French

It's never been cheaper or easier to learn. Youtube is full of lessons for all abilities and they're free! You can dip into the basics or learn a particular verb. Also, if you leave a comment for the person who made the video, they may well respond and help you with any questions. Yes, some people really are that nice!

Another good way to learn is to hire or buy a French film. If you skip the subtitles, you will quickly get an ear for the speed at which normal French is spoken. You will also be able to hear phrases as they are actually SAID, rather than translating English phrases in your mind. Nothing is more certain to illicit a blank look from a French person!

If you are still struggling with the basics, why not pick up a DVD intended for French children? You can order online and you will find that once the initial embarrassment wears off, they are actually surprisingly helpful to either learn or re-learn the basics. Picking up plenty of vocabulary is a terrific way to boost your confidence and make yourself understood in situations.

Working in France

There are a number of skilled and unskilled seasonal jobs in France, ranging from grape picking to ski instruction. Having longer than a weekend can really improve your chances of getting beyond the basics, especially if you are interacting with French people.

French Tuition

Nothing beats spending time in the country itself but this isn't always practical, especially if you have a limited budget or time constraints. There are probably Evening Classes in your area that you can join. Making your mistakes with people who are in the same boat as you can be a great way to learn. Your local library will have details of any courses.

If you are less comfortable in a group, you could even take private tuition. There are often French students or teachers in your area who can help you in the privacy of your own home.

Meeting New Friends

The days of penpals seem a long way away in this day and age, but there are lots of forums for people who wish to learn about foreign culture and forums, and are an excellent way to test your written French.

Finally, and perhaps most effectively of all, is to fall in love with someone French! There are a number of dating sites as well as numerous publications listing social events in Paris and other French towns and cities. It may be a great deal more fun than that stuffy old text book!

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