Learning French

in AppleOutsider edited January 2014
I want to learn French so that I can eventually become reasonably proficient in spoken French. I?ve never learned any languages before ? I speak a little broken English and that?s it.

I am bewildered by all the teaching materials available (Linguaphone, BBC Languages, Rosetta Stone etc.) each laying claim to being the best, quickest and most painless method. I don?t expect it to be painless or without effort. I am curious what others have used and how they found it.

I prefer to learn at my own pace at home so a course is not really suitable. Some form of modular package may be best ? but which one?

I?d appreciate hearing any suggestions and experience.



  • Reply 1 of 8
    buddhabuddha Posts: 386member
    I've been taking French at school for a few years, and you really do have to take it step by step. It seems like it would require a lot of self discipline to become semi-fluent on your own. See if you can find reviews of work books - make sure you get one that covers vocab, verbs, and grammar thoroughly. Unfortunately I don't have any exact suggestions.

    bonne chance.
  • Reply 2 of 8
    Though I personally do not believe that direct instruction in grammar is the best way of learning, you do need a course that has been thought out. What I am saying is you need to learn the grammar, but you do not need to learn about the grammar: the former allows you to use it, the latter to test it and explain it, but not necessarily use it and often is a waste of time. Just look at the way the Japanese study English and how proficient they become after six years; 95% of the adult population cannot handle even the most basic of conversations but can explain the basic structures of English grammar, which is a total waste of six years of effort. How many Americans can explain English grammar? Very few, but they speak it fluently (if not correctly).

    Whatever program you choose, make sure it has plenty of listening material, if possible in video form. Think about when you talk on the phone versus having the same conversation in person. Even in your native language the phone conversation is more difficult because you have eliminated some of the non-verbal elements of communication that assist when language alone struggles. A visual program allows you to learn more naturally; you should start out aurally/orally, then progress to reading and lastly to writing. Either way, listen and mouth along with the audio, but only one speaker at a time; this demands that you listen at least three times, once to listen, once to be speaker A, once to be speaker B. Don't try to be both speakers; it just confuses the mind. Eventually, set up scenarios for yourself and try to make your own conversations. Record them and let a native speaker or a proficient speaker listen to it. Have fun whatever you do.

    Do not translate everything. If you see a picture of an apple and hear "ringo", you will learn the word despite never hearing the English word for it. "Ringo", by the way, is Japanese. Translation also fails sometimes due to cultural differences and there simply are sometimes no equals. Not understanding everything you hear is perfectly fine and natural; do you understand everything everyone around you says in English? Eventually you will start catching more and more of what is being said.

    Practice. Practice. Practice. Talk to yourself. Find a conversation partner. It will help a lot. Make flash cards, but do not use translation. Draw images yourself; actually spending this little extra time will help your brain digest the material. I currently am using an app on Mac called Curio that is very useful for any study program.

    Sorry that I cannot recommend any French materials; I am an English conversation teacher living in Japan. I do, however, speak four languages (French is not one of them), and have been through it in various ways. I studied a fifth, but that was the grammar-translation method and all that remains is a confused mush and a wounded spirit; thankfully my next teacher was a little more modern.

    If the desire is there, you can do it. Good luck.
  • Reply 3 of 8
    malusmalus Posts: 28member

    Two things you can do.

    First, enroll in a class at your local community college. It will be cheap and provide you with a structure to follow. Being self-disciplined about learning language is very, very hard as it easily becomes another thing to put off.

    Second, find a French Apple forum and start reading and posting simple messages, even if it's just "I like your idea" (j'aime votre idée), or what have you. Once you've learned some basic grammar (which isn't all that dissimilar from English, except in a few instances) you can begin constructing sentences with the help of a French/English dictionary. Most of us, especially on forums, use very simple language in the present or past tense. It's an easy place to learn!

    I hope this helps.
  • Reply 4 of 8
    Here's a idea: move to france!

    I'm somewhat joking. It's not a bad way to learn a language, though, as long as you have some bearings and a friend. French uses the same letters as English, which helps. Learning a non-european language must be one hell of a task.

    Back on topic: you have to figure out what works for you. I have a comparatively hard time speaking and hearing languages, but a very easy time reading and writing them. I'm considering trying to learn Russian, but the first thing I'd do wouldn't be to go and buy Russian language tapes. I suppose I would start with picture books and then move to speech later. You'll have to figure out which way works best for you.
  • Reply 5 of 8
    Thanks for the all the good ideas.

    I live in London and plan to visit France often so putting it into practice and learning from the natives is part of the process and the main motivation. I guess I won't be even remotely fluent anytime soon, but I'd should be able to get around by myself independently without relying on people I encounter knowing English. My partner speaks some French so she can help me in that respect.

    Thanks, Bergermeister for the detailed advice from someone who teaches a second language. VERY useful.

    And I like the idea of hanging out on some forums and I take the point that most day-to-day language there is probably quite basic.

    Lots of practice, get some grammar under my belt, but not to the point of obesity, and keep it relevant, personally useful and motivating.

    This is like the playing the piano thing - I wish I did it at school.

    Cheers for all the helpful advice.
  • Reply 6 of 8
    Buy an audio course. Michel Thomas's course is excellent for beginners. When writing French, take advantage of MS Word's language settings. By switching to French language it can identify not only mis-spelled words but also grammatical mistakes. Use Google's translation but be aware that it fails for anything but simple statements...confirm with MS Word. I don't expect anyone to be able to achieve partial or basic fluency in French without either living in a French-speaking country or with a francophone that will enforce a "French only" policy in the house and be able to correct your mistakes.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,755member
    Originally Posted by houseley View Post

    I want to learn French so that I can eventually become reasonably proficient in spoken French.

    I don't have any experience in learning French, so I can only talk in generalities. But I see two things as paramount:

    --persistent interest


    I met a guy in Mexico who spoke ok English. He lived in a small town. He had very little schooling in Spanish, much less English. He was learning his English from a dictionary, 3 trash novels and talking to travelers whenever he could. He had the interest and maximized his exposure and did a lot with a little.

    I agree with Malus. Reading a French website that has high interest content will help you. Take a class. Buy children's books that you already know the story too. You have to expose your brain to the French language as much as possible. The hardware in your brain knows how to find patterns and make meaning out of unknown languages. But it takes time. And you can just be receiving. Again, like Malus implied, you need to struggle with forming ideas as well. That exposes your brain to the language from a different direction.

    But 10 times better than any of that would be spending time in a french speaking country.

    Good luck!
  • Reply 8 of 8
    My wife really wants to learn French so I'm thinking about enrolling us into a class in the spring. Anyone know anything about the Alliance Française school? There's one here in Atlanta. Also, thinking about where we'd like to live in the (hopefully near) future.... Montreal would be nice (in the summer ). We're going to take a trip up there in June to see what it's like.

    She also just bought herself a Nintendo DS and is thinking about getting My French Coach. Any of you try this or even know if it's any good?

    I personally would rather learn German, but maybe there's still enough learnin' in me (at the age of 33) to eventually do both.
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