Want to start learning French, but don’t know where to start? Follow my tips below to get you started.
Learn The Basics
If you don’t learn anything else, make sure you learn the basic French greetings. I guess this is the same in any language or with learning anything, as you always need to start with the basics and build from there. However, it is crucial to get this right in France, as greetings are so important in French culture. If you enter the reception at a doctors surgery, for example, you would be expected to greet the other patients with “Bonjour Messieurs, Dames” and they will reply with “Bonjour”. This level of politeness is one of my favourite things about France and you will have plenty of opportunity to use the basic greetings during your time in France. Make sure you learn the words for hello (Bonjour – this actually translates as good day), good evening (bonsoir), good bye (au reviour), bon nuit (good night) and thank you (merci). As you leave a shop, bar or restaurant you will most likely hear “bon journée ” or “bon soirée” meaning have a good day or have a good evening. Make sure you learn how to greet people properly. I think this is the minimum amount of the local language you should learn before visiting any country and the effort will always be appreciated.
Learn What You Need
If you’re busy, and lets face it, who isn’t nowadays, the chances are that you won’t have time to learn French to fluency before you jet off on your holidays. Before you go, work out what aspects of the language you will need and don’t waste any time learning things you won’t need. I love eating out on holiday so the first time I went to Paris I learnt all the vocab and phrases I would need to get by in a restaurant. I wasn’t vegan at the time and managed to successfully book tables, order my steak exactly how I liked it (bien cuit) and ask for the bill. I wouldn’t have been able to do much more at this point, but I didn’t need to and knew enough to get by. Doing this will help you to learn a language without feeling overwhelmed, feel more confident and probably motivate you to learn more.
Learn French Whenever You Can
Make the most of the time you do have and use every opportunity to learn some French. However you travel to work, you can use this time to learn French. As with anything, the more time and effort you put in to learning French, the more your French will improve. I love listening to podcasts and there are some amazing French language ones. My favourite to listen to while driving is Coffee Break French, while Learn French with Alexa on YouTube will both entertain and educate you if you catch the bus or train to work. Do you find yourself scrolling through social media and then wondering where time has gone? Start to use some of this time to learn French instead. I have recently set myself a challenge that I will spend a few minutes on Duolingo before I let myself open Facebook or Instagram. I am not always sticking to it, but when I do, it is always helpful.
Make Learning Easier
There are many words that are the same in English and French, which may help you a lot while you try to learn French. The words may be pronounced differently, but they usually have the same spelling and either the same or a very similar meaning. There are many of these words in French and English, so you may be able to guess the meaning of a word even if you don’t know it. Absence, agile, alphabet, alligator, ambition, ambulance, aptitude and aquarium all have either the same or a similar meaning in English and French. Be careful of faux amis (false friends) though which may be spelt the same, but often have very different meanings, such as the word “location” which actually means rental in French.
I know that this sounds obvious, but so many language learners spend hours learning verb conjugations and don’t practice speaking the language. I have definitely been guilty of this in the past, but people really appreciate it when you try to speak their language. It is also the only way to get better at speaking French. I have often been corrected by French people, but I think that this is as a result of pride in their language. If you are corrected while trying to speak French, don’t take offence at this, just learn from it and carry on.
Obviously if you want to progress beyond beginner level you will need to dive deeper in to the language and start to learn the genders of nouns, verb conjugations and much, much more but follow these tips and you will get off to a good start.