Hands down, the best way to learn French is to live in a French speaking country for a prolonged period of time.
Living there means you’re fully immersed in the language, the culture and the people.
And there’s no better way to learn French fast.
You’ll be forced to speak French regardless of your level. You’ll interact with native French speakers on a daily basis, picking up new words and phrases constantly.
Not only will this increase your vocabulary, but it will attune your ears to the dialect. The local nuances. The tone and melody of French.
All of which play a significant role in understanding and speaking French well.
Not at all how you learnt it at school… boring formal sentences that in real everyday situations you’d rarely use …
… Bonjour Monsieur et Madame Dubois, je m’appelle Eva. J’ai vingt-cinq ans. J’ai une mère, un père et un frère. J’habite à Londres. J’ai un chat…
The basics? Perhaps.
The essentials? No.
Instead you’ll hear ‘proper’ French, which is far more interesting.
And by immersing yourself in France or a French speaking country, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll pick up new words and progress.
But what if you can’t immerse yourself in a French speaking country?
Don’t despair. There are other options:
- Self-study & Practise
- Audio courses
- Lessons with a French teacher
- Face-to-face lessons
- Online / Skype lessons
- French exchange
In fact, even if you do immerse yourself in France or another French speaking country, using one or more of these methods as well, will undoubtedly help you learn French faster.
Before we delve deeper in to French learning options, are you aware that you already know around 15,000 French words without one French lesson or picking up a French textbook?
It’s all down to a little invasion in 1066, resulting in William the Conqueror being King and French becoming the main language, demoting English to a lowly second place.
What makes this interesting and fun is that there are plenty of words you already use, that French speakers use too – À la carte, chic, cuisine, déjà vu, encore …
Then there are the 1,700 French words identical in spelling and meaning to English words, only differing in pronunciation – accident, camp, efficient, minimum, maximum, relaxation …
Doesn’t the task of learning French seem a bit less daunting now?
So putting immersion to one side, here are the other best ways to learn French:
1) Self-Study and Practise
Start speaking French.
The main reason why adults find it difficult to speak French is because they think they need to speak perfectly and they’re worried about making mistake.
On holiday in a French speaking country we’re often so nervous we’ll get it wrong that we immediately revert to English.
Frustrating ourselves and often annoying the locals.
Children don’t have the same hang-ups that we do as adults, which is why they seem to learn more quickly.
Why not try?
It doesn’t have to be much. Learn a few key phrases and start using them – you’ll be amazed at the response you’ll get from the local French people and this will build your confidence and give you the motivation to learn more.
Listen to French radio and watch French films.
What you often find most difficult when starting out is understanding what’s being said to you.
The perfect solution is to get your ears tuned into French sounds by listing to French radio and watching French films. You don’t have to understand everything that is being said. Just relax and listen.
France Info and RFI are good stations, the latter having three bulletins a day in simple French called Le journal en français facile.
Create French flashcards on your phone.
How many hours do you spend travelling somewhere, or waiting for something?
Use that time wisely by downloading an app like Anki to your smartphone, then create flashcards on different topics to broaden your vocabulary.
Not only is this a fun way to improve your French, it’ll also help the time pass a lot quicker!
Try one of the many beginner audio courses.
For beginners, audio courses like the Michel Thomas Method Total French are a great solution to build a solid foundation.
You can listen to them in the car, on your phone or mp3 player, when exercising, walking the dog, cooking dinner … the opportunities are endless.
And what’s particularly good about audio lessons is that they’re focused on listening and speaking.
Michel Thomas’ method doesn’t get you to write things down or follow a book. Instead he teaches by breaking French down into its component parts, so you can start to create your own sentences from day one.
After all, your main goal is to speak French right?
So listening and speaking is all you need to start…
2) Lessons with a French Teacher
Face-to-face French lessons are perhaps the second best way to learn French, after immersion.
But even if you are immersing yourself in France, attending one-to-one or group lessons will speed up your progress.
Where possible, choose a native French teacher.
They’re more likely to be able to give you insights into the culture and local nuances, which will help when spending time in France.
Oh and don’t be surprised, or nervous, the lessons will almost always be conducted entirely in French.
This is as close to immersion as you’ll get without stepping foot in France, and when it comes to lessons, it’s the best way to learn French.
So don’t be daunted.
Good teachers will know how to explain something so simply that you’ll be able to understand and respond, no matter what level of French you have.
Some of the benefits of French lessons using this method are:
- Learn French far quicker than a lesson conducted primarily in English, with French learning thrown in.
- Ditch the confidence issues that you may have when talking to a local in the ‘real world’ – the teacher is there to do their job, not make fun out of your pronunciation.
- Greater flexibility in the lesson, since you’ll learn what you want to learn, and be able to practise it over and over until you’ve nailed it.
- Better value for money because you’ll be listening and speaking throughout the entire lesson and being corrected, encouraged, and motivated to excel.
One-to-one versus group lessons?
Boils down to finances, time and personal preference.
- Finances: One-to-one lessons will be more expensive than group lessons.
- Time: One-to-one lessons will enable you to progress quicker through stages you find easier, spending more time on those you struggle with. But overall, the entire lesson is dedicated to you, so like-for-like, your French learning is bound to be quicker.
- Personal preference: One-to-one lessons are good for those who aren’t so comfortable with people they don’t know. On the other hand, group lessons are good to listen to other pronunciations, attuning your ear to multiple speakers rather than just one – which is more similar to being in the country itself.
Online / Skype Lessons
Learn French via Skype with a native French teacher
The biggest benefits of Skype lessons are affordability and flexibility.
- Affordability: Since the French teachers work online the rates are lower than if you were to physically attend a class.
- Flexibility: You choose when and where you want to have a lesson, then book it in. And you get to choose how often. If you have plenty of time one week, but limited time the next, not a problem. Take five lessons the first week and only one the second. It’s up to you.
Locally or online there are always French people wanting to learn English, so considering a language exchange is the perfect opportunity to get some French learning for free.
Of course they’re unlikely to be a French teacher, but they will be native French speakers, so they can help with pronunciation, and if you make a mistake or get stuck.
And all you have to do in return is speak with them in English.
Plus, you could make a new friend and have somewhere to visit on your next holiday!
So there you have the best ways to learn French:
- Face-to-face lessons
- Skype lessons
- French language exchange
And there are so many reasons why you should.
Wouldn’t you love to spend time in France and feel confident conversing with the local French speaking people?
It’s such a fantastic feeling when you speak with someone in their native language. Your time spent in that country is made all the richer for it.