I asked the Talk in French community in Facebook what the best advice they ever received in learning French, and the answers I got are quite good.
Check out this list I compiled---it might be quite helpful for you, too.
1. Immerse yourself in the French language
A number of answers pointed to immersion as the best advice they got. As Christina, a fluent French speaker for over 20 years, says, she learned French as a teenager by constantly:
She also watched French shows on TV, listened to French radio, read French newspapers.
Now that there’s social media, it’s easy to do all that through Youtube and switching Facebook to French.
I can’t agree enough. If you hope to be great at a language, you need to live, breathe, and eat that language (not literally). Not only is being immersed in French important, it also makes the process fun and far from boring.
There are a lot of resources available everywhere now, so there is no more excuse not to do this---i.e. not being able to find anything to read, listen to, or watch. But if you’re still finding it hard to look for materials to do so, here is an article about How to Insert French Into your Day. It contains tips and ideas on how to learn French throughout the day, plus where to look.
2. Learn with Music
Music is another topnotch advice to aid you in learning French. According to Donna:
“I have learned to sing along to French songs. It really helps to get the tongue around sounds that are unusual in English.”
Rita seconds this with a short tip:
“Practice with French songs”.
One key thing to remember is to pick the right songs when using music to practise pronunciation. Sometimes singers tend to pronounce the song a bit differently from the normal pronunciation, for artistic purposes or to make the sound unique. So you have to watch out for that, too.
For more advice on how to learn French with music, check out this article:
3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Eli recounts what her teacher told her:
“You’re making mistakes when you speak French but that’s because you are trying to use all the tenses. That’s good. You’re going in the right direction.”
Polly also seconds this with her own two cents:
"To make an attempt (and not be afraid) to say something incorrectly, to make an effort---that is how you learn!”
A lot of French learners get paralyzed with fear at how silly they would sound. As Kathryn puts it:
“Speak no matter how silly you feel and allow yourself to be corrected. The French have been very generous in helping me say the simplest things.”
And finally, this piece of sage words from Denni:
“Try and speak to the neighbours. Throw yourself at the deep end. And don’t worry about it!”
Remember, making mistakes is part of the process. It’s better to say something quickly even if it’s full of mistakes than taking two hours just to make one flawless sentence. Look for someone willing to correct you---that person will become your best ally in your learning process.
4. Practice a lot
As with any other skill and talent on earth, practice is always the key.
“Practice everyday and don’t worry about your mistakes!” - Judith
“No Google translate please. Just always practice.” - Aurora
If you’re looking for tips on how to practice French everyday, here are some articles that might help you:
5. Don’t ask ‘why’, just accept the rules and remember it
“When learning the rules of the French language, don’t question ‘why’ something is a certain way. Just accept it and remember it.”
This golden piece of advice was offered by Beth McKinley, and I couldn’t have said it any better.
I get fed up when people start challenging some grammar points in French, saying it’s weird or nonsense. If you studied English or other languages, you will surely see how weird even your very own language can be. In fact, French is actually easier on so many points compared with English.
For example, how is ballet not pronounced like mallet or pallet? And how is the plural of box, boxes while ox is oxen? Don’t get me started about goose and geese and mouse and mice!
Every language has its own weirdness, not just French. So the best we could do is just accept it, learn to live with it, and embrace its quirks.
6. Learn phrases and sentences
“Learn phrases and sentences rather than single words. I’m remembering far easier that way!” - Sue Wright
This is absolutely true. At the early stages of your French lessons, learning phrases and sentences would prove very helpful at providing context and aiding your comprehension.
This phrasebook would surely help, too.
7. Go beyond just learning the language
“Discover the unique way of thinking which is the spirit of each language.” - Horváth
I couldn’t agree more. The way people talk can be very different and culture is a major factor. If you try to understand the mindset of the locals, it can help you adapt to their way of speaking the language. Reading provides wonderful insights in this regard.
These articles would help you in better understanding the thoughts and motivations of the French:
8. Start somewhere
“Don’t worry about the different tenses. Just use the present tense to start with!” - Caroline
Every journey starts with one small step. You’ve heard that being thrown around a lot, but it’s true. Don’t worry too much about the rules; you will learn them along the way. But you have to start somewhere.
If you need a bit of help with tenses, here’s a shortcut:
9. Translate or not to translate
“Don’t try to translate!” - Lori
….and you read that right. It’s best if you don't try to translate word for word from your language to French. It can sometimes be very awkward when you do. Check out this article for some cringe-worthy examples: Embarrassingly Awkward English-French Translation Mistakes.
10. Develop a daily learning habit
Finally, this one is from me. If you’ve been looking around in this website for a while, you’ll notice a certain message that I keep drilling into readers: develop a learning habit and it will make learning French so much easier and less painful.
I have plenty of resources to help you with that, such as the following articles:
But the best one that I could offer is the Complete Method Courses available on the Talk in French Store. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level learner, the course covers everything you need to learn French independently and offers it to you step-by-step.
You can check it out below.
There you have it, ten of the best pieces of advice in learning French. How about you? What’s the best French language learning advice you ever heard? Sound off in the comments! 🙂
For the BEST hacks, tips, and advice on how to learn French, grab your copy of FLUENT IN FRENCH! It is available for FREE with our Complete Method Courses.