How do you learn French?


(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #1

Some use CDs (Michel Thomas is excellent), some use DVDs (we have a kiddies french DVD which I pop on from time to time), some have 1:1 lessons (I did this before moving to France - highly recommend this method), some go to nightschool, some go on a week or so immersion courses in France, some read French books (I have stacks of them dictionaries, business french, general conversation, medical terms, building terms & kids books), some seek out Anglo/French meeting groups, some just wing it & pick up conversational French through living here or marry a French person!



How do you learn? Everyone has a different learning style & what works for one doesn’t work for all, but do feel free to share your experiences & recommendations.



Lets see if we can get a recommended list together…


(Sheila Walshe-Blackmore) #2

I know! Same frustration as you Alastair. I went to a convent school, run by an order of French nuns. They (literally) hammered French into me for six years. If only I had known that I already knew so many French words. Well that was emmm… more than 30 years ago. When I listened for the first time to Michel Thomas, a couple of years ago, it was a real “lightbulb moment”. Suddenly it all made sense. I don’t have the confidence (yet) to threaten a bank manager. As I’m still in Dublin, probably not a skill that would be of much use! Will be in France in 4 weeks time, so will then inflict my “French” on the locals. Bonne chance!


(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #3

I agree, Michel Thomas tells you what you wish your teachers had told you x many years ago. Imagine how much better we’d all be at speaking French now if we learnt Michel Thomas style. It took me a couple of years to become confident enough to just have a go and now you can’t shut me up!


(Alastair Stephen) #4

I speak French well enough to translate at Notaires office for buying houses.

I can tell my bank manager that if he refuses to verify a copy of my passport, I will be closing my accounts with him, and I can open an account with ING on the phone ( you can see what kind of day I have had).

I did CSE French at school, and have learnt what I know from Michel Thomas. I cant beleive no one told me at school that I already knew 1400 french words, just take any word that ends in ion in english, put on a poncy French accent, and there you go!!

I listened to the discs while decorating a house for a builder and also in the car. I wrote nothing down, but spoke all the answers on the discs. I found it great that I could speak more and more, so I was actually keen to get to the next disc

Lots of other tricks, he tells you , like the second verb doesnt need conjugating, so I use, can I , I want etc etc a lot.

I also use Je Vais a lot for the future.

I also find that lots of confidence makes up for grammatical errors. Also working in France improves your French a lot.

The MemSahib is taking French conversation, and has powered up the French Steam driven TV, which I guess is what you need to do to get further than me


(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #5

I agree with all of the above. I find whenever I write something down it goes in better. If someone uses a word or phrase I don’t understand I get them to write it down & then I learn it. Flashcards are good for this. I’ve also found watching french news is good for a short burst or try watching the Simpsons or something like a kids programme in French as the language is simple but effective & humerous. It doesn’t have to be educational - I watched Desperate Housewives in French & because I already knew the characters it was easier to follow the programme.

I used to translate recipes or wine articles from cooking magazines which helped a lot and now I use french recipe books & a dictionary to look up any unfamiliar terms.

I would recommend trying to write any letters you need yourself first, then look online for a translation or example to help correct your work. It’s too easy to use someone elses translation & you will never learn if you don’t try it yourself first.

Reading & Writing is important as well as speaking & listening but I also think confidence plays a big part in our language development, don’t be afraid to speak!


(Jacqueline Brown) #6

I think this is probably the best way to learn French Amber - just not too sure my hubby would be that happy!


(Jacqueline Brown) #7

We too had one to one lessons in UK before moving here in 2004 and they were brilliant. Since being here we have done a bit of everything; lessons (good but not as good as in UK), stealing sons homework books - having a child at the start of primary is a great way of learning, immersing ourselves into village life and helping at school - amazing how a 3 day live-in school trip where you are the only English Mum can help your vocab. We also use the good old internet - where would we be without it? I can highly recommend both of these podcast based tools.
http://www.coffeebreakfrench.com
http://www.onethinginafrenchday.com


(Sara Louise) #8

Before I moved to France I made hundreds of flashcards for vocabulary. Between writing them and reviewing them on the bus journey to work, most of the words have stuck. Now that I’m here I take lessons with an amazing teacher located in Salon-de-Provence. She taught at Alliance de Francais in Washington DC for years before moving back to France. If anyone is interested in learning French and lives in or around Salon-de-Provence I’d be happy to pass along her details.
Oh, and also, I think the Coffee Break French podcasts are brilliant too!


(Sheila Walshe-Blackmore) #9

I started with Michel Thomas, then went to a local class. Did 3 stints in Aix-en-Provence (lovely place!) in school there.

Laboriously transcribed the Michel Thomas CDs (the first 8 discs), which I fnd really usefull as a quick refersher - usually done on the plane on the way over to France.



After last trip for a week in Aix, was awarded C1 certificate which was great, but in practice, I find that I can compose the perfect grammatically correct question, and fail miserably in understanding the rapid fire response. I also find the phone very difficult, as you don’t have the visual clues (such as THAT shrug).



Think I still have my transcription of Michel Thomas somewhere and will look for it tomorrow, if anyone wants it. Aside from that, we spent one month in April and one month in October in France, and I found that even after only 4 weeks, each time I went home with more French.



I must say I highly recommend Michel Thomas if you are just starting out, or like me, did 5 years of French in school many, many years ago, and never having used it, forgot most of what you learnt! :slight_smile: