Don’t we all admire people who speak French? They appear so sophisticated and polished when words
from that beautiful, soft language roll off their tongues in a smooth and expert manner. But why do we dread it when it’s time to learn it? It’s still the same lovely language!
What approach can you take to master this widely spoken and loved language?
1. Get immersed in the French culture
The French culture with its sumptuous cheeses, famous wines, well-known monuments and more will draw you to the language and motivate you (if you aren’t already). Get magazines, tourist guides, booklets and posters of the country. Search online for websites focused on French cuisine, monuments, holiday spots, fashion, history, cinema and sport. Allow yourself to be imbued by all these wonderful aspects of the French culture on a regular basis.
2. Use audio/visual aids
Using various media to learn the language will help you absorb it in a natural manner. Rent or buy movies and audio CDs and use these to acquaint yourself with the vocabulary, the accents, and the intonation of the language. Listening1 is a very important aspect of communication and will help you enormously in ultimately speaking the language fluently. It may take time for you to familiarize yourself with the language and in the early stages you may not understand much. However, with time and regular viewing/listening, you will find yourself understanding and identifying common French words and expressions. A fun way to practice speaking French when you are watching a French movie is to press the pause button when you hear an expression that sounds interesting and then repeating it. When you speak, try to imitate not just the words but also the accent and the intonation … kind of like as if you were acting out the role of the character. You could include the facial expressions and gestures too in order to lose your fears and ease into that French-speaking mode.
Participate in discussions with your classmates and other friends who are learning the language…or better still, start a group – a French speaking group where all members get together and speak whatever French you know. In the beginning it doesn’t matter so much whether or not you are getting your syntax right, it’s more about losing your inhibitions and conversing confidently with peers with or without mistakes. Another excellent method for building fluency in French is reading out your lessons aloud on a daily basis. If you are the shy kind, you can do this in the safety of your room, without fear of making disastrous errors in pronunciation in front of others. This compels you to listen to the text as you read it aloud. You are thus more actively participating in the learning process than if you were just reading it and you improve your aural as well as oral skills. This method is recommended2 for independent learning and builds confidence in oral expression with time.
Make sure that you try your best to imitate the original sounds and accents as you read out.
4. Do not ignore French Grammar
No matter how much you make yourself love the French language and culture, if you want to master the language, you cannot escape its grammar. You’ve just got to learn the conjugation rules3, the gender of nouns4 and the parts5 of speech6. Learn the rules and practice7 what you’ve learnt with several
Go ahead, work on this polished, sophisticated language - acquire that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes a French speaker so admired. Read all the beautiful literature you can find and then move on to writing beautiful lines yourself in this poetic language.