The Best Ways to Learn How to Speak French

If you want to speak French well, you need lots of study and practice.

Students having a discussion
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Updated by Camille Chevalier Karfis

There's no magic formula for learning how to speak French, or any language for that matter. It requires lots of time, energy and patience.

There are, however, some techniques that will make your study of French more efficient and, thus, help you learn the language more quickly.

The two main elements of language study are learning and practicing, and they go hand in hand.

Memorizing vocabulary words won't do any good if you are unable to use them, so you should supplement your studies with practice.

The following tips for learning French include plenty of practice ideas. If you really want to learn how to speak French, do as many of the following as possible.

Learn With French Classes

One of the most efficient ways to learn how to speak French is to take a class.

If you don't want to attend a language school, there are almost certainly some reasonably priced French classes available at your local community college or adult education center.

Check out who the teacher is: Is the teacher French? From which region? How long has that person been a teacher? A class is only as good as the teacher.

Learn With French Immersion

If at all possible, spend some time in a French-speaking country. That is absolutely the best way to learn French. But there again, choosing your French learning program is the key.

For adults, I strongly recommend learning French in immersion at a homestay with a French teacher: You'll get the individual attention and unique guidance of a French teacher and the experience of immersing yourself in a French culture.

But there are also many French language schools abroad in France and elsewhere offering various programs.

Take the time to research the school, the teachers, the location and the accommodation arrangements before you make your choice. 

Learn With Online French Lessons

Work on the basic vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar and verb lessons in French for Beginners. Your first lesson? "I want to learn French. Where do I start?"

Self-study, though, is not for everybody. Most people need the guidance of a teacher to successfully conquer French, or at least, a well organized French learning tool. Read Best Resources For Self-Study French for options.

Listen to French

Listen to spoken French every day. The more you listen, the easier it will be for you to acquire that lovely French accent.

Invest in a good French audio method: Spoken French and written French are like two different languages. It is essential you train with level-appropriate audio aids to conquer French pronunciation.

Listen to French music. You may not understand all the words, but singing French songs out loud is a great way to get in the swing of the French language rhythm and a fun way to learn new vocabulary.

Watch out for French movies though. They are a great tool for advanced students, but the fast, idiomatic dialogues in them can break the spirit of a beginner.

French movies and French radio are made for French people, not students, and they are often overwhelming for a beginning student of French. 

Read French

French newspapers and magazines make good tools for advanced students. For each article, make a list of the words you don't know, look them all up after you finish the article, and then read it again while referring to the list.

The same for French literature. Check out bilingual books and see if they help you.

Use a dictionary to make flash cards and themed word lists.

  • Use the flash cards to label everything in your house: doors, walls, bookshelves, rooms, and more.
  • Keep word lists in a binder. Flip through the pages every day to test yourself. When you're sure that you know every word on a list, remove it from the binder to make room for new lists.

    Speak French

    To speak French, not only do you need to know French, but you also need to get over your anxiety about speaking it in front of other people. And the only way to do this is to practice with other people.

    French learning software and French audiobooks can prepare you to understand the French. Plus, you can learn a lot by answering questions out loud and repeating common sentences.

    That said, nothing will ever replace real-life interaction. To learn to speak French, you need to actually speak! Check out local French classes; there may be an Alliance Française near you or a community college that offers French conversation classes, or try taking a French class by Skype

    But I strongly believe the best way to quickly improve your French speaking fluency is to have an immersion experience in France.

    Do you feel nervous when you try to speak? Follow tips for overcoming your anxiety about speaking French and see what happens.

    Learn French With Social Media

    Check out the Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages of your favorite French profs, and join them there to learn more French.