I Want To Learn French, Where Do I Start?

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One of the most frequent question I get on Facebook is "I want to learn French - where do I start?" French is a vast language, and there are so many resources available, it's really easy to get lost. So before you start studying anything, there are some things you should know, and questions you need to ask yourself…

There are two French languages

Written French (which I often refer to as "book" French) and modern spoken French (which I call "street" French).

 

  • Book French is what you'd study in a school, and in typical grammar methods. It's the structure of French, and you cannot master French without it.
  • Modern spoken French uses all these rules, but with strong pronunciation variations and sometimes softer grammatical structures.

For example, here is a typical book French question:
- Quand Camille va-t-elle nager ?

The same question in street French:
- Camille va nager quand-ça ?

Both mean "When is Camille going swimming?" but if one is grammatically correct, the purists will agree that the second one is not. However, it's likely even the purists would use the street French way when they speak to their family and are not in the spotlight…

Do you want to learn French to pass tests?

Then the core of your studies should be on book French. Learn the grammar, learn the topics most common in tests, check exactly what you are supposed to master to pass your test and focus on that program.

Maybe go to a school that specializes in preparing you for the DELPH etc… Or check with your teacher for the exact requirements for your tests.

Do you want to learn French to only read French?

Then max out on vocabulary. Study the tenses, since books use them all right away when methods will usually ease you into them.

My own method focuses on using only the present tense for a long while! Also study linking words which are essential to articulate the sentences together.

Do you want to learn French to actually communicate in French?

Then you need to learn with audio. Written material cannot prepare you for the modern glidings you will hear when the French speak and you won't understand them. And if you don't use these glidings at all, they may not understand you - or at least you'll totally stand out as a foreigner.

Which brings us to my next points - figuring out what method best fits your needs  and what your options are (studying French with a tutor/ a class / in immersion or self studying).

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