How to Become Fluent in French
Reasons for learning French
There are many good reasons for learning French. First of all, it is an international language spoken by over 200 million people in 43 countries on five continents. France has a large spectrum of culture to offer in the area of art, music, dance, fashion, cuisine and cinema. Many prolific movies were produced by the French. Some of the most influential writers came from France and French literature is known as one of the most brilliant and significant components of Western literature. If you know French you are able to read the great works of Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, André Gide, Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Claude Simon and J.M.G. Le Clézio, many of which have won a Nobel Prize in literature. 45% of English vocabulary is derived from French: acceptable, décolleté, diameter, illumination, millionaire, novelty, solution, variation and there are hundreds more. By learning French, you will thus additionally be able to extend your word pool and enhance your vocabulary in English.
You will be able to travel to Quebec (Canada), France, the French oversea departments Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Mayotte, talk to the native people and get to know their culture in a way that a tourist who does not speak the language never will.
Last but not least, you will be able to open many doors for you in the future. You might get accepted at a graduate school or get a job at a renowned French company located in the US such as Renault, Air France-KLM, L’Oréal USA, Lancôme, Yves Rocher, Perno Ricard, Perrier, Capgemini, Alcatel-Lucent, UBIFRANCE, Lazard, Vivendi or Group GdfSuez, amongst others.
You might also be interested in working at an American company in France such as IBM, Microsoft, Mattel, Dow Chemical, Sara Lee, Ford, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Motorola, Steelcase or Johnson & Johnson, amongst others.
If you want to become fluent in French, you need to know where to find the right sources with appropriate learning material for every proficiency level. Some recommendable websites on which you can find good learning material include:
On this website you can find learning material for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced students. The interactive course “French steps” guides you through various lessons and lets you build sentences and speak and write. This course is perfect for those needing a crash course before going to France on vacation, on a business trip or for another occasion requiring basic French knowledge. In this interactive course, you can benefit from the audio in which native speakers speak French with a clear, articulate accent. Situations that are covered include taking a taxi, asking for directions, buying food and clothing, taking public transport, talking about your family, introducing yourself and much more.
The BBC Website also offers online video lessons through which you can watch videos with French native speakers, learn how to say hello, greet your friends, talk about food and drinks, talk about leisure activities and giving directions. The video lessons are accompanied by worksheets, transcripts and activities. The website also provides French grammar, French pronunciation, French vocabulary and news and radio channels. A great news channel with exercises for advanced students is TV5Monde where different exercises and activities are provided for various recent news topics such as the European crisis, immigration etc.
Another great source provided by BBC is the The BBC TV programme The French Connection. It looks at how French is spoken in different French-speaking countries such as Sénégal, Algérie, Québec, Martinique and Guadeloupe and France. You can listen to podcasts while reading the corresponding article or watch videos with subtitlesin English and French in the units 1-24 with exercises and activities.
The BBC language website provides great ways to explore the French language and you will find many more treasures as you dive into the different programs.
Bonjour.com is aimed at beginners who want to learn how to pronounce French words correctly. The website provides audio and shows the way you pronounce each word. Themes dealt with are the alphabet, numbers, days, months, seasons, question words, quantities, weather and time, asking for help, emergencies, banks, taxis, restaurants, transportation, finding your way, tourist places, socializing and French expressions.
This website provides you with the theory of French grammar and vocabulary. You will learn articles, adjectives, verbs, conjunctions, how to ask questions and find the correct answers, how to form the negation and how to construct sentences and use the correct word order. You can find quizzes on this website to test your knowledge as well as tutorial videos for French beginners and intermediate learners presented by English and French native speakers.
Livemocha provides language courses in 38 different languages as well as a platform where native speakers and learners can interact with each other and give each other learning support such as the correction of exercises. The site claims to have 12 million registered users from 196 countries around the world and 400,000 daily returning users. On this website you can learn basic French, conversational French and French for holiday purposes. You can find a free basic interactive course as well as an advanced course for which you have to pay a monthly fee. This course aims at giving you the possibility to achieve conversational fluency. In all of the Livemocha courses, students practice reading, writing, speaking and listening. Livemocha also has its own language tutors which whom you can take private lessons over Skype.
French Classes with a Teacher
Obviously, all of the self-studying courses you find online can never replace the efficiency of live lessons with a native French teacher. Although, these lessons are much more expensive, you can progress more quickly and receive high-quality language training. Learning with a real language teacher will give you the opportunity to learn the correct French pronunciation from scratch, communicate with a native speaker and learn to speak naturally and confidently. There are many e-learning companies which provide online lessons with a native teacher. This is the ideal solution for those that don’t have time to visit a language school and prefer taking classes in familiar surroundings such as their home or their office. Renowned e-learning companies are:
- MyWebAcademy - MyWebAcademy is an e-learning company from Germany offering online language training for individuals and groups. You can study from home, your office or any other convenient location. Teachers are qualified native speakers and teach you in an interactive virtual classroom where you will talk to the teacher, use a whiteboard, work on worksheets and puzzles, watch videos and read a variety of different texts. The classes are tailored to the student's needs and can be taken around the clock and whenever you have a free slot in your schedule. All you need is a headset with a microphone, a computer or laptop and an internet connection.
- Learnship Networks - Learnship Networks is another e-learning company from Germany which uses an advanced virtual classroom to teach student from all over the world. Teachers are qualified and possess years of teaching experience.
- VerbalPlanet - VerbalPlanet is a language services company from the UK, where you can choose the teacher you want to study with. You can make your selection depending on the teacher's nationality, native language, price, availability and earned reviews.
- Language Real - This company is interesting for people from Russia who are looking for a reliable e-learning company based in Russia. Classes are conducted via Skype by native teachers.
- Livemocha - Livemocha has its oven live tutors as well as interactive self-study units for those who prefer studying on their own. Livemocha also enables you to communicate with native speakers who will help you improve your language skills by correcting your exercises.
The French Alphabet
Listen to French on a daily basis
Listening to French speakers on a daily basis is the most effective way to learn to speak the language. At the beginning, you might only understand a couple of words but don’t get discouraged. If you listen to the French radio watch French TV on a daily basis or at least 2-3 times a week, you will see that you will start understanding entire phrases and sentences in a short period of time. It is important that you do this regularly. It is better to listen to French 10 minutes every day instead of one hour once a week. Regularity and consistency is the most important aspect when learning to speak French.
These are some websites where you will find radio programs, TV channels and news channels for advanced learners:
Arte is a French-German TV channel that broadcasts shows, movies and documentaries that are synchronized in French as well as German. I really enjoy watching their productions which are based on science, sociology or economy. One very interesting talkshow is "28 minutes" which is broadcasted every day for 40 minutes. You can even watch it in French with German subtitles on the website for 7 days. Another show I really like is Real Humans which is about "Hubots", a new generation of robots that humans make use of in their daily lives. However, they are not just robots. They eventually start to develop feelings and even build up relationships with the humans. A controversial but highly interesting show!
Le Figaro is a French daily newspaper with a conservative editorial line.
RFI (you fill find many interesting podcasts here)
Le Monde (a French daily evening newspaper easily obtainable in foreign countries)
Have fun learning French! Au revoir!
French Grammar in 145 minutes
10 More Useful Tips on How to Become Fluent in French
1. Practice all four primary language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking
2. Study on a regular basis (15 minutes every day are more useful than 2 hours on a single day per week). Persistence and regularity are the key to learning a foreign language
3. Use a variety of high-quality sources instead of a single source. You will find some useful sources above
4. Watch TV, listen to the radio and study grammar, vocabulary and syntax
5. Repeat, repeat and repeat what you learned
6. Listen to French native speakers as often as possible (watch French television, do audio exercises and talk to your teacher)
7. Write French texts and correct them with your tutor
8. Plan a trip to a French-speaking country and talk to the natives
9. Make flash cards with useful phrases and vocabulary and take the flash cards to your office (you can spare 10 minutes of your working day to study vocabulary)
10. Talk to French speakers on MyLanguageExchange: You can talk to people from all over the world and write emails with them or talk to them on Skype. They can teach you slang and colloquialism that you will not learn in a classical language course.