As we are in Quebec, it is important to know French (even if English is the language most used when dealing with business matters).
I was lucky enough to have learnt French as a child. However, a lot of you out there do not know this beautiful language. As an English instructor, the most frequent question I get is « how long does it take to learn French? » The second most frequent question is « can I learn French quickly? »
There are many sites out there that claim they’ll teach you French in X amount of time. My response: how long did it take for you to learn your mother tongue? Trying to learn French in a short amount of time is nearly impossible. It takes practice, and it’s likely to take time and effort.
Knowing this, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
We are not all made the same way.
- If you know several languages: learning another one is going to be easier.
- If you understand grammar well, learning French will be easier.
- Younger folks tend to have a better memory. Remember, as we get older, we tend to forget things.
- People who are disciplined and ready to study regularly will have a better chance at mastering French.
- Some people are like sponges: learning comes easily to them.
However, in my experience, the majority of people will need years to learn French.
Start learning French
A good idea to start in French is to memorize useful sentences by heart. There are many programs out there that claim you can learn 30 new words and sentences in a day. This way, you’ll cover a lot of French vocabulary in no time.
This may be true, you may have “covered” it, but would you be able to remember all these words after… let’s say a week? Do you think you will be able to use them in a conversation? Can you deduct by yourself the grammar constructions that rules the sentences ?
I don’t think so. It certainly would not work for me! I can’t just keep stuffing my brain with new info and hope to retain it all. That’s not how it works for the majority of us!
We learn through repetition. Practicing the same thing over and over until we don’t have to struggle as much. It takes time. And it takes energy and determination.
Learning French is fun! Learning French doesn’t have to be painful!
That is not entirely true, it cannot be all fun. Unless you have an amazing memory, memorizing all these French verb forms and grammar rules is not going to be a walk in the park…
Fun French Learning Method
Of course, some part of learning French is going to be fun. Most people enjoy learning how to express themselves. Some French videos on YouTube are really well done, and provide a fun support to learn French. So do French songs, French movies, French blogs,French podcasts, and the many French apps… There is so much to choose from nowadays!
This is particularly true when you study French vocabulary which can be presented in many different fun ways. However, that doesn’t mean that there will be no serious work to be done.
Thus, it is important to find the right French tool with which you can study. If the method is all fun, and doesn’t have you drill on verb tenses, or tackle grammar concepts, chances are you will not become fluent in French. It may be great to improve your vocabulary, or as a side studying material, but it’s likely you’ll get sucked in by the fun of it, get side-tracked, and end up wasting your time.
So, what does it actually take to learn French?
You need a plan, a serious study plan. A logical approach, which starts from the beginning and slowly but surely builds up on a strong and solid basis.
This basis needs to take into account:
- French pronunciation.
- French grammar, explained in a way you can actually understand. Many English speakers have not studied grammar in school, so the method shouldn’t expect them to know the difference between an adjective and an adverb, or what a direct object pronoun is.
- French verb conjugations, which mean a clear explanation of when to use the different French tenses.
- French vocabulary, including traditional vocabulary and common modern slang.
- Provide a way to develop your confidence and actually speak out-loud in French, whatever your level may be.
This is serious stuff. This is why many students feel stuck in their French studies: with so many different French tools out there, they waltz from one video to the next, one free lesson to the next (keep in mind, you get what you pay for), but lack a logical and progressive approach.
Now that you understand it is useless to ask « how long will it take to learn French », why not take a class to get the basics. Professional Centers, like ELC Professional Center, offer courses that are tailored to your needs.
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