Tips to learn French faster

These tips are for beginners or non-beginners, to facilitate and to improve your French learning process.
It is also about : how to save energy, money and time, and how to integrate French into your life … for life.

Mix long-term and crash courses

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Learning a new language takes time, it's not like studying science. So, if you do not want stress, if you want to manage risks, to integrate the language well , get ready to work long-term in order to succeed. This is the particularity of learning a language.

On the other hand, intensive preparation can help you overcome your difficulties, go faster, or quickly learn exam techniques.

Plan your exam

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If you have to pass an exam, build a schedule to determine when you need to take the exam. You will know how much time you have to prepare for it.

Know your deadline and try to keep a time safety margin

Take MICRO STEPS

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Create micro-steps to measure your work, such as :

  • Mastering basic politeness formulas in ....
  • Speaking about family with colleagues in ...
  • Having a small conversation about weekends and coffee with colleagues in ...
  • Finding a French interlocutor at work, or school, ... 
  • Participating in a discussion group ...
  • Writing emails to a friend ...
  • Reading reports in French ...
  • ...

Work on the 4 SKILLS

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Work on the four skills SPEAKING, LISTENING, READING, and WRITING because they are interconnected.
2 examples :
_ Writing, compared to Speaking, is an activity where you have time to think about your message, about the structures, tenses and to look for right vocabulary ...
_ Reading, compared to Listening, allows more time to examine vocabulary, sentence structure, and to better understand audio books (e.g. "liaisons").

Work regularly ! ... it's that's the KEY

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Practice regularly, especially if you do not speak French at home and/or at work.
Some people are able to work alone regularly  and others prefer the stimulation of working in groups (School), and interacting with others.

The point is to work regularly. That's the KEY !

Connect French to your life ... another KEY

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Connect it !

Connect French to your environment to practice easily and to facilitate memorizing. Look at the next 5  flip-boxes (Examples are valid at any level).

Adapt these ideas to your situation and at your level, to have a stimulating environment for your French.

Connect at home ... POST-IT !

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At home and at any level, use post-its and labelled your environment. Practice at your level, make small useful sentences related to your life and speak aloud.  Work on a ‘family’ of words, on a topic.
Example 1 for beginners : "le riz, du riz, ...(noun gender !)/ Je veux du riz/ je veux un peu de riz",  ... affirmation, negation and questions.
Example 2 : at another level : "Conditionnel" and "Subjonctif" : "Il faudrait que j'aille acheter du riz.
Or : "Chéri, j'aurais aimé que tu ailles acheter du riz"
Useful and easy exercises to do at home !

Connect at home ...TOUCH IT !

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Imagine situations and speak out loud, constructing simple, useful sentences ... at your level. Do it when reading post-its, as you touch things.

Association of situations + seeing words + seeing objects + touching objects + speaking aloud stimulate learning and memorizing because everything is connected.

Try it, you’ll like it because it works very well.​

Connect ... to REAL LIFE examples !

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Take advantage of every opportunity to practice ... including the little things in life such as :

  • Order a tea or a "Soy latte" (A big challenge at busy hours)
  • Greet your neighbour
  • Say hello or more to your colleagues
  • Propose eating together, going to the cinema
  • Ask for price, information, ...
  • ...

Connect ...K.I.S.S. !

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Keep it short and simple (KISS), build small sentences for everyday conversations. On a new topic, at your level, first choose short sentences, speak out loud, work on pronunciation and intonation.
In a short sentence, we make fewer mistakes because it is easier to get the right grammar, vocabulary and intonation. In addition, if a mistake is made in a KISS sentence, you will probably "hear" the mistake without any effort.
So, be K.I.S.S. !

Improve your PRONUNCIATION

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Yes , Pronunciation is important but don't work like crazy to be perfect.
Improving your pronunciation requires the ability to distinguish French sounds, to know how to place your mouth, to know "les liaisons ", "e et h muets", ... Work on these as soon as possible to have correct pronunciation. This is necessary to produce a good message and it is also a good way to improve Listening.

(On that topic, see page : "PRONUNCIATION")

Enrich ... with INTONATION !

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Good communication is not based on a perfect pronunciation but on the proper use of intonation.
Having a slight accent does not matter if it does not alter the message. Intonation is the key.
Think about these two sentences :  "J'aime le chocolat" , and  "Je déteste le chocolat".
In French, you have to give the feeling.
Work on intonation to enrich your message. Intonation helps your audience to understand your message (connectors, punctuation, chronology, ...).
Does it make sense to you ?

(Have a look at  page : "PRONUNCIATION")

Be lazy ...with INTONATION !

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Save energy, use Intonation :

  • To better memorize
  • To automatically detect your errors
  • To send a better message (Feeling, Strength)
  • To enjoy communication and to be motivated
  • To forget bad habit such translating from another language to French

Work on your intonation, work KISS, with rhythmic groups, and start as soon as possible because intonation is a WINNER !

(Rhytmic groups : see "PRONUNCIATION")

To review is a KEY

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Reviwing is a key for 2 reasons :

  1. To have your knowledge ready to use (grammar, vocabulary, KISS sentences, expressions)
  2. To better integrate concepts in your learning

So learn new concepts, new grammar, vocabulary, ... and spend time reviewing what you learned before. If you work 40 minutes, try to devote 70% to new lessons and 30% for revision.

Dive in ! ... It's the BIG, BIG KEY !

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The ultimate goal is to be able to communicate with different kinds of people, in different environments, and in real life.
So, DIVE IN to test and to improve your Oral Communication skills in real life. The TEFAQ exam also tests these skills during Listening and Speaking tests. The ability to understand people changes depending on accent, speed, and environment...

 IMMERSION is the BIG, BIG KEY (See next 7 flip-boxes)

Dive in ... ROUTINES

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Dive in ... routines !
Examples of routines : working 40 minutes at home a few times a week, using your commute time for learning, eating with a French-speaking friend once a week, ...
Another good way to set up a routine could be, participating in a French discussion group once or twice a week (French meetups, private groups, ...) or participating in an activity with native French speakers.

Dive in ... HOBBIES

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Dive in ...and have with fun  Hobbies !

If you like knitting, dancing, photography, sports, ... do it in a French environment and mix pleasure and French. Another possibility is to volunteer in an association (Ecology, Community, IT, ...) where you can help. Ask yourself the following question: Is this a good opportunity to socialize and to practice my French?
Remember that it is always possible to give it a try. Be authentic and you will be welcome.

Dive in .... use FLASH-CARDS !

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Dive in ... using Flash-cards

Having flash-cards helps you to review quickly and easily. The goal is mainly to have vocabulary and expressions READY TO USE when speaking. Use them in context (KISS with short and useful sentences)

My advice : Choose your flash-cards according to your needs and interests to avoid becoming overwhelmed by having too many cards.

Dive in ... SPEAK, ..., and SPEAK !

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SPEAKING is communication in everyday life ! (which includes LISTENING)
So, mastering vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing without being able to speak does not lead to success. It is better to start speaking as soon as possible, at home (Simulating real conversations aloud). Then, take every opportunity to speak in real life.
Again : SPEAK, SPEAK, and SPEAK !
This is the BIG, BIG KEY !

Dive in ... use AUDIOS and SPEAK !

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Now, there are many audios books with dialogues and texts. Use these audios to analyze the language, train your ear, and mimic the pronunciation and intonation.
According to your level, use audios such as :  Audios in books for French-learning, TV, Podcasts, Videos, Songs, Karaoke, Movies, TV series, …
Again : SPEAK ! SPEAK ! and SPEAK ! ... out loud !

Dive in ... READ

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Try to read regularly and at your level
Read about your hobbies, read magazines, books, ads, newspapers, brochures, online discussion forum, ... and write down the vocabulary and expressions. 
A good exercise to correct pronunciation and "liaisons", ... is to read aloud with a native French  speaker. 

It is also possible to find books for different levels in French and in English (Left page in French, right page in English) .
Always keep your goals in mind and focus on your needs

Dive in ... WRITE

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Writing is a WINNER. It solidifies your French and helps you to memorize. When writing, you have time to think about the grammar, to remember vocabulary, to find the right way to express your ideas.

Start as soon as possible :
_ Write a professional text or a short note
_ Write an email to a friend
_ Write on an online discussion forum
_ Summarize an article
_ ...

If necessary, ask a francophone for help

Accept being ... OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE !

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Staying in one's comfort zone is safe but it provides limited progress. Recognize your discomfort and find motivation. Think about your goals, know what the risks are, and take the first step.

A tip :  Have micro-steps to measure your progress and to congratulate yourself.

It's like learning to ride a bike : we are afraid to get on the bike, we fall, it hurts, we are proud of our little progress and, after a while, we forget our big fear because we focus on moving forward.

Know your LEARNING STYLE !

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Recognize your own Learning Style

A learning style is the way you are most comfortable learning, and learning styles vary depending from person to person.

To know your own learning style is also to better understand our comfort zone, and why it is hard for some people to "dive in" Speaking.

Some information about Learning Styles (More information : HERE).

Don't worry about MISTAKES !

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Do you remember when you first started learning to dance, ride a bike or play basketball?
It is the same thing when learning a language. You have to make mistakes to progress; so do not be embarrassed, because it is your attitude, your perseverance , and your mistakes which lead to success.

So, Go ! Don’t worry about your mistakes they are a part of the learning process.

Prioritize ... your NEEDS !

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Speaking is always the first goal.
_ When starting to speak with friends : Focus on the vocabulary you need for everyday life, such as transportation, feelings, money, restaurant, cinema, expressions of politeness ...
_ If you work as a waiter in a restaurant (English and some French customers): For two weeks focus on greetings, menus, drinks, meals, ordering, bills, ... Analyze real dialogues in your first language, and go step by step in French, practice with a friend, and swap roles (Customer <-> Waiter).
Seek out opportunities to practice in real life and to naturally integrate French.

You feel OVERWHELMED ?

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You feel overwhelmed : Lots of work but tiny improvements, and you are discouraged. It's time to have a break and to reflect .
Some tips  :
_ You feel in a hurry but you have no real deadline : Accept that it takes time to learn and steps in learning curve (see next flip)
_ You are perfectionist: Mistakes are a part of the learning process
_ A deadline is too close : Boost your skills - find a friend or a tutor to identify priorities and get the best chance of achieving your goal.
_ Too much memorizing and struggling with speaking : Find a balance (see next flip)

Efforts and ... LEARNING CURVE

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Learning a language :

_ Takes time (to integrate the language)
_ The Learning curve doesn't follow The Effort curve
_ Goes in Steps
So, have a break to review and to see if you have missed a point, do your job, learn and don't forget that even if they are no apparent results, you're still improving your French. Be patient, Steps are a part of the learning process.

Strike a BALANCE

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Some additional tips to avoid becoming overwhelmed :
Focus on your needs / Review theory to see if you have missed a point / Write more about your needs / Listen to a lot of audios with transcripts / Communicate at your level, and if relevant,  forget grand ideas for a while / For difficulties in Listening : check "les liaisons", read transcripts of audios, train your ear, use intonation / If you struggle with speaking :  be KISS (+intonation) and go back to everyday life / You have the vocabulary, grammar and writing skills, but you are struggling with Speaking and lack of confidence : have private lessons with a tutor with whom you are comfortable, to overcome your difficulty,  and to gain confidence.

Manage your TIME

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Examples of Time Management :

  • Finding time (To reduce or to stop another activity).
  • Discovering where you waste your time
  • Reserving time slots and days for learning French (Routines)
  • Setting time limits for tasks
  • Being able to say "NO", and to prioritize
  • Planning activities in French once a week
  • Setting aside time for yourself
  • ...

A small NOTEBOOK ... as a friend

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Have a pen and a small notebook dedicated to French to take notes quickly when you come across a new expression, a correction, ...

Do not hesitate to take a minute to make notes for review later.

Another good friend could be the dictionary app you already have on your phone.

Boost it !

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If you have difficulties concerning one point during your learning (grammar, pronunciation, intonation, confidence, …). do not stay stuck. Do not hesitate to ask a friend or a tutor for help to overcome these difficulties and to continue your progress

Use APPS !

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These applications run on PCs, tablets and phones. They can be a good complement to books and courses, and a good booster for learning French, but they can never replace real life interactions with people.

So, if you live in a French environment, "dive in" to really integrate French. If you do not, these apps can be very helpful.

For more information, search online using these keywords "French learning tools". Every application has its strengths and weakness. Take your own needs into consideration.

CULTURE HELPS !

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Culture is a good means of connecting people.
So, for example :
_ Know famous singers or sports teams  (Celine Dion or "Les Canadiens")
_ Understand why intonation in French is important and why it might be different in another language
_ Understand why hand gestures are a part of communication, enriching oral communication

Does that make sense to you ?

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