How to Learn French Quickly

Four Methods:Creating an Immersive EnvironmentLearning With FilmsEquipping Yourself With the BasicsMaking Your Learning Useful

Most people learn foreign languages by taking classes once or twice a week. Unfortunately, this can take time and may not suit your learning speed. If you’re in a rush to learn French, you need to dive headfirst into the language. Stock up on some language-learning essentials like translation dictionaries and phrasebooks, then pick up a few French films and newspapers. Turn your internet radio to French stations and make new French-speaking friends to polish your skills.

Method 1
Creating an Immersive Environment

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    Use French as the standard language on your technology.[1] Change the default operating system language on your phone, tablet, and computer to French. This way, you’ll be forced to navigate French menus every time you operate your phone or computer. Be sure to write down the steps on how to change it back just in case you find that its a bit too immersive for you.
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    Read French every day. Do everything online that you’d normally do, but do it in French. Check the news, the weather, and maps in with French sites. Read newspapers and books in French, as well. Check your local library or bookstore for French-language novels, periodicals, and newspapers.
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    Practice speaking with a French speaker.[2] If you’re in a cosmopolitan area, you probably have a French club in your area where you can meet native French speakers to practice your language abilities and learn more about French culture. Check your local community bulletins or sites like to search for French clubs in your area.
    • If you feel comfortable, ask a French speaker to meet you for coffee outside the club for more intensive, one-on-one French language practice. The more advice and assistance you can get from native speakers, the easier the language acquisition process will be for you.
    • If you don’t have a French club in your area, you could start one, or ask a close friend to learn the language with you. After studying on your own for a time, you can practice speaking with each other. Be sure that your friend is at a level close to you, though, otherwise you will not be significantly improving your abilities.
    • You could also consider getting French lessons via Skype. Many websites offer personalized French lessons through video chat for a fee.[3] Other sites (, for instance) connect speakers of different languages to each other for free, but you won’t be paired with someone trained in teaching conversational French.
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    Learn songs in French. Listen to French music with simple lyrics and English translations. Children’s songs work well for this, as do jazz, pop, or folk songs. Whatever genre you choose, be sure you enjoy listening to it, then listen to the songs on repeat over and over until you know and understand their lyrics. Use a French-English dictionary to translate words whose meaning you are unsure of.
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    Mimic full French sentences.[4] Sentence miming is the process whereby you memorize and use full sentences in French. This method is in opposition to the time-consuming process of learning extensive grammar rules and individual pieces of vocabulary. Sentence miming will get you speaking French right out the gate. When you hear a French speaker say a useful phrase, copy their intonation and pronunciation so that you can use the whole sentence when you want to.
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    Use the scriptorium technique. The scriptorium technique involves writing original sentences in French, then reading them out loud. The sentences you choose to write could be provided by a native speaker, but the most useful ones will be original to you. They could also be drawn from a self-teaching book with French sentences on one page and the English translations on the opposite page. If you need help nailing the pronunciations when writing and reading the sentences, ask a native speaker to help you.
    • Choose sentences with words that relate to your life and experiences or sentences that you will find useful should you ever want to travel to a French-speaking nation.
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    Enroll in an immersive class. If you don’t want to teach yourself, take an immersive class. Immersive French classes differ from regular French classes in that they require you to be in class five days each week for about three hours. From the time you walk through the door to the time the class ends, you’ll be speaking French and hearing French from your teacher and classmates.
    • During that time, you might do all the things you’d do in a regular class: role-playing, reading out loud, practicing vocabulary with games, and taking tests. The demand on you to use French nonstop will improve your abilities and force you to learn French quickly.
    • Check the credentials of the school and teacher before enrolling in a class. If they are unqualified, look elsewhere for a class.[5]
    • Immersive classes should consists of students whose abilities are all at a similar level.
    • If you don’t have the time or money to take a class, stick with self-teaching.
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    Listen to French audio. Listening to a podcast or French-language lesson with your phone or MP3 player could give you an extra dose of French instruction when you’re on the go.[6] There are a huge variety of French shows, instructional recordings, and podcasts. Check online for ones that pique your interests and improve your French.
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    Go to a French-speaking country. Why bother creating a French-immersive environment when you could just visit one? There are many places around the world where French is the primary or secondary language. French-speaking regions or countries you might want to visit include:
    • France
    • Belgium
    • Algeria
    • Gabon
    • Senegal
    • Quebec

Method 2
Learning With Films

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    Watch French films with subtitles.[7] Ensure the videos have French subtitles. The combination of audio, video, and text in subtitled videos makes them a powerful learning tool as they engage many learning styles. Try to watch at least thirty minutes each day.
    • Do not choose a romantic comedy when you prefer science fiction. Look for films that you’ll enjoy watching so that the language learning process is pleasant.
    • Memorize a few of the simple sentences in the films you watch to learn useful new phrases.
    • If you want to watch TV programs instead of (or in addition to) French films, search online for ones you’ll enjoy. For instance, you could run a search for “French baseball game” if you enjoy baseball. Whatever video you choose, ensure it has subtitles.
    • Put the videos on your phone or tablet so you can watch them on the bus or train.
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    Choose a scene in the film you selected and watch it.[8] Listen carefully and write as much of the dialogue down as possible. When you have trouble with vocabulary, use a French-English dictionary. Alternately, change the subtitles to English so you can get the meaning of the sentence before reading the French subtitles.
    • You don’t need to progress in a linear way through the film from start to finish. Feel free to skip around within the film to learn dialogue relevant to your interests.
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    Transcribe at least 20-30 sentences of the film each day.[9] Obtain a notebook and use it exclusively for transcribing sentences from French films. Write the date at the top of each new entry in the notebook so you can track your progress and easily locate a sentence that you want to review from a prior session. Number your sentences so you know when you’ve written between 20 and 30. Read each word out loud as you write it.
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    Review the sentences you transcribed.[10] You should read the sentences out loud at least once at the end of every study session and at the start of the next day’s session. If you have trouble with a particular sentence or word, read it out loud multiple times until you feel comfortable with it. This will ensure you get important practice speaking French as well as writing and reading it.

Method 3
Equipping Yourself With the Basics

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    Make a designated study space for yourself.[11] Your study space should be free of distractions like your phone or TV (unless you’re using them during the study session). It should be quiet and well-lit, with a clean, uncluttered desk. When you’re ready to study French, go to your study space and begin learning.
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    Practice French on the go, as well as at home. Study in both long and short sessions throughout the day. When you have ten or fifteen minutes free during lunch or when traveling on the bus, you should break out your French books and study materials, or pop some earbuds in and listen to some French conversation. Then, when you have time after or before work, sit for at least an hour and practice French intensively in your designated study space.
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    Obtain a French-English dictionary.[12] A translation dictionary is a crucial element in any attempt to learn French quickly. If you hear or read a word you’re unfamiliar with, you can look it up to learn what it means with your dictionary. If you don’t know a certain word in French, you can look it up in English to get its French translation.
    • When you look up new words, or if you have words that give you trouble, write them in your study journal and repeat them out loud at least three times.
    • Look up words that you can relate to your own life. For instance, if you’re a computer programmer, look up the words necessary to introduce yourself and say, “I’m a computer programmer.”[13]
    • Don’t check the dictionary constantly. Doing so may hamper your learning process. Use the dictionary only when you need to check the meaning of a certain word or words. Focus instead on getting the overall meaning of things, and the general phrasing of sentences, rather than on the meaning of individual words.
    • Furthermore, it's more productive to try and guess at the meaning of words you don't know before looking them up in a dictionary.
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    Obtain a phrasebook.[14] French phrasebooks are designed for self-learners or travelers who want to learn important phrases or keywords when traveling through the French-speaking world. These books are useful tools to help you learn key phrases and practice sentence miming.
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    Buy a French-language textbook. The textbook will have elements of the phrasebook, but it will also clarify pronunciation, grammar, and provide greater depth than the phrase book will. The best textbooks will include a CD with audio on it to help familiarize you with conversational French and provide opportunities for speaking practice. Check your local bookstore for French-language texbooks.
    • While a deep understanding of French grammar is not necessary to learn the language quickly, understanding some basic rules regarding subject, object, and verb placement might be useful.
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    Use an online program or app. There are many apps and online programs available that turn learning French into a fun game. For instance, Babbel and Duolingo are two popular websites that allow you to learn French (among other languages) at your own pace and at your own level. Brief lessons followed by quizzes on the material will let you set your own pace and learn as quickly as you want.
    • There are also some more expensive programs available like Rosetta Stone that serve the same function as the online learning tools and apps.

Method 4
Making Your Learning Useful

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    Stay motivated.[15] Adopt the right attitude when learning French quickly by reminding yourself of why you want to learn the language. Are you planning a summer trip to Paris? Are you doing humanitarian work in Algeria? Are you trying to impress a friend from Belgium? Whatever your reason for learning French quickly, stay motivated by writing your purpose down in the front cover of the notebook you use during your French study sessions.
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    Prioritize your learning.[16] Don’t bother trying to learn vocabulary and sentences relating to, for instance, nuclear physics if your learning goal is to prepare yourself for a vacation in Nice. Focus on the most useful phrases and words pertaining to your situation and goals.
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    Attach sticky notes with French words to household objects. The sticky note should have the name of the objects written on it.[17] For instance, you might write the word “frigo” on a sticky note and stick it on the fridge. That way, every time you go to open your fridge, or even just walk past it, you’ll see the word and make the association in your head that “frigo” means fridge.
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    Connect French phrases to objects and images, not English translations. Because of grammatical differences between French and English, you might get confused if you try to translate directly between the two languages. Instead, learn whole phrases and use imagery to remember them. For instance, you might remember the French phrase “Je t'aime,” (“I love you”) with a mental image of two people kissing.
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    Practice French as much as possible. Even if you aren’t speaking French out loud, say the French word for everything you see and touch in your head. When you think, do it in French.[18] Try to incorporate simple French words or phrases into conversation with your close friends and family -- for instance, you might answer a friend’s question with a simple “Oui” or “Bien.”

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Categories: World Languages | French