Friday, October 12, 2012

Tips to easily learn French

Here are a few tips to learn French or any language easily.

Many people will tell you to watch TV or listen to radio streams in French, but I personally find that it doesn't help as much as the other things do, especially if you're not an auditory person. The reason is simple : You won't be able to make words out of what you hear, so let alone deduce meaning from the words being said, like trying to read "Cecarnetpermetdobtenirdesmédicamentsprescritsetcertainsservicesdesantéprévusparrèglement". Where are the words? What are the words? All you'll hear is an unintelligible puddle of sounds and you won't be able to make words out of it. So before you can expect to understand spoken French, you first have to know what words sound like, so when you hear the sounds, you recognize the words.

The first step in understanding spoken French would be, in my opinion, to learn the lyrics of French songs. You don't have to actually understand the words. You just have to know them so when you hear them, you know that *this is a word* *this is a word* *this is a word*. For example, I know Dragosta Din Tei, a Romanian song. I know many Japanese songs, of which I could write down the words even though I don't understand what they mean. When I watch an anime, I can make out many words even though I don't understand what they mean. So if I ever wanted to actually learn Japanese, it would be very easy since I already know many words, I just don't know their meaning.

By learning the lyrics of French songs, you will kill 2 birds with 1 stone : You will learn what words look and sound like. You should take a look at Marie-Mai. Her music is great and catchy.

Now, to actually understand French. There are many methods, but this is my favorite method. Find a video game that you love, that you know you get addicted to and play it in French with French subtitles. It is better if it's a game that requires you to understand what's being said, like a game where you have to fetch objects or do tasks to get to the next level. A game that is repetitive is a good idea, as it will keep you reading the same things over and over again and really require that you understand what you read. For example, strategy games, city building games, simulators, RPGs, like Sims, Spore, Civilisation, Pharaon, Pokémon. These types of games have events that happen and require you to understand in order to respond appropriately.
Change the language of your computer, Facebook, cellphone, TV to French.
Add French speaking people (who speak good French on the Internet!) to your Facebook and read their posts.
Find a TV show or a movie that you like and watch it in French with French subtitles. While a movie is good, a TV show is better as it lasts longer, so the same vocabulary is used over and over again so their meaning sticks in your head and the recurring context helps understanding things as a whole.
Find scanlations of mangas in French.
Read French comic strips.

About figuring out what some words mean. Of course there is context, but something very useful is noticing words that look like other words or are composed of other words. For example, the verb "user" (French). It also means "to use", but it is not commonly used for this meaning. The most common meaning it is used for it "to wear out/down".
You know it looks like the English verb "to use" and like "user" as in "computer user". Wearing something down implies using something. That's where the words are related in meaning. Utile (Fr), user (Fr-En), utiliser, utilisateur, all those English and French word have the same Latin root "usare" (derivative of the past participle "usus", from the verb in classical Latin "Uti") which means "to make use of". Wikipedia says that 50,000 words, which is 1/3 of the English vocabulary, is of French origin. Of those words, there are many that have an obvious common root with French words, so you can use that to deduce their meaning.

Doing this, you should be able to understand French in a very reasonable time.

Actually using French.
In the end, the thing most people learning French have problems with, is something as simple as feminine versus masculine nouns. It is understandably very difficult to get down, because there is no rule, no pattern and so many words to know. It is something you will learn out of habit, by reading and listening to French a lot.... a lot.... until gender becomes ingrained in words in your mental French dictionary.

If you find yourself looking for a word, try making one up out of an English word. Seriously! Take an English word and turn it into a French word. I did it often in English and it often worked. Once, it turned out to be a very fancy word that people don't use a lot in English, so much that they doubted it existed.... but it did! I started accidentally looking very fancy. Hahahaha. So make up a word that would look like a French word, then look it up. It might very well exist.

If you are looking for an expression or some specialized vocabulary, use Wikipedia. Look up the subject in English then switch to the French version of the page to find what you are looking for. It works really great.

Talk to yourself in French. Think in French. Say out loud to yourself what you think in French. Be one of those silly people in the mall who talk to themselves, but do it in French... and not in the mall! It is silly, but I kind of have an "imaginary friend" who I talk in English to when I'm alone (>.>) and it helps a lot with pronunciation and getting used to talk in English. Knowing how things should sound is totally different from actually managing to make it sound that way. Not stuttering and getting rid of the thick accent requires a lot of practice.