Things To Know Before You Start To Learn French

by erin on December 23, 2010

Lovers of culture across the world strive to learn French fast with the hopes of making the most of their trip to France. It is hard to pin down how many people try their hand at the language of love but it certainly has its benefits. France’s history and its people’s particular outlook on the world make this linguistic ability even more attractive.

Not too long ago, as many French people point out, French was the language of literature, law, fashion and much more. To a certain extent, it still is. However, English has become the lingua franca in much of the world. Despite this change, the French are still very proud of their language, which often seems rude to visitors. However, just learning a few expressions can go a long way in bridging this cultural gap.

Visitors should keep in mind that basic greetings and other formalities may be more important in France than they are in other countries. For example, a simple “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” really help show that you have made an effort. Their absence can smack of arrogance to some. So, even if visitors never learn any other expressions, basics like this can really change the nature of interactions with the locals for the better.

A major concern for many learners is the pronunciation. It is true that French is not easy to pronounce correctly, even for more advanced learners. However, once you know the pronunciation, you should not get down on yourself about small errors. One thing to keep in mind is that there are speakers from all over the world who have added their own nuances to the language over time. Perfect Parisian French may not be rolling off your tongue but people should still be able to understand.

Another big obstacle to becoming proficient at French is the sheer number of conjugations. Even just in the present tense, these can be intimidating. If you can break them up into distinct groups, you will find memorization a little easier. As for the irregulars, only practice can really drill them into your mind. A lot of good books, CDs and software provide ways to practice on your own.

Another consideration for speakers of some languages is how to deal with the different levels of formality. French has two distinct verb conjugations to address people in the second person. Choosing which one to focus on really depends on your purpose for learning the language. Students will usually find that they rarely employ the “vous” form, except with professors. People traveling on business, though, might benefit from getting comfortable with the “vous” and then learning to speak more informally later. Of course, to really master the language, you will have to fully understand both.

A slightly trickier problem which can lead to some awkward situations is that of “faux amis” or “false friends”. So many French words have been borrowed by English speakers over the years. This makes it hard to fight the tendency to assume that any word that sounds like English has the same meaning in French. Again, plenty of resources exist to steer you away from these traps.

Studying to learn new languages is difficult. However, those who make the effort to learn French will reap rewards in many areas. Travel will become easier, new literary insights will open up and learners will gain a greater understanding of European cultural, historical and political history. At the very least, you will access another part of your mind and become a more knowledgeable person.

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