In addition to being a beautifully-sounding language, French can be a great investment if you plan to live abroad, want to make new friends, discover a fascinating culture, or travel to French-speaking countries with ease. More than 30 countries have French as their official language and second language speakers are scattered all over the world, which means you’ll never run out of opportunities to put your French into use.
The best part is that French is not that different from the English language. In fact, they have had a very close relationship for thousands of years, influencing each other in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation! Take a look at this French guide and discover why learning French today is a brilliant idea.
French & English: How Are They Related?
Surprising as it may sound, the English and French languages have been related ever since the 11th century when William the Conqueror from Normandy became king of England. As of that moment, French became the official language of the court and the nobility, while English continued to be used by the common people.
From then onwards, over 10,000 French words entered the English language and are still used today. Some examples include beef, royal, ballet, bouquet, or espionage. This means that when you start studying French you’ll recognize thousands of words and expressions, making your learning process so much easier.
Basic French Grammar Rules
Learning the grammar rules of any language can be hard and tedious, but with the right materials (and the right teacher!), you’ll soon understand the nuances of the French language. Here we present you with some of the basics so you start getting familiar with the French grammar system:
As you may expect from a Romance language, French has gender for nouns, adjectives, and articles, which can be either masculine or feminine. This gender is arbitrary, so you simply need to learn it by heart. While a person is feminine in French (une personne), a problem is masculine (le problème). There are however a few guidelines to make this easier.
of Feminine Nouns
|-ance, as in une abondance (abundance)|
|-ière, as in une cafetière (a coffee shop)|
|-sion/tion, as in une adoption (an adoption)|
|-ie, as in une acadèmie (an academy)|
|-esse, as in une caresse (a caress)|
|-ette, as in une baguette (a piece of bread)|
of Masculine Nouns
|-eau, as in le bateau (the boat)|
|-ège, as in un collège (a university)|
|-ème, as in le problème (a problem)|
|-er, as in le boucher (the butcher)|
|-et, as in un navet (a turnip)|
|-isme, as in le cyclisme (cycling)|
|-ent, as in le gouvernement (the government)|
In French, adjectives are also gendered and can be singular or plural. But, different to English, the order of adjectives is not fixed before the noun. In fact, most of them go after the noun except for some exceptions. So, a white house is a maison blanche (adjective after the noun), but for adjectives that refer to beauty, age, goodness, or size, they come before the noun. If you want to say that a house is beautiful, then, you would say une belle maison instead of une maison belle.
The verb system in French can be difficult to learn, as the verbs are inflected for tense, number, mood, and person. So, in the present simple tense, you would find 6 different conjugations, instead of one or two as in English. Here are some examples:
|I (Je)||Will eat||Mangerai|
|You (tu)||Will eat||Mangeras|
|He/She (il/elle)||Will eat||Mangera|
|We (nous)||Will eat||Mangerons|
|You (vous)||Will eat||Mangerez|
|They (ils/elles)||Will eat||Mangeront|
The good news is that there are many rules you can study to remember how to conjugate verbs depending on their ending. These are some examples, but there are many more you can study with your French tutor!
- Verbs with an infinitive ending in -er take regular endings. The ones for the present tense are -e. -es, -ons, -ez, and -ent.
- Verbs that end in -ir also take regular endings. The endings for the present tense are: - is, -it- issons, -issez, -issent.
- Verbs that end in -re take the following endings in the present tense: -re, -s, -s, -ons, -ez-, and -ent.
How to Learn French Online
If you are looking for some ideas on how to complement your French lessons with the endless free resources you can find online, here are some effective ideas so you can take your skills to the next level almost effortlessly!
- Use music to get familiar with pronunciation and vocabulary. Today, you can find thousands of playlists by artists of different genres on YouTube, Spotify, and other platforms like Vimeo. Take advantage of the embedded lyrics feature and sing along with your favourite songs to improve your French accent!
- Another resource you can use to improve your listening skills is podcasts. Again, you can find hundreds of podcasts out there for free on platforms such as Podcast Française Facile.
- Use social media in your favour and start following French influencers. In this way, you’ll learn new words and informal expressions in an entertaining way during your free time! If you are interested in fashion and style, for example, you can follow Jenn Abbey while those interested in travel can follow Solene OJ.
How Long Does it Take to Learn French?
While there’s no fixed answer for this question, there are certain factors that will determine how fast or how slow you can learn French. These are some of them:
- Your motivation. As with anything in life, your motivation will affect how fast you can learn French. While it can be hard to stay motivated all the time when learning alone, having a suitable teacher will definitely help you keep your spirits high when studying French!
- How much time you devote to studying. It’s not the same to spend a couple of hours a day studying and then not do anything in the language for the rest of the week than to spend at least half an hour every day completing exercises, using a language app, listening to music in French, or at least reading social media posts in your target language.
- Learning alone or not. Studying French on your own can be a great advantage in terms of flexibility and cost because you can find loads of materials online for free. But how are you going to hone your speaking skills if you can’t practise with anyone but yourself? How are you going to know if you’re making mistakes without a teacher to give you feedback?
- Your mother tongue. Speakers of Romance languages will find it relatively effortless to learn French because these languages are very similar. But don’t be discouraged if you speak only English. The Foreign Service Institute of the USA classifies French as a Category 1 language, meaning you only need 600 hours of study to be able to have a fluent conversation (as opposed to Category 4 languages such as Korean, for which you’ll need around 2,200 hours!).
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