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How to Start Learning French
1. Remember that learning a language is, especially when beginning, a 24-hour activity. The first months are crucial and it's great to start off on the right foot. Don't skip classes, be as organized as possible – it's fine if you slack off later (we all do it) but just not right now.
2. Don't underestimate the value of real life classes. Subscribe to French classes at the local language school, at your university or your high school. This will help you with the most crucial skill that will become handy later on – communication. It's in the classes where you'll learn expressing your ideas in French even when you don't have the vocabulary yet.
3. Never learn a word without its article. Let's take the word 'tour' as an example. If memorizing 'tour – tower or tour, journey', you will one day have to learn it over again because in fact the different meanings have different genders. Feminine 'la tour' stands for 'tower' whereas masculine 'le tour' means 'tour, visit or journey'.
This is important because native French speakers always pay attention to gender and every once in a while even when using common word in obvious context but with wrong gender, they might simply not understand what you mean. Therefore, to make it easier for yourself use always an indefinite article (better than definite as they never change into short form). 'Un chien – dog', 'un problème – problem' and so forth.
4. Visit France or other French-speaking countries. Although it's a myth that French don't speak English, it is true that they love speaking their own language. Even if you sometimes end up speaking English to locals, you can be sure that most of the time you will be able to practise your French skills. It's best to come alone not to be tempted to just spend all your time speaking English with your friends. Luckily for you French are very talkative and have important small talk culture. Sooner or later you will find yourself explaining people who you are, where does your accent come from and why you love French.
5. Better yet, organize yourself a working holiday in France. Possibilities are abundant despite the high unemployment – English language assistants, part-time jobs in service sector, working in Disneyland during holidays and many more. Even if you are hired for your native English skills, you will be quickly learning French. It takes quite a lot of planning and also some luck, but once you find a job (or an internship), you will feel how your language skills improve daily.
Some great French learning tools
- English to French, Italian, German & Spanish Dictionary - WordReference.com
My favourite French dictionary. Quick tip: on the address bar you can type directly wordreference.com/enfr/[English word] or /fren/[French word] and you will be directed straight to the translation. Very active forum!
- Learn French at About - Free French Lessons
I love the about.com articles, they're great help and many explain quite complicated French grammar in a way which is very easy to understand.
- French spelling, grammar checker, spellchecker – Reverso
This intelligent grammar checker not only makes sure the accents are right but also checks conjugation, genders and even shows you different possibilities if there's more than one correct way of writing something.
I haven't yet tried this service, but it looks promising. Unfortunately they're still in testing period, but the day it goes public, I'll be signed up!