Divalicious, thank you for this guest post.
I always knew that I was going to have to learn French. My dad was born in a francophone country and his entire family spoke French. Surprisingly we only spoke English at home, mostly due to my mom. Despite having limited experience in the language, I decided to give it a shot, and take it seriously. I struggled initially. Some would say it was because I was older and my brain didn’t absorb much. I believe it’s something that is so often overlooked: Immersion. French can be very difficult to learn, if you don’t have to learn it to communicate daily. However, if your daily existence depends on you speaking French fluently, then mastering the lingo will not be such a gargantuan task!
I moved to France to study at a language college. From the moment I arrived, everything was done in French, including registration and orientation. The classes were thoroughly interesting. They taught history, French government and geography, and very intense grammar and vocabulary classes. Unfortunately most of the students were American, so after class, we spoke with each other in English!
I didn’t really start excelling in French until I met a Swiss boy. It was a typical year abroad romance. He spoke German and French, and since his English was broken, so we mostly communicated in French. It forced me to push myself. I learned the everyday French that people my age actually spoke, instead of the stiff and archaic stuff that was being taught in the classrooms. And because my Swiss boy took me to town every day and most evenings, I got to socialize with locals who, after teasing me once or twice, were very patient about helping me with my language.
I guess I could give my advice for learning French in a few points:
[dropcap] 1[/dropcap] Commit to It
Decide you’re going to learn it and find a way to do it. If that means living in a hostel in the French countryside for three months, do it.
[dropcap] 2[/dropcap] Find Partners
Find people who either speak French fluently or who are just as committed to learning as you. And speak with them in French and only French. You can find partners at local groups or in language classes offered at universities.
[dropcap] 3[/dropcap] Learn your Grammar
Even though I learned conversational French speaking with friends, I was learning my grammar in class every day. And grammar really is the hardest part of French. So, write out your verbs as often as you can and recite them every day. Past tense is the worst, so commit extra time to that.
[dropcap] 4[/dropcap] Do Something Fun
If you like reading, find your favorite book in French and force yourself to read at least a chapter a day. Even if most of it goes over your head at first, you’ll begin to see advances after a while. Do you like movies? Watch them with French subtitles. Or, watch French movies with English subtitles. And keep a CD with French music in your car at all times. These little things add up.
Don’t give up. You might slow down or seem to hit a plateau, but if you keep pushing, you will slowly get the hang of the beautiful language, and start enjoying it. If you feel disheartened, find an online community to support you. The more people you know who are also trying to learn French, the better it gets for you. Bonne chance mes amis!