The first time I went to Europe was to move there. When I was 16, I had never even left the North American continent, and there I was moving to France! It was exciting and scary the first time. Doing this foreign exchange program was one of the best decisions of my life (thanks Mom!) because although the primary purpose was to learn French, there were so many additional benefits.
Although I didn’t understand anything for the first 3 months I was there, I had a great foundation for the language from high school which allowed me to pick it up rather quickly after that initial adjustment period. I was so comfortable in the language by the end of my 10 months there, that I was devastated to leave!
Since most of us can’t go back to when they are 16 and take a year off before college to learn a new language, let’s discuss learning a new language as an adult. I’ve wanted to learn a third, new language for quite some time now, and recently, I decided I want that language to be Spanish since there are so many places in South America that I am dying to see – not to mention, Spain!
I remember mostly everything about learning French, probably due to the fact that in 2007 there were no smartphones with translation apps. Everything I didn’t know how to say, I had to look it up in a physical dictionary! Crazy, I know.
I even remember the conversation I was having when I learned certain words, or sometimes the person who taught me a certain phrase! That’s why they say immersion works when learning a language – because it really does help you remember.
When I moved to France, here is all I knew:
- Hello / Goodbye
- How are you?
- What’s your name? / My name is…
- the alphabet
- the pronouns
- to eat (manger)
- to have (avoir)
- to be (être)
- to sleep (dormir)
Yup, that’s it! I actually remember walking home from school one day with a classmate who taught me how to say “to tell” (dire!) which is such a basic verb that I now use practically every day!
French is spoken by over 300 million people worldwide. If you want to learn the French language, here are my best tips for how to learn a language as quickly as possible!
Immerse Yourself Outside Paris
To learn French fast, you must immerse yourself where the language is spoken – outside the capital!
There are a lot of ex-pats in Paris who do not speak French. Honestly, I don’t blame them though because it’s really hard to learn French in the capital city.
Parisians are so used to foreigners who don’t speak French that they automatically switch to English even when you attempt to speak to them in French! This can be really frustrating when you’re trying to learn to speak French, so for this reason – stay out of Paris when you’re learning!
You’ll also hear English often on the streets, which doesn’t help any further. You really want to immerse yourself in the language so you are forced to think and speak using those foreign words.
Stop speaking your native language
The only way you will learn French fast is to stop speaking your native language! This one is tough if you have to work or live life speaking your native language, but try to stop as much as possible! This will allow your brain to begin thinking in French. Force yourself to find the words you don’t have.
Read news in French
I like to start every day by reading the world news in French. News articles are short, so it’s not a big time commitment, and I can compare how much I actually understood by reading English news afterward.
Watch French TV series with English subtitles
Watching TV in French with English subtitles is a great way to learn French. Pay attention to phrases you hear often. Look up words you don’t understand even if they’re in the middle of sentences.
I hope these tips help you learn French fast!