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So you want to learn how to speak French?
Très bien !!
Millions of language learners around the world are already learning French, so you’re in great company.
And you can learn to speak French fluently faster than you think. In fact, my speak from day one method is the best way to learn French if you want to speak the language (rather than just read it).
Yes, some aspects of French can be difficult, just like with any language. But for the most part, French is an easy language to learn.
I reached an advanced level of French, getting a B2 certificate in less than a year after starting to learn French, and later preparing to sit C-level exams.
You can do it, too.
I’d like to share eight steps so you'll know how to speak French. This is the language hacker’s approach in how to learn French. You can use this approach whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been learning French for years.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be speaking French before you know it.
If you'd prefer to listen rather than read, here's a video I made to go along with this article:
Before we get started, if you’re looking for an online French course, here’s the course I recommend: French Uncovered – Learn French Through the Power of Story, a course with a fascinating new method by my friend Olly.
Step 1: Fall in Love with French
What’s the key to speaking French? Passion.
French is the language of love. And to speak any language, you’ve got to fall in love with it. Or at least find a really good reason to stick with it, even when the going gets tough.
Your big why for learning French will keep you motivated through the ups and downs of learning a new language. It will be something to hold onto whenever you feel frustrated with learning French and start to wonder “What was I thinking?”
Everyone has their own big why for speaking French.
Here are some really good reasons to fall in love with French:
- To travel the world. French is an official language in over 25 countries, and is widely spoken in many more.
- To have conversations with French-speaking family members.
- To read French literary classics (think Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas and Gustave Flaubert).
- To connect with French native speakers.
- To get an inside view of French culture.
Why do you want to learn French? Find your own personal, meaningful reason to study French, and use it to keep you on track throughout your language journey.
Once you know your why, it's easier to stick with the following steps in how to learn French.
Step 2: Create a Mini-France in Your Home
It's easier to speak French when you're surrounded by French. But you don’t need to live in France to immerse yourself in the language. In fact, you can surround yourself with French wherever you live
Here’s are some of my favourite tips you can use to immerse yourself in French.
- Turn your smartphone into a French speaker. Switch the language settings on your phone to French. You can do the same with your computer.
- Look for French speakers in your city. Most cities around the world, big or small, will have a community of French speakers. Chances are, there’s one near you.
- Watch French TV and movies. Switch on the subtitles to speed up your learning.
- Read articles and books in French. LingQ is a helpful tool for doing this.
- Listen to French radio and podcasts (my favourite is FrenchPod101). You can learn a lot of French by listening to French songs.
Step 3: Write Your Own French Phrasebook
You’ll learn French much faster if you focus on words and phrases that are relevant to your life. Plus, when you have real conversations in French (I’ll come to that in a moment), you’ll be able to talk about yourself.
That’s why I recommend creating a personalised French phrasebook. This is a collection of words and phrases are your relevant to you.
I suggest starting your personal phrasebook with:
- “Je viens de [your home country]” (I’m from [your home country])
- “Dans mon temps libre, j’aime [your favourite activities]” (In my spare time, I like [your favourite activities])
- “Je veux apprendre le français parce que [your reasons for learning French]” (I want to learn French because [your reasons for learning French])
- “Je suis [occupation]” (I’m a [your occupation])
- Any other interesting information about yourself (Have you learned any other languages? Travelled to unusual places?)
Step 4: Accept that You’re Going to Sound Funny at First When You Speak French
If you’ve never spoken out loud in a foreign language, it can feel awkward.
This is especially true with speaking French. French includes sounds that don’t even exist in English. When you’ve only ever spoken one language, forming your lips and tongue into new shapes to make unfamiliar sounds can feel jarring, like hearing a wrong note in a well-known song.
Some language learners let this hold them back. They feel embarrassed about saying things wrong and making mistakes.
Push through this fear by speaking French even when you feel silly. You’ll learn French much faster that way.
And trust me, no one’s going to laugh at you.
Step 5: Fast-Track Your French with Language Hacks
Language hacks are shortcuts that help you learn a language faster. They're ideal if you want to learn to speak French.
Here are a few of my favourite language hacks that can speed up your French learning:
- Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised French phrasebook.
- Mnemonics. A memory palace is an effective way to burn French words onto your brain.
- The Pomodoro Technique. Break up your study sessions into 25 minute chunks. This gives you better focus, so you learn more in a shorter time.
Step 6: Have Real Conversations with Native French Speakers
Where can you find native French speakers to practise with? It’s actually really simple.
No matter where you live you can still find people, either online or offline, to speak with in French. I like to search for native French speakers on:
- italki. This is the first place I go to find French speakers. You can find language exchange partners (free!), or pay for one-on-one lessons (reasonably priced).
- Meetup.com. Most major cities have a Meetup for French speakers or French learners. CouchSurfing is another of my favourite ways to meet French speakers.
- HelloTalk. This free mobile app helps you find French speakers who are learning your native language.
You may also like to join my Speak in a Week crash course to give yourself a huge confidence boost in your French speaking skills after just seven days. It’s free.
Step 7: Use Conversational Connectors for More Natural Conversations
Conversations involve a lot more than simply exchanging bare facts. They would be awfully dull if they did. In a world like that, a conversation with a work colleague might go something like this:
You: “How was your weekend?”
Them: “It was fine.”
You: “Mine wasn’t.”
I bet you don’t talk like this in your native language. More likely, you enrich the information you communicate by adding phrases to show your mood or level of politeness, or to simply transition smoothly between topics.
The same conversation, spoken more naturally, might sound more like this:
You: “So, how was your weekend?”
Them: “It wasn’t bad, thanks for asking. How about yours?”
You: “Actually, it wasn’t that great, to be honest.”
Them: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”
See how much better the conversation flows?
Both conversations communicate essentially the same information, but the second one uses conversational connectors. These are short phrases that serve to make the conversation sound more natural, and less jarring and “staccato”.
The conversational connectors in the dialogue above are “Thanks for asking”, “How about you?”, “Actually”, “To be honest” and “I’m sorry to hear that”. These are phrases that people use over and over in their daily conversations, no matter what the topic.
If you learn these and other conversational connectors in French, your conversations will reach new heights. You’ll be able to hold the other person’s interest and make your sentences sound less “raw”. You’ll find you’re chatting longer with French speakers. This extra practice in turn will make you an even better French speaker.
Step 8: Focus on the Easy Aspects of French
French really isn’t easier or harder to learn than any other language, but you can quickly forget this if you only focus on the difficult aspects of French.
Whenever you get discouraged, think about all of the ways that French is actually an easy language to learn:
French is an easy language because it:
- Has no cases (nominative, accusative, etc), unlike Russian.
- Is not a tonal language, unlike many African and Asian languages.
- Shares a lot of vocabulary with English due to their intertwined histories.
- Uses the Latin alphabet.
- Only has two noun genders, unlike German, which has three.
Remember these facts when you’re learning how to speak French, and the tougher aspects of the language suddenly won’t seem so bad!
You Can Do It!
Everyone who has ever learned to speak French (even native speakers, who learned when they were kids) was once a beginner in the language. They all managed to learn to speak French fluently, and so can you.
You just need to use your French as much as you can. Spend as much time immersed in French as you can. And, most importantly, believe in yourself.
Finally, if you're looking for a structured French course, one of my favourite ways to learn French is with the FrenchPod101 podcast. Check it out here:
Bon courage !