The French are serious about two things : their food and their language. When it comes to one of these two aspects of french culture, things can start to become intimidating when you want to learn the French language.
There aren't many countries that have an institution, founded in 1634 and dedicated to its language, like “L’Académie Française”. Its members are made up of famous contemporary French writers. The “Académie” publishes its very own dictionary and only eight editions have been published in the last 400 years. They take their time to examine every aspect of a word that is included. The present edition has been worked on since the 1980’s and is not yet finished !
France is so passionate about its language that any word that is added to the dictionary makes headlines every year when published and any spelling reform can turn into a national debate.
No wonder this monument called “La Langue Française” can be intimidating for any beginner who is eager to learn French.
Rather than a monument, French is more like a maze. With 21 verb tenses, a need to know the exact time-frame of events, when to use the conditional and subjunctive and which words are feminine or masculine.
Before going any further, here are five tips to help you if you plan to study French in France.
1- Making mistakes is the best way to learn French
When you learn French in France, people can be a bit hard on you when you mispronounce a word, use the feminine instead of masculine or over-simplify verb tenses.
Don’t worry about it. They do it out of their common love for the language. Don’t take it personally as they actually appreciate the effort you make to speak French, even if a little broken. French people are aware of the difficulties of learning French and they often have doubts on how to conjugate a verb or whether a word is feminine or masculine.
So speak French and don’t be afraid to make mistakes as this will give you the opportunity to have them corrected by French speakers.
2- Learn French by reading in French
One of the main reasons to learn French is to have access to its rich literature. Victor Hugo, Rimbaud, Marcel Proust or Albert Camus, are only a few great authors that justify learning French. Don’t jump into those authors too soon. With the internet, you have access to an infinite amount of French material, especially news articles. You will learn vocabulary and get up to date information about what’s going on in France.
3- Listen to French
The internet provides you with a great opportunity to listen to spoken French. Youtube has a very important French-speaking community and you will certainly find French speaking channels that share your hobbies or interests. This will help you to adapt to the fast pace of the native French speaker.
4- Meet with others learning French
As with any difficult endeavor, a support group can be extremely helpful. If you feel like giving up, members of the group can persuade you to continue and making friends in this environment can encourage you to keep learning French.
5- Learn French in France !
This is the best way to confront yourself with the reality of the language. How people deal with it everyday ? How do they really speak at the grocery store? How do they debate, argue, and reconcile in French ? Nothing is better than a few days or weeks in a French immersion class in France.