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Useful Tips for Remembering French Words

Hello! Sometimes it can be difficult to remember so many vast, foreign words when you are learning a new language. That is why, I had found out a quick, and easy way to remember some important words(apart from trial and error). The tip, is to try to make a connection from a French word(or any foreign word), to something you know. For example: Robe--Dress. Just think about a robe(like from Harry Potter or something.) Pantalon--Pants. Pants-are-long.

There are endless opportunities for using this memory method. This just takes some time to think about the connections you can make--and please comment on your progress below! :)

April 25, 2018



I learned a let of hindi for work this way here are a couple fun ones

  • Butt-here -> baat-heya -> please sit

  • door-vedge -> drvaja -> door

  • my loom not here -> maluum nahin -> i dunno


LOL! That's really good!


In terms of memorizing words there are basically two kinds:

1) Words which are the same as, or almost the same, as the word in your native language (e.g. "ensemble" for "together")

2) Words which are absolutely nothing like the word in your native language (e.g. "tout à fait" for "absolutely")

The first kind are no problem. All you have to do is memorize the gender (and there are spelling clues for this in French).

The second kind is more challenging. Luckily there's a neat little memory trick for getting stuff like this into your memory. All you have to do is figure out some kind of visual representation of the word you want to learn, and connect it in a bizarre way to the translation. In fact the more bizarre the imagery, the stronger the recall. Let me illustrate a couple of examples of mine.

Recently I wanted to learn the French for "almost," which is "presque."

So immediately, I derive the word "press" from the first syllable of presque. Press. What do you press? A button. And thus I pictured the following: a little boy stretching his hand to press a button that is just out of read. And his mommy is behind him saying "almost!"

Of course that doesn't cover the "que" of the second syllable, but that's OK. Learning that the start of the word is "pres" is usually enough to jolt your memory into remembering the rest. You just need some little hook to give the word a foothold in your memory.

The imagery in that one wasn't very bizarre though, so let's look at another example.

The French for "as soon as" is des que. I knew this one was gonna require some pretty far out imagery to remember. I took the first part, "des." Then I remembered that there was a character called Des in an Australian soap opera that I used to watch in the 80's. So I pictured him on a treadmill that was somehow connected to a bomb. He is running faster and faster. And then I imagined that "as soon as" he reaches 10mph, the bomb will go off.

Pretty bizarre and random, right? And probably doesn't make any sense to anyone but me. But the thing is, the more bizarre and random the imagery you use, the more likely you are to remember it. This is a classic memorization technique that I used to impress my friends by remembering huge lists of words in seconds when I was a kid. It really works.


There are some words in French that I like to think of as fancy English. For example: bureau. In french this means desk, and I think, office as well. In English we have the Federal Bureau of Investigations. So English took the french word for a common object: a desk (or office?) and gave a very specialized usage of it: a government agency (which of course involves a lot of desk work in an office, which is probably where our version of bureau came from.) There are many words like this which are common in French but pick up a very specific connotation in English. For example chauffeur (driver/paid driver for rich people), souvenir (memory/keep-sake), robe (dress/specific kind of dress you wear after taking a shower), chef (boss/head cook), etc. By knowing the more formal usage of that word in English and drawing a parallel, you can remember the more simpler version of the French word.


There are tons of examples like the ones you describe. Here are a few: detest (detester), comprehend (comprendre) , liberty (liberté) , savvy (savor), beautiful (beau), amity (ami), etc. The list is endless and it's fun to see the similarities. I also think of them as fancy English.

[deactivated user]

    So what can you come up with for Brouillard and Nuageux? I never remember which one is foggy and which is cloudy. Nuageux reminds me of neige, so I always translate it as snowy, then know I'm wrong. But the snow reminds me of both fog and clouds, so that hasn't helped me. I'm starting to remember that brouillard goes with il y a du, but does that mean there is/are some fog or clouds?

    [deactivated user]

      Thanks. 'Afraid my first thought was clouds, not fog. But, I get what you are suggesting. Oh, wait; yes! Nuageux means cloudy. Yay!

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