The 10 tips for teaching yourself French

#1 Baby Steps

Starting a language from scratch is akin to a child’s learning, and there are many materials to make language learning fun and easy for kids that you can use yourself. Find some kids’ books to begin reading alongside the textbooks you’re using. Kids’ books are good fun and will give you that satisfaction of being able to tackle and understand a whole book – even if it was half pictures. It will help you slowly develop your vocabulary, starting off with common and useful words from which to build.

And as children from multilingual backgrounds learn their languages through listening, make a point of listening to as much French as possible. The more you immerse yourself, the faster you’ll be ordering wine in France like a local.

#2 Get Mixing

The more French you fit into the day, the better. Do a little writing each day using the French vocabulary you’ve been learning; when you don’t know a word, just use English. It’s quite fun, and you don’t have to worry about sentence structure if you haven’t learnt it yet; the aim is to get comfortable using all your new words.

Also start using French when you speak with friends. Get them involved, because explaining your new favourite words will help consolidate your learning.

Or, if your friends aren’t interested, just speak to yourself! When you see an object you have learnt the word for, point it out to yourself, or greet the cat en français.

#3 Learn French with Songs and Music

There’s a whole world of your favourite music genre waiting to be discovered in French. No matter what you enjoy listening to, there will be a French version. At first you can just enjoy the sounds, but soon you’ll start recognizing words and wanting to look up lyrics. It’s a fun way to approach French, and gives you some listening time to balance out the book work.

#4 Visualise

Though we often try to learn using only written text, many of us learn best using pictures. Whether it’s your preferred way of learning or something new, adding visuals to your arsenal is a great idea.

A great way to do this is to use flashcards. You can buy packs of blank flashcards from any stationary store, then create your own French Visuals kit. If you’re any good at drawing you’re in luck. If not, find some old kids’ books or encyclopaedias (charity shops are a great place to find these) to cut pictures from, or find pictures online to print out and stick onto your flashcards. Then write the French name for the image on the other side of the card. Now you can test yourself by looking at the picture and saying its French name, or by looking at the French side and giving its English equivalent.

#5 Verbs Are Your Friends

The sooner you like verbs, the happier you’ll be learning French. Since there are only 3 kinds of verb endings, once you know them, you’re set to use any verb in the right context. Some of the most common verbs have irregular endings, so though you’ll have to learn those individually, but there aren’t many of these. Most verbs, once you know their endings, all behave themselves and follow the rules.

#6 Mistakes Are Okay

The first few times you try to speak French, you’ll probably get it wrong. And that’s okay! The more you try to speak it, the less you’ll worry about making mistakes – they’re going to happen, so let them and learn from them. It’s often a great learning experience, since once you’ve mucked something up and been corrected, you’re more likely to remember the correct version.

When learning any new skill, letting yourself make mistakes is a must from the beginning all the way to mastery. Be kind to yourself, because as you advance to more difficult sentence structures and vocabulary, you’ll still have the chance to make mistakes.

In fact, making mistakes is a great sign, because it means you’re challenging yourself. If you’re getting everything right, then you’re not progressing.

#7 Make Your Own Mix-Tapes

A great way to learn and consolidate new vocabulary is to record yourself reading vocabulary lists then listen to them while you walk or travel or even do the dishes.

You can make your lists however you like, with hints to help you remember tough words, or reminders about words that sound similar. This will also help you practice your pronunciation!

#8 A Movie a Day

The French love their movies, so a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture and language is to learn French with movies. If you don’t like avant garde (oh, a French term!) or art house movies to begin with, you’re sure to appreciate them soon.

If you can’t fit in time to watch a whole movie, watch the news in French. It’s fun at the beginning to piece together the news stories from the images, then satisfying as you begin recognizing common phrases and words.

#9 French Connection

Though the days of writing letters by hand may be over, a pen pal (or perhaps email pal) is still a great idea for people learning a language.

There are lots of ways you could find a pen pal. The internet is of course your friend here. You could go on forums for language learning, or you could email French interest groups to see if anyone would like a writing companion from across the globe. That is, of course, if your initial search for “find pen pals” is not successful. There are also many French learning associations that could put you in touch with people.

#10 Eat Croissants

No matter where you live, there’s likely to be a French bakery or restaurant nearby. Start visiting it, and reading the menu, then when you’re feeling a little more confident (and have learnt the basic greetings) try them on the waiters or bakery assistants (as long as they’re actually French!). No doubt they’ll be flattered that you’re taking an interest in their language, and might even offer you a few tips themselves.

Plus, French baking is delicious! It will give you all the more motivation to learn the language before setting off for the authentic experience.

Bon voyage!

August 29, 2014


Sorted by top post

Haha. I found the last tip to be pretty funny. But anyway, most tips are obviously valid. The best way to learn a language is to come in contact with it as much as possible.

August 29, 2014

Merci beaucoup. I like all the tips although I am cautious about #3. I have found that in songs which have both a meter and rhyming line endings, there is sometimes or often grammatical distortion or word contractions to fit the meter and to rhyme. This is rarely noticed by a native speaker but could cause confusion to a learner.

August 30, 2014

That's all part of getting immersed in the language though. Being fluent means being able to recognize grammatical faults that occur in songwriting and such. But that's a good, valid point. :)

August 30, 2014

J'aime les croissants mais ils sont autrichiens. Les français les appellent « viennoiseries. » Une fois Costco a vendu du pain français surgelé et c'était le meilleur pain que j'aie mangé. Il a un goût de minéral.

August 30, 2014

Thanks for these helpful tips! :Or, should I say, merci :D

August 29, 2014

Ooh, the croissants in Disneyland Paris are the first ones I have tasted that I liked. Lovely.

August 29, 2014

Merci beaucoup! I love this beautiful language :)

August 29, 2014

Merci beaucoup .. very helpful ideas :D i think this tips for learning any language ..

August 29, 2014

Merci. Thank you for sharing these tips.

August 30, 2014

Merci pour tes conseils!

August 30, 2014

Thanks so much for the tips- I am definitely planning on using the tip on mixing up English and French to solidify your knowledge of new vocab :)

August 30, 2014

Pretty Good Advice.

August 30, 2014

Merci Beaucoup!!!!

August 31, 2014

Merci! Great tips! I've been looking for some baby songs or even child books. If someone could help me to find them, i would be really thankful! ;)

August 31, 2014
  • 2188

Thanks, I use most of them (for Spanish). About #4 (Visualizing) I just use the target language's Google Images, e.g.

August 31, 2014

je vous remercie pour les advices et je les trouve tres interessant :) is my sentence correct :D ?

August 31, 2014

Thank you. These are good suggestions. Daily practice helps me to succeed. I like to listen to the French TV program including movies with English subtitles.

September 1, 2014

This was super good advice! Merci!

September 3, 2014

Thanks for sharing these useful tips, they really help!

September 3, 2014

Merci Beaucoup.

September 4, 2014
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.