Lesson 1: Learning French
As mentioned earlier, French is a major diplomatic language. You are bound to find speakers almost anywhere in the world. In addition to these societal reasons, there are hundreds of famous French novels and nonfiction works in a wide variety of subjects. Because much can be lost in translation, the best way to read these works is in the original language.
Advice on studying French
French tends to have a reputation among English speakers as hard to learn. While it is true that it poses certain difficulties to native English-speakers, it may be noted that English is also considered ‘difficult’ to learn, and yet we learned it without the benefit of already knowing a language. In fact, the French language can be learned in only 10 months, if only for the specific purpose of passing a standardized test, such as the Test d’Evaluation de Français. According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, in order to reach the level of ‘Independent User’ (after completing Level B2), you must complete 400 hours of effective learning (so if you study 4 hours a week, every single week of the year, you would need two years to achieve it). Any way you look at it, learning any new language requires a long-term commitment. Remember, that like any skill, it requires a certain amount of effort. And it is likely that if you do not practice your French regularly, you will begin to forget it. Try to make French practice a part of your routine; even if it’s not daily, at least make it regular.
Also remember that you are learning a new skill. Try to master the simple stuff before moving on to the more complex concepts. We all have to add and subtract before we can do calculus. French is a complete language. While this course can teach you to read and write in French, these are only half of the skills that make up fluency. A written document cannot teach much about listening to and speaking French. You must train all of these skills, and they will reinforce one another. For listening and speaking, find a native speaker to help you.
The very best way to learn French is to visit France or another French-speaking country. This allows you to start with a clean slate, as babies do. However, since most of us are unwilling to take that step, the next best option is immersion. If you are serious about learning French, a period of immersion (during which you live in a Francophone culture) is a good idea once you have some basic familiarity with the language. If you can’t travel to a French-speaking country, then try listening to French-language programs on the radio, TV, or the Internet. Rent or buy French-language movies (many American and U.K. movies have a French language option). Pay attention to pronunciation. Grab a French speaker you meet and talk to him or her in French. Listen, speak, and practice. Read French newspapers and magazines. Google’s news page, which links to French-language news stories, is an excellent source that will enrich your vocabulary.
This French course is divided into one set of preliminary lessons, the page you are reading now, and three increasingly complex lesson levels. The introductory lessons will teach you pronunciation and phrases. In the first level, you will learn basic grammar, including pronouns, the present indicative, most common present tense, and several irregularly-conjugated verbs. In the second level, the passé composé, the most common past tense, is given, along with many other irregular verbs. In the third level, you will learn several more tenses and complex grammar rules.