How to Learn French on your Own
So you have decided to learn a new language to improve your prospects in the translation arena. Great decision! Knowing an extra language is always helpful for anyone, and for a translator, even more so. Native English speakers usually choose Spanish, German or French: these are the most popular, followed by Chinese, Russian, Italian, and so on. The former languages are also easier for English speakers than the latter.
Learning a new language can be an exciting thing; however, classroom learning may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some people are simply not comfortable in such a setting, others may have schedules that don’t permit them to free themselves at specific times. Whatever the reasons,, learning on your own is a good option for such individuals. It’s not as difficult as you may imagine.
If you’re a native English speaker, or if you have command over the English language, French will be relatively easier for you than other languages. Below, we present some easy and practical tips to learn French. Remember that merely knowing the language is not enough. You have to be familiar with the cultural ethos associated with that language to do full justice to the job of document translation. Therefore, you need to absorb as much of the French culture as you can while you’re learning sentence construction, grammar, idioms and similes!
There are several sites that offer both free and paid courses; usually, the free courses teach you the basic level, and to learn the advanced level of the language, you have to upgrade or go to a site that offers paid French courses. Not all sites that offer free courses are dubious!
The BBC has an entire section on their website where you can learn languages – they offer Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and many other languages. In addition to simple lessons, the resource page also contains specific lessons like Rugby terms, news, holiday phrases, vocabulary and grammar. There are quizzes and tests available so you can check how much you have learnt. You can also do crosswords and other games to help you remember terms and words.
There is an interactive video course for slightly advanced learners as well. Likewise, there are several sites, like Babbel, Rype, Duolingo, French tutorial.com, FluentU, and so on that give you access to easy and free lessons. The Rype website allows you to book interactive learning sessions with tutors of your choice. Babbel gives you a short test, determines your language level, and recommends the ideal course for you. Most of these lessons follow a pattern, starting from the very basics like introducing yourself, and moving on to asking directions, ordering food, shopping, and so on, with basic grammar concepts thrown in.
There are written directions and audio guides to help you learn the correct pronunciation too. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can scout for sites that teach advanced levels, or you can pay and upgrade to the advanced course.
Apps on your Smartphone
Yes, there are apps to learn French. So relax and get comfy in your PJs, with a cup of hot coffee near you, plug in your earphones, and écoutez! (French for listen). Here are a couple of good apps:
- Open Language
- Rosetta Stone
- Mosa Lingua
Many of these apps have interactive videos, tests, progressive lessons, games and almost everything you can find on a website offering French learning courses.
Read Whatever you Can
You don’t have to purchase expensive books or magazines or set up an overseas subscription; just go online and try to read a few e-zines, or even web content in French; get used to reading the language and comprehending it. Websites like Bonjour de France and Le Point du FLE are great if you want to concentrate on the grammar part. You can try lemonde.fr – one of France’s leading newspapers in its online avatar. It will also give you a good idea of writing styles – how to create crisp headlines, providing captions for photos, writing news stories and so on.
Watch French TV or Movies
Everything is possible thanks to the internet. Just browse online to find French TV shows or movies on YouTube. You can also try downloading or watching from streaming sites like Netflix. Initially, try to watch with the subtitles on – after all, the characters on the screen are not going to speak slowly and deliberately like in your online lessons. Native speakers can be quite rapid, and you may have difficulty in following them as they speak. After a couple of weeks you should try watching without the subtitles. You can also try listening to French radio stations.
Here is something interesting you can do: look for a video tutorial in French about something you can do – say cooking a French dish. If you can listen and understand the instructions, and carry them out, it means that are doing pretty well in your journey of learning the French language. Combining activities with learning is a holistic way of familiarising yourself with all aspects of a language. It’s all part of the whole immersive experience of learning a language.
Converse – a lot
This is one of the best ways of how to learn French at home. It applies even if there is nobody else around you to speak the language, or you live alone, or even work alone (freelancer working from home). Converse with yourself in French! In the morning, instead of thinking, what a beautiful day, say to yourself: ‘Quelle belle journee!’ and so on – you get the drift. Start referring to your computer as l’ordinateur, your shirt as chemise, say rouge instead of red, and more. Sure, some people may think you’re going nuts, you can just tell them you’re full of ‘joi de vivre’! it is very important to speak the language – passively reading or watching about it is not going to help beyond a certain level.
No mention of learning French can be complete without mentioning this international organization that promotes the learning of the French language and culture. There are various activities that happen regularly, and of course, on special days. The institute organizes lectures, ‘wine and cheese’ parties, concerts, movie viewings, art and literary exhibits, special language workshops, conversation groups, discussion groups and guided museum tours. The institute offers group and individual learning sessions, as well as long distance courses, where students can interact through Skype.
If you have an Alliance Francaise Center in your city, or even one that is not too far away, I highly recommend visiting the center to get information about how you can access their resources, and enroll in their learning courses. They also have vast libraries with the best of French publications, and you should be able to borrow books if you enroll as a member. It is one of the best ways you can learn French. The teachers are mostly all native speakers, and able to provide a contextual approach to learning the language. They will also be able to familiarize you with things like idioms, nuances peculiar to French and so on, which you may not get from elsewhere. A certificate from this institute is internationally recognized as well, and will stand you in good stead wherever you go.
Join Online Communities
Search online for discussion groups, forums and online communities; either of non-native French speakers who are learning French, or of native French speakers, for subjects you are genuine interested in, like travel, health and wellness, food, fashion, French culture, and so on. A few times a week, login to these forums and engage in discussion and conversations. Here you will be actually writing French, so it will be good practice for you in your quest to learn French for translation of documents .
You need to stay Motivated
When you’re not in a classroom and going it alone, you may at times feel lazy to continue with the lessons; you may feel dejected, or not know how much you have actually progressed. You may feel like it’s not worth it, and to let go. There is no competition, nobody to push you. So it is extremely crucial that you motivate yourself, and continue your learning. Remember that it is a language; the learning never really stops. Every day, new words may be created. Even after you’ve mastered the language, you will have to keep a lookout for new words and phrases, especially in the field you have subject matter expertise in. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you stumble either. Everyone has a few ups and downs, and it’s nothing to lose sleep over.
Learning a language has its own special joys; but as an international translator, it is like acquiring an essential skill that will help you advance your career. We hope you found the above mentioned tips useful. So what are you waiting for?
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