How Do I Learn French?

S. McCumber

There are several ways to learn French, and students of the language may choose to combine the different methods. In the past, most second languages were taught in a classroom setting. With the advent of personal computers, many people choose to learn with the help of a software program. Perhaps the most effective way to learn French or another second language is through immersion, in which the student hears the language he or she wishes to learn almost exclusively.

Software programs are an easy way for people to learn to speak French.
Software programs are an easy way for people to learn to speak French.

Attending a class is still a common way to learn another language. Many people who choose to learn French this way prefer to have an instructor who can provide feedback and answer questions. Most classroom instruction is based on a breakdown of the grammar of a language. Students may be required to conjugate verbs as well as read and write sentences in the language being learned. While there may be an audio component in the classroom, it is often secondary to writing and reading.

Some students may benefit from language immersion by joining a club of French speakers that participates in activities together.
Some students may benefit from language immersion by joining a club of French speakers that participates in activities together.

Many people use software programs to learn French. There are many programs available that utilize different types of language learning, but most of them rely heavily on hearing and speaking the language. Students are asked to repeat words or phrases and the computer is able to analyze the speech and determine if the student is pronouncing the words correctly. Most software programs focus more on conversational French and do not emphasize grammar as much as classroom learning does.

Many people find audio lessons to be a great way to learn a new language.
Many people find audio lessons to be a great way to learn a new language.

Before software programs were widely available, many students used audio tapes to learn French. One of the benefits that were touted for audio tape learning was the ability to learn French while driving in the car or performing some other activity. The downside to learning from audio tapes is that there is no feedback or correction.

Language immersion is another common way to learn a second language. While this method has proved difficult in a classroom setting, there are other ways for a student to be immersed in a language. The most obvious way is to visit a region or country where the language is spoken. Immersion — hearing the language on a daily basis and needing it to function in society — is considered one of the best ways to learn French.

It may not be practical to visit such an area, so many students may choose instead to join a club of French speakers and immerse themselves in the language while participating in meetings or activities. Some clubs host dinners at which guests speak only in French. This type of part-time immersion often dovetails well with other learning methods.

Some people try to learn French by watching French-speaking movies or television programming. This also can be effective, because it forces the student to hear conversational French and interpret the words based on contextual clues. The downside is, like audio tapes, it does not provide any feedback or correction for mispronounced or misunderstood words.

Living in France is probably the best way to learn French.
Living in France is probably the best way to learn French.

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