How To Learn French Speaking

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

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How to Learn French Efficiently - 12 Top Tips

How To Learn French Speaking

So you want to learn how to speak French? Très bien!! I’m going to show you how to learn French, the fast way.

Millions of language learners around the world are already learning the French language, so you’re in great company.

Plus, there are quite a few French-speaking countries (29 to be exact!) where you can practice speaking in Français. Francophone countries like Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Haiti, Monaco, and many African countries.

So you can learn to speak French faster than you think. In fact, my speak from day one method is the best way to learn French if you want to speak the language.

Yes, some aspects of French can be difficult, like with any language. But for the most part, French is an easy language to learn.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be speaking French before you know it.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • How to find your reason and passion for learning French
  • How to speak French and immerse yourself without leaving your home
  • Creating your own French phrasebook that’s relevant to your life
  • Using language hacks to make “difficult” French turn into easy French
  • Learn how to have real conversations with native French speakers
  • Learning conversational connectors in French to ease into speaking naturally
  • How to learn French by focusing on the easy parts

If you’d prefer to listen rather than read, here’s a video I made to go along with this article:

Step 1: Fall in Love with French

Lesson: Ask “Why” First – NOT “How/What”

What’s the key to speaking French? Passion.

French is the language of love. And to speak any language, you’ve got to fall in love with it. Or at least find a really good reason to stick with it, even when the going gets tough.

Your big why for learning French will keep you motivated through the ups and downs of learning a new language. It will be something to hold onto whenever you feel frustrated with learning French and start to wonder “What was I thinking?”

Everyone has their own big why for speaking French.

Here are some really good reasons to fall in love with French:

  • To travel the world. French is an official language in over 25 countries, and is widely spoken in many more.
  • To have conversations with French-speaking family members.
  • To read French literary classics (think Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas and Gustave Flaubert).
  • To connect with French native speakers.
  • To get an inside view of French culture.

Why do you want to learn French? Find your own personal, meaningful reason to study French, and use it to keep you on track throughout your language journey.

Once you know your why, it’s easier to stick with the following steps in how to learn French.

Step 2: Create a Mini-France in Your Home

Lesson: Creating an Immersion Environment for Home, Work, or Play (Helpful for all languages!)

It’s easier to speak French when you’re surrounded by French. But you don’t need to live in France to immerse yourself in the language. In fact, you can surround yourself with French wherever you live.

Here are some of my favourite tips you can use to immerse yourself in French.

  • Turn your smartphone into a French speaker. Switch the language settings on your phone to French. You can do the same with your computer.
  • Look for French speakers in your city. Most cities around the world, big or small, will have a community of French speakers. Chances are, there’s one near you.
  • Watch French TV and movies. Switch on the subtitles to speed up your learning.
  • Read articles and books in French. LingQ is a helpful tool for doing this.
  • Listen to French radio and podcasts (my favourite is FrenchPod101). You can learn a lot of French by listening to French songs.

Want to learn more about the immersion from home approach? Then check out how I learned Japanese while living in Spain and Egyptian Arabic while living in Brazil.

Step 3: Write Your Own French Phrasebook

Lesson: Conversational French: 25 Ways to Start a French Conversation

You’ll learn French much faster if you focus on words and phrases that are relevant to your life.

Plus, when you have real conversations in French (I’ll come to that in a moment), you’ll be able to talk about yourself.

That’s why I recommend creating a personalised French phrasebook. This is a collection of words and phrases that are relevant to you.

I suggest starting your personal phrasebook with:

  • Bonjour! Je m’appelle [name]. Ça va? – “Hello! My name is [name]. How are you?”
  • Et toi? – “And you?”
  • Parle-moi de toi – “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Je viens de [your home country] – “I’m from [your home country].”
  • Dans mon temps libre, j’aime [your favourite activities] – “In my spare time, I like [your favourite activities].”
  • Je veux apprendre le français parce que [your reasons for learning French] – “I want to learn French because [your reasons for learning French].”
  • Je suis [occupation] – “I’m a [your occupation].”
  • Qu’est-ce que tu aimes? – “What do you like?”
  • J’aime… – “I like…”
  • J’adore… – “I love…”
  • Je déteste… – “I dislike…”
  • Je pense que… – “I think that…”
  • Any other interesting information about yourself (Have you learned any other languages? Travelled to unusual places?)

And of course, it’s a good idea to learn some key questions to ask to keep the conversation flowing. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Est-ce que tu aimes… – “Do you like…”
  • Parlez-vous français? – “Do you speak French?”
  • Tu parles d’autres langues? – “Do you speak other languages?”
  • Comment tu t’appelles? – “What’s your name?”
  • Tu es où? – “Where are you?”
  • Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire? – “What are you going to do?”
  • Je peux t’accompagner? – “Can I join you?”
  • Tu voyages beaucoup? – “Do you travel a lot?”
  • Tu peux répéter ça? – “Can you repeat that?
  • Comment dire…? – “How do you say…?”
  • Quoi de neuf? – “What’s new?”

Step 4: Accept that You’re Going to Sound Funny at First When You Speak French

Lesson: French Pronunciation Guide: How to Sound More Like a Native French Speaker

If you’ve never spoken out loud in a foreign language, it can feel awkward.

This is especially true with speaking French.

French includes sounds that don’t even exist in English. When you’ve only ever spoken one language, forming your lips and tongue into new shapes to make unfamiliar sounds can feel jarring, like hearing a wrong note in a well-known song.

Some language learners let this hold them back. They feel embarrassed about saying things wrong and making mistakes.

Push through this fear by speaking French even when you feel silly. You’ll learn French much faster that way.

And trust me, no one’s going to laugh at you.

Step 5: Fast-Track Your French with Language Hacks

Lesson: Language Hacking French: How to Learn French, the Faster Way

Language hacks are shortcuts that help you learn a language faster. They’re ideal if you want to learn to speak French.

Here are a few of my favourite language hacks that can speed up your French learning:

  • Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised French phrasebook.
  • Mnemonics. A memory palace is an effective way to burn French words onto your brain.
  • The Pomodoro Technique. Break up your study sessions into 25 minute chunks. This gives you better focus, so you learn more in a shorter time.

Step 6: Have Real Conversations with Native French Speakers

Lesson: Speak from Day One

The most effective way to learn a language is to speak from day one. This is especially true if you want tohave conversations with native French speakers.

Where can you find native French speakers to practise with? It’s actually really simple.

No matter where you live you can still find people, either online or offline, to speak with in French. I like to search for native French speakers on:

  • italki. This is the first place I go to find French tutors and pay for one-on-one lessons (reasonably priced).
  • Most major cities have a Meetup for French speakers or French learners. CouchSurfing is another of my favourite ways to meet French speakers.
  • HelloTalk. This free mobile app helps you find French speakers who are learning your native language.

You may also like to join my Speak in a Week crash course to give yourself a huge confidence boost in your French speaking skills after just seven days. It’s free.

The best way to begin speaking from day one is to simply learn how to say “hi”! A few German greetings you can use:

  • “Hello” – Bonjour or Salut
  • “Hey!” – Coucou
  • “How are you?” – Ça va?

Related resources: French greetings10 ways to say “goodbye” in French

Step 7: Use Conversational Connectors for More Natural Conversations

Conversations involve a lot more than simply exchanging bare facts. They would be awfully dull if they did. In a world like that, a conversation with a work colleague might go something like this:

You: “How was your weekend?” Them: “It was fine.” You: “Mine wasn’t.” Them: “Oh.”

Boring, right?

I bet you don’t talk like this in your native language. The same conversation, spoken more naturally, might sound more like this:

You: “So, how was your weekend?” Them: “It wasn’t bad, thanks for asking. How about yours?” You: “Actually, it wasn’t that great, to be honest.” Them: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”

See how much better the conversation flows?

Both conversations communicate essentially the same information, but the second one uses conversational connectors. These are short phrases that serve to make the conversation sound more natural, and less jarring and “staccato”.

Here are a few examples in French:

  • “To tell you the truth” – à vrai dire
  • “In my opinion” – à mon avis
  • “By the way” – à propos
  • “On the other hand…” d’autre part…
  • “That is to say…” – c’est-à-dire…

Related resources: 111 core French wordsFrench slang

Step 8: Focus on the Easy Aspects of French

Lesson: Why French is Easy: How to Understand Spoken French

French really isn’t easier or harder to learn than any other language, but you can quickly forget this if you only focus on the difficult aspects of French.

Whenever you get discouraged, think about all of the ways that French is actually an easy language to learn:

French is an easy language because it:

  • Has no cases (nominative, accusative, etc), unlike Russian.
  • Is not a tonal language, unlike many African and Asian languages.
  • Shares a lot of vocabulary with English due to their intertwined histories.
  • Uses the Latin alphabet.
  • Only has two noun genders, unlike German, which has three.

Remember these facts when you’re learning how to speak French, and the tougher aspects of the language suddenly won’t seem so bad!

Learning french for beginners pdf

12. Always Study French With Audio

Let’s start with one truth that many French students don’t realise but which is key if you want to do more than just read novels or French magazines…

Written French and spoken French are almost 2 different languages.

There are many silent letters, glidings, liaisons, etc… and they are everywhere, including in French verb conjugations and grammar.

Many students are still learning French mostly with written material, or traditional methods that over enunciate every single word.

Formal school curriculum usually focus on grammar and verb conjugations – the teachers don’t have a choice: they have to cover the imposed curriculum, and that leaves little time for anything else!

Yet, if you want to learn French to communicate in French, not just to pass exams, you need to train to understand modern spoken French. I wrote a whole article about modern spoken French with many examples, so I invite you to read it should you like to know more.

For example, the modern spoken pronunciation of “être” various conjugations is quite different than what you may have studied… Especially in the negative, when you apply all the glidings with the subject pronouns and the ne…. Check out my free audio guide about the French verb être conjugations and pronunciation.

Picking the right French audiobook is your first challenge; and from your choice may very well depend the success or failure of your French studies.

Now let’s talk about your own study style.

11. Be In Touch With Your Own Learning Style

Do you need to write? Or do you need to listen? Or do you need to read to learn things by heart?

Whatever the method you are using to learn French, make sure you adapt it to YOUR learning style.

This being said, studying French with audio is a must if you want to learn French to communicate: understand modern spoken French and speak French yourself.

I developed an audio-based modern French placement test. Check it out to see if you can understand modern spoken French.

10. Self Studying Is NOT For Everybody

When it comes to learning languages, not everybody is the same. I’ve taught hundreds of students, and I can tell you from experience that some people have an easier time with languages than others. It’s not fair, and it’s not popular to say it… but it’s true.

It doesn’t mean that someone less gifted cannot learn French, but it means that self-studying is not for everybody.

Some students need the expertise of a teacher to guide them through their studies, motivate them and find creative ways to explain the same point until it is understood. Skype and/or phone French lessons can be a good solution.

9. Beware Of Free French Learning Tools

Nowadays every French teaching website is offering something free. Free French lessons. Free tips. Free videos…

OK. I get it. Free is lovely.

However if the material is not good, then ‘free’ can be a total waste of your time. And your time is valuable.

Be particularly careful about social networks. It’s easy to get lost in there, and jump from one funny video to another but at the end, actually learn very little – or not what you should be learning!

There is also some really good free material out there – if you have not done it already, I encourage you download my free French learning audiobook.

However, if you are serious about learning French, you need to follow a structured path which gently leads you through the different French learning stages. At one point I suggest you invest into a reliable French learning method.

The method you choose has to come with solid grammatical explanations – very few people can master French without first understanding French grammar – and audio recordings featuring both traditional and modern French.

8. Translate French Into English As Little As Possible

When you are a total beginner, some translation is going to occur. As you advance in your French studies, try as much as possible to avoid translating.

Translating adds a huge step in the process of speaking:

Idea –> English –> French
versus just
idea –>French

It makes your brain waste 30% more time and energy and will fool you into making a mistake when the literal translation doesn’t work – which is unfortunately often the case in French!

So if you don’t translate, what should you do?

7. Link French To Images And Visual Situations, Not English Words

Try as much as possible to link the new French vocabulary to images, situations, feelings and NOT to English words.

By linking the image/ sensation to the French words, you will avoid mistakes since in this particular case for example, we don’t use “I am’ in French, but ‘I have’: “j’ai froid”…

Whatever you do, don’t adapt the English sentence to adapt it to the French – “ah, Ok, the French say “I HAVE cold”… I’ll remember that!”

Let’s see what this does for your brain:

  • “Brrrr”
    I am cold
    then être in je form…. je suis
    how do you say cold again? Oh yes froid
    je suis froid

    – oh but wait a minute! The French don’t use “I am” for that one… they say I “have” cold
    so have is avoir…
    so the je form is…. j’ai
    so… j’ai froid…. or is it j’ai froide?

Maybe this sounds familiar?

It is MUCH simpler and faster to link the feeling of cold or “brrrr” to “j’ai froid”.

“Brrrr” = “j’ai froid”.

If you are doing flashcards to study French – which I strongly encourage you do – draw the word/situation whenever possible instead of writing English. Even if you are not a good artist, you’ll (hopefully?) remember what your drawing meant, and it’s much more efficient to learn French this way.

This is a very important point so I’ll take another example.

When learning French numbers, many students “build” them. They do maths. When they want to say ‘ninety-nine’ in French they think about what they’ve learned and remember this fun (or crazy?) logic ‘four-twenty-ten-nine’ and finally come up with “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf’.

Do you realise the time wasted?
Most French kids know how to count to 99 by age 6.
Nobody ever told them about the ‘four-twenty-ten-nine’ nonsense! The only think they know is that 99 sounds like [katrevindizneuf].
They don’t know how to spell it – and they don’t care!

Well, that’s how you need to learn French. Not like a kid – adults don’t learn like children. But by linking the French sounds to the notions, the images, the ideas. Not to the English words. Not to the logic. Not even to the grammar.

6. Be Careful With French Cognates

This is exactly why you should be particularly careful with cognates – words that are the same between the two languages.

Many students approach them thinking “ah, that’s easy, I know that one”. But then when they need to use that word, they don’t remember it’s the same word in French as in English…

Furthermore, cognates always have a different pronunciation, and your English brain is going to fight saying that word the French way.

I hear many students having a hard time with the word “chocolat”. In French, the ch is soft, as in “shave”, and the final t is silent. [Shocola]. Most French students wrongfully pronounce it [tshocolat].

Finally, there are many false cognates: words that exist in both languages but don’t have exactly the same meanings (like entrée in US English (= main course) and entrée in French (= appetizers, first (light) course).

5. Avoid Writing In Your Head

Many students “write” French in their head before they speak.

However in French, may letters are silent, like the “ent” of the “ils” form, or the é sound at the end of a verb: parler, parlez, parlé, parlée, parlés, parlées.

Writing in your head a huge waste of time and may lead to being scared to speak French.

4. Learn French In Sentences

When you learn French “in context”, you’ll remember the situation and words longer, and you’ll already have a series of words that go well together handy for your next French conversation!

To learn French in context, I highly recommend you check out my unique downloadable French audiobooks, a unique French learning method illustrated by a realistic bilingual novel recorded at different levels of enunciation, featuring both traditional and mod

When you make up your French sentences, find examples that make sense to you, that are close to your own life.

For example, let’s say you want to learn ‘red’ in French. Instead of writing down a dull sentence like ‘the apple is red’, look for something red that personally means something to you, and write about it: ‘my dog likes to play with his red ball’.

Your brain will remember a sentence describing a truth or a memory much longer than it will remember a sentence of made-up facts.

3. Prioritize

Often, to make learning more fun, many teachers try to present a text, a story. At least I do, as much as possible.

If your memory is great, go ahead and memorize everything!

But if it’s not the case, PRIORITIZE: what words in this story are YOU likely to use? Focus on learning these first, then revisit the story once you’ve mastered your first list.

The same logic applies to tenses: in conversation, most of the time we use the present indicative. So focus on the present when studying your French verb conjugations, and then move on to adjectives, essential vocabulary, asking questions, pronouns… things that will make an immediate difference in your ability to converse in French.2. Study French Regularly, For A Short Time, Not All In One Sitting

If you study French all afternoon,  chances are that you’ll exhaust yourself, and are much more likely to get frustrated, lose your motivation or attention.

Spending 15-30 minutes a day learning French – not multitasking but with 100% of your attention – will get you better results than two hours during the weekend with the kids playing in the background.

1. Review – Repetition Is The Key!

This is probably the number one mistake students make.

They concentrate on learning new material, and forget to review the older one. If you enjoy learning French in context, check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided pronunciation. 

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