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November 21, 2006 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn French.

I'm doing a night class, and I'm going fairly well, but I'm sure I could be doing much better!

Hints, tips, on learning French (but pertaining to learning languages in general would be also helpful) would be much appreciated.

Merci mille fois!
posted by oxford blue to Education (20 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
It would be helpful to know whether you're more focused on reading and writing, or on conversation.

If it's spoken French you want, you can use the web to pick up French radio or podcasts,and listen to stretch your comprehension. For example, Radio-Canada and Radio-Canada International have podcasts (baladodiffusion) and broadcast on the web (see "Audio et Vidéo" at the bottom of the page). Première chaîne has a lot of talk radio.
posted by zadcat at 4:01 PM on November 21, 2006

pimsleur language courses. well worth the money. or try torrents.
posted by dawdle at 4:04 PM on November 21, 2006

Michel Thomas French.
Watch the news in french via french tv stations streamed over the web.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:00 PM on November 21, 2006

The best way to learn French (or any language) is, as they say in France, au lit.

Barring that, there is cultural emersion, but seeing as we can't all be jet setters flying of to all corners of the francophone world at a moment's notice, you can try emersing yourself at home.

Get a pad or two of post-it notes. Write the French word for an object on the note and stick it to the object. Every time you use the object, read the note (in your head if you don't want people to think you are nuts). After a week or so, leave the note but don't read it, just say the word. Last, remove the note but still say the word. Try using the object in a sentence each time you use it. "I brush my teeth with the tooth brush." "I turn the lights on with the light switch." etc...
posted by Pollomacho at 5:02 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Read and listen to everything possible in your target language. You have one serious advantage over when I took French: the internet. Also, flash cards are your friend. If you have 5 minutes, you can buzz through a few dozen vocabulary words! I didn't use them to study French, but I don't think I could handle Japanese without them. I use 3x5 cards for this.

Bonne chance!
posted by ilsa at 5:19 PM on November 21, 2006

For language elements you're trying to memorize (key vocab on flashcards, conjugations, etc.), run through them just before you go to sleep at night. They stick better.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:21 PM on November 21, 2006

If it's practice you're after, consider trying to find a French pen pal. There are plenty of sites that hook people up around the world.

Depending on your location, there may be conversation clubs nearby that allow you to practice the language in a casual setting, over coffee or such (e.g. 1, 2).

In several countries there are branches of the Alliance Francaise that try to promote the French language (e.g. 3, 4). They may have information about events or activities that will give you other opportunities to practice the language.
posted by Paragon at 6:26 PM on November 21, 2006

Perhaps this thread about French spoken-word podcasts or MP3s will be of interest.
posted by amtho at 7:34 PM on November 21, 2006

If there is an Alliance Francaise in your city, it's a good place to start. They're a non-profit organization seeking to promote French culture and language.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:49 PM on November 21, 2006

Foreign Service Institute language courses? 142 people have marked that thread favorite!
posted by caddis at 8:01 PM on November 21, 2006

posted by caddis at 8:02 PM on November 21, 2006

Several friends have taken this French immersion program. I can't say how much their French improved, but they said they had a great time.
posted by yqxnflld at 8:36 PM on November 21, 2006

Immerse yourself in the language as much as you can. I have found that the more your instructors speak to you and expect you to understand the language the easier it is to gradually pick up.

French is tougher to learn in our situation than Spanish--at least living on the West coast I have much more opportunity to surround myself in Spanish speakers and culture than I do with their French counterparts, and the getting near fluent process has been a long and difficult one.

I would also recommend reading French news sites, watching French news broadcasts, renting French movies, listening to French music...completely submerge yourself in the language. Let it become part of you. Bonne chance!
posted by nonmerci at 10:17 PM on November 21, 2006

Install the Google Toolbar, and set the Translation settings to French. Every time you hover over an English word, you'll see the French translation. Helps with the immersion.
posted by jontyjago at 2:03 AM on November 22, 2006

Two articles that I think you'd enjoy are:

1) How I Learned French in One Year, from a guy who learned enough French in 1 year to get a pretty high score on the French test they give you when you emigrate to Canada. Includes some really neat ideas, like ripping the foreign language tracks off sitcom DVDs to listen to on your iPod.

2) There's more general advice, much of which has already been mentioned above, in this How to Learn a Language article.
posted by rachelv at 5:17 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

According to John Walker you can watch French In Action three times and learn the language. There's a link from that page to a site where you can watch them online.
posted by pmann at 6:56 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Seconding French In Action. I was at one point fluent but I've lost it over the years - I TiVO French In Action and it's a big help. Even better (thanks pmann!!) if you can watch online.
posted by KAS at 8:15 AM on November 22, 2006

Response by poster: You say proper French, I say patois.

Today's excursion shall be to the Alliance Française de Sydney, based on above recommendations.
posted by oxford blue at 2:23 PM on November 22, 2006

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