Learning French
February 29, 2004 11:06 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to learn French without taking a class?
posted by adrober to Education (16 answers total)
Visit France.

Or parts of Canada / French Polynesia / Africa. There are online language courses and products such as Linguaphone, but I'll let other people tell you about those.
posted by skylar at 11:21 AM on February 29, 2004

Rosetta Stone software. You can download their demo, which has sample lessons from a variety of languages.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:44 PM on February 29, 2004

Rosetta Stone?
posted by Danelope at 12:55 PM on February 29, 2004

Did you ever see that Simpson's episode where Bart is an exchange student in France...? That might work. Seriously there are several ways to learn a language without class room instruction. I know several people who have had luck with various audio/video/booklet go at your own pace programs. There are problably disccussion groups all about these programs. That said, I've been told by people who speak many (more than 4) languages that the best way to learn is to spend six months surrounded by that language and no other. So go live in a village in Britanny or somewhere like that, you'll pick it up.
posted by Grod at 1:06 PM on February 29, 2004

You can supplement your other efforts with movies in the language you're learning, too. Plus, you'd get the added benefit of becoming (justifiably!) a big cinema snob.
posted by gimonca at 1:26 PM on February 29, 2004

Be born to French parents.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:08 PM on February 29, 2004

Pimsleur tapes/CDs are good for learning how to speak. Not so good for learning how to read/write.
posted by blue mustard at 3:59 PM on February 29, 2004

brain transplant
posted by mert at 5:26 PM on February 29, 2004

I'm learning French right now, and I'm:

a) working my way through a textbook, doing all the exercises in a notebook.
b) reading French novels
c) planning on getting a TV at some point so I can watch French language TV and movies, and
d) listening to French music
e) speaking and writing French emails to my couple of acquaintances who are bilingual

It seems to be working. I'm actually learning much faster than I ever did in class.
posted by orange swan at 5:48 PM on February 29, 2004

Well, it does involve classes, but at the universities and colleges in Quebec, you can go and do a home-stay while learning French. I wouldn't do it in Montreal or Quebec City though, I chose the latter and at the end of 6 weeks all I knew of French was drink orders. Too many English speakers.

Head out to smaller (and cheaper) college towns and lots of people won't speak English. Might be a bit cheaper than a move to France. You can go for a month in the summer, or longer terms during the school year.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:41 PM on February 29, 2004

I like to read French language newspapers, La Presse, Le Monde, Le Devoir and the French CBC website radio-canada.ca. (They have a neat section called "Dossiers.") If you already follow the news, you'll have an idea of what the articles are about and then you can piece together vocabulary and the verb tenses. News reports, as writing, are predictable and generally avoid slang: it took a long time for me to piece together the French equivalent of "I watched some meathead on the tube and I nearly fell off the couch." Fiction writing is often unpredictable (flashbacks, allusions, etc.). You'll also get a different slant on news events.

I like the Oxford dictionary with grammar notes by Rowlinson. (It demystified things when I learned object pronouns precede the verb but object nouns follow the verb. "I you see." "I see adrober.")

And to follow on orange swan's advice, set your television (if you receive French language programming) so the closed captioning shows along with the voice. You can hear, read and lip-read all at once.

--Phillipe d'Haveloc :)
posted by philfromhavelock at 9:39 PM on February 29, 2004

Fall in love with a French woman.
posted by muckster at 11:41 PM on February 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Move to southern Belgium. Best of both worlds: French cuisine with teutonic proportions.
posted by Dagobert at 2:28 AM on March 1, 2004

Muckster, that's how I learned am learning French (even though my mother having spoken it fluently -- born in northern Maine to a French-Canadian-American clan -- I never learned any from her :-(

Listen to France Info online if you can. (It's the state run news station and repeats the news for the day on the half(?) hour.) Repetition, repetition, repetition.

And one important detail. Find a native speaker (preferably an actual French person -- désolé mes amis Quebecois) and have them drill you on your vowels until you can't stand it any longer, then keep going.

That person needs to be a patient teacher and explain how to form the mouth while making an appropriate English sound through said form. You will then make sounds you never thought you could and dupe many people in France into thinking you are from someplace other than Georgia. I'm not suggesting they will take you as French but you will at least trip up their assumptions.
posted by Dick Paris at 9:02 AM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Or, should I say: merci bo poo.
posted by adrober at 9:05 AM on March 1, 2004

I actually learned Portuguese and Spanish this way. I like to read in the john. I removed all magazines except thoise in the language I wanted to learn, and added a grammar and dictionary. You add new vocabulary every day. It actually worked.

Get a shortwave radio and listen to the language all day.

Get a significant other who speaks that language.

Listen to lots of music in French. Cajun will do if you understand it is like learning English from reggae records.
posted by zaelic at 1:32 PM on March 1, 2004

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