Always wanted to learn French but don’t know where to start? Find out how to get started in French with our guide.
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Bewitched by the magic of the French language? Always dreamed of Paris? There is no denying that the sound of French is associated with elegance and style. However, for many beginners, learning French is challenging because of the complex grammar and spelling.
In this article we have put together some advice on learning French that will surely help you on your learning journey, even if you have a busy schedule and want to learn French online . Voila!
Step 1: Learn French in sounds
The French alphabet has the same letters as English, except that certain letters have accents. As you can see in the table below, some of these are pronounced differently than the German letters. It’s best to pay more attention to the sounds than the letters when you start learning French.
As in the German word
In French there are 23 consonants and 16 vowel sounds. If you speak German, you already know many of them. However, some sounds will be new and a bit unfamiliar at first.
In order to learn French pronunciation correctly, it can be helpful to practice certain sounds separately with a private teacher in the Online French Lessons on Preply. Experienced teachers can point out which sounds you are not yet pronouncing correctly and provide you with specific exercises for effective learning.
Lessons take place via user-friendly video chat, making learning as time-saving and flexible as possible. Find the perfect teacher and get started in French. It couldn’t be easier.
Step 2: Start speaking (now!)
Communicating in a new foreign language for the first time can feel awkward. In order to make rapid progress, however, you should try to overcome this inhibition threshold as quickly as possible.
We recommend the following to make quick progress in speaking:
Learn with a French teacher
Passive and active hearing can be easily integrated into everyday life. Speaking is more difficult. On Preply you can book one-to-one French lessons with native speakers. In your individually designed lessons, you can practice your listening and speaking skills in everyday situations at the same time.
Join a language exchange
There are numerous language tandem and language exchange apps and websites that you can use to practice with native French speakers. Half the time you speak French, the other half in your mother tongue. This is a good option if your language learning budget is tight, as most of the language tandem opportunities are free. Note, however, that your language exchange partners are not professional teachers. So it’s not a question of structured lessons, but rather a conversation among friends.
Familiarize yourself with French culture
Find out if there are French cultural associations or clubs near where you live and try to take part in organized activities. If you’re starting a new hobby or are studying, you could do it in French.
Another way to get to know French culture is through your stomach. Do you know French restaurants or bars where you can use your knowledge and order food in French? If so, don’t miss the opportunity to improve your French over a delicious meal.
Step 3: Read in French
It is almost impossible to learn a language without studying its literature. Even if you don’t know enough French to read Proust or Hugo, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read in French at all.
Experts agree: Beginners should start with short and simple works. We recommend the following:
- “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- “Mon père est femme de ménage” by Saphia Azzeddine
- “Le Petit Nicolas” by René Goscinny
Another tip is to read your favorite books in French that you already know the plot of (e.g. Harry Potter). In everyday life, you can also read the news in French or subscribe to a language newsletter. We recommend this French newsletter, which presents new content every day.
Step 4: Focus on listening
French-language books are a fun and convenient way to increase your vocabulary, especially when combined with listening practice. Spoken French is different from the written version, so you should practice listening separately from the start.
Fortunately, there are numerous options:
to hear conversations between native French speakers .
With a pair of headphones, you can
listen to French podcasts
and while you’re on the go, at work, at the gym or even learn French during the lunch break. We recommend Coffee Break French for beginners
- Listen to French music. You can get inspiration from playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube.
- Use audiobooks. Check Audible to see if your favorite books are also available in French.
- Explore YouTube. Think about what type of videos you usually watch (e.g. interior design, fitness, vlogs, etc.) and then find French YouTubers who create content directly in French. This is how you learn modern, everyday French. The learning process is most effective when the main content is understood. So if you don’t know what a video is about after the first few minutes, you should look for another channel.
- There are numerous YouTube channels designed specifically for French learners. We recommend innerFrench (intermediate to advanced learners) and Piece of French (beginners to Intermediate)
Step 5: Watch movies and TV in French
Movies are a great tool for learning foreign languages. If you like watching movies in your free time, why not in French? This activity will help you gain a better understanding of the language’s communication patterns, allowing you to grasp the culture. An added benefit of watching movies is that they can stimulate your brain to think in French.
We recommend watching films with French subtitles first. After a while you should turn them off to train your listening comprehension as well. Take notes on new words and phrases to actively learn. Here is a list of movies to learn French.
Pro Tip: While it’s tempting to jump right into a French show, it may be easier to start watching a show you already know that’s dubbed into French. That way you already know the plot and can fully concentrate on the language.
Step 6: Observe basic pronunciation rules
French pronunciation can be confusing for beginners learning French. First of all, the language has sounds that are not represented in German. There are also many subtleties, such as multiple sounds for the same letter, and numerous exceptions to virtually every rule. Pronunciation patterns must be learned individually. Here is a brief overview of the general pronunciation rules to help you get started learning French:
One of the most striking peculiarities is that all vowels in a word must be pronounced, while in other languages certain sounds tend to be “swallowed”.
Part of the charm of the French language is in the intonation. Unlike German, where the stress can be on any syllable, in French it is always on the last syllable pronounced. If you’re teaching yourself French, it’s a good idea to memorize the correct
. And if you need extra help with French pronunciation, you’ll definitely benefit from tuition with a
who can give you the can convey rules in detail. (Article in English)
Final consonants are usually silent, except for “c”, “f” and “l”, which are generally pronounced.
If a word ends in a consonant and the next begins with a vowel or a silent “h”, the last consonant joins the following vowel.
French has nasal sounds. They are indicated by vowel + “n” or “m”, where the vowel is nasalized and “n” or “m” is not pronounced.
A combination of letters makes different sounds. Many of them have their equivalent in German. Is it still possible to learn French on your own when the sounds and pronunciation are so difficult to master? The best thing to do is search the Internet for a comprehensive guide to letter combinations and corresponding sounds compared to your native language and memorize the differences and similarities. (native English speaker example) tongue twisters are a fun and less dry way to to perfect your pronunciation.
Step 7: Activate your vocabulary by learning simple words and phrases
The best way to learn French step by step is to start with basic words, phrases and numbers. Beginners usually start by practicing words that help them meet people, ask basic questions, and introduce themselves. Start learning French with these useful phrases.
A good place to start is (as in any language)French greetings.
Greetings and useful phrases:
Bon soir! (bohN-suahr!) – Good evening!
Au revoir! (ohr-wuahr!) – Goodbye!
S’il vous plaît. (sil wuuh pleh.) – Please.
Je vous en prie. (Schö wuuh-sahN prii.) – You’re welcome!
Thank you. (more-sii) – Thank you.
Sorry/Excusez-moi. (pahr-dohN/eks-ku-see-muah.) – Sorry.
Practical questions to learn basic French:
Do you speak English or German?
Comment allez-vous? (koh-mohN-tal-lee-wuuh?) – How are you?
Comment vous appelez-vous? (koh-mahN wuuh-sa-ple-wuuh?) – What is your name?
Source heure est-il? (kell ör eh-til?) – What time is it?
Où est-ce que je peux trouver…? (Uuh ehs-kö schö pö truh-wee….?) – Where can I find…?
See our essential French words article for more vocabulary beginners should know.
Step 8: Make a list of pronouns, nouns and verbs
Building your French vocabulary begins with the basic words. Once you know these, you can talk about the people, places, and things around you. Are you wondering how you can learn French as quickly as possible? The best approach here is to categorize nouns by subject and create targeted lists. This allows you to cover one topic at a time, which is a proven and effective way of learning new words. For example, you could start learning pronouns:
je – me
tu – you
il – he
elle – she
on – we (informal)
nous – we
vous – you her/you
ils – you (mask.)
elles – she (fem.)
The French numbers are also important. You will need them for shopping, exchanging money and for transport when you travel to France. It’s always a good idea to learn the basic verbs and their conjugation as well as nouns, as you can start using them right away and so immerse yourself in the language proactively.
Step 9: Master the basics of grammar
Learning basic words is just the first step you need to take on your journey to fluency. In order to clearly express your ideas, it is important to structure sentences correctly. There isn’t just one right and easy way to learn French when it comes to grammar. You could start with the basic grammar rules:
- Gender of nouns.
A noun in French is either masculine or feminine.
- The use of articles.
There are 3 types of articles in French. The definite article “le” (masc.) and “la” (fem.). There are also the indefinite articles “un” and “une” for masculine and feminine nouns, respectively. Zero article in German as in “Wir haben
” is given with the article “de”.
- Conjugation of verbs.
The verb in French changes according to the person and number of the subject. There are both general rules and exceptions, including irregular conjugations of some verbs.
- Verb tenses.
There are 12 actively used tenses in French. The verb changes its form depending on the tense.
Step 10: Surround yourself with French in everyday life
Proactively build the language into your everyday life. The goal is to become so immersed in the language that you think, dream and even joke in French.
This is usually associated with moving abroad, but there are plenty of ways to learn the language outside of a French-speaking country. For example:
- Change the language of your smartphone, tablet and laptop to French
- Download French movies, audiobooks and podcasts to practice on the go
- Try out new recipes in French. Even if the meal isn’t entirely successful, you’ve not only learned something culinary but also in French
The best way to learn a language is to speak it regularly. Speak French whenever you can and work your way through all the skills – reading, listening and writing. Don’t forget to do weekly reviews of what you’ve learned.
Learning a language on your own can be a big challenge. With a professional teacher, you can practice specific skills and be made aware of your mistakes. At Preply, you can search a database of qualified French teachers and choose the one that suits you best. He or she can create a study plan that suits your language level and make sure you’re making progress.
Learning a language through one-to-one tuition is a surefire way to improve your language skills. So why not give it a try?
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