Our daily activities are endless and finding time to study a language is at times difficult. Therefore, the need to optimise our learning becomes paramount. In this article I will mention some ways that will help you learn French more efficiently.
First, you should identify your learning style.
Each of us learn differently, and this is perfectly acceptable. Some of us are visual, some need to write the concepts down to memorise them, some others find audio very helpful.
You should identify which category you belong to and choose learning materials that are suited to your needs. If you are more of the visual type, you should maybe go for an online course. If you like writing down concepts, maybe a college course or a language book would be more suitable. Assess what works for you.
Independent language learning is not for everyone
Independent learners must find a systematic way of studying to develop good working practices, if they want to succeed. In such circumstances there is no teacher guiding their path and they need to plan carefully, study periodically (little and often instead of long periods) and set tasks related to their pre-established targets.
The first requirement to succeed at independent learning is Motivation. Effective independent learners are to take responsibility for their own learning if they want to attain their goal. They are driven by the desire to know more about the language and explore and discover the culture behind it. If you fit this description, independent learning is for you.
You should be certain that you will handle the different hurdles that you will encounter during your studies before you decide to go it alone.
Some students need the guidance and motivation a teacher can provide, and it’s fine. In this case, a 1 to 1 or a group class would be more beneficial either in person or online.
Avoid translations if you can
There are ways to stop you thinking in your own tongue and
If you are an absolute beginner, you need to learn the foundations of the new
language like the alphabet, basic words, and expressions.
When learning your new vocabulary, try to find a representation of the object that you are trying to memorise; for example if you're learning the word chair "chaise" in French, draw a chair or stick a picture of a chair instead of translating it. This is the way a child learns to speak. They don't have any other language as reference. They see the object and with time and practice they learn the name for it. So, learn as a child.
The representation of abstract words will be slightly more difficult. For these, use definitions. Look them up in a French dictionary and write them down. You can try as well to associate these words with a physical object or a person.
Link the new French vocabulary that you encounter with images, situations, and feelings.
Look for abstract words'definitions in a dictionary.
Immerse yourself in French
Listen to music, audio- books, TV programs.
Read books. When you're doing so, avoid the word-for-word translation. Try to grab the general meaning of the text instead.( Check out Reading Strategies)
Think in French.
One way to do it is to describe to yourself what you see or intend to do. For example if you're going to the corner shop for a pint of milk, describe to yourself all the steps like going out of the house, securing the door, walking down the street, what you see around you, who you see, what you do when you arrive there, how you pay for the milk....you get my drift.
You can make a recording of yourself as well talking about a specific topic in French. It is a good way to pay attention to your pronunciation.
Learn French in context
Instead of learning isolated words, group your new vocabulary in sentences. This will allow you to remember them longer and retrieve them when needed, faster. Remembering these sentences will become very helpful in your conversations as well.
When making these sentences, borrow examples from your life or people you know. This will prove highly beneficial, first because you will memorise them faster and retrieval will be much effortless. It is always easier for your brain to remember a sentence describing a true fact than a made-up situation.
The use of flashcards is very popular. They help you memorise quicker and more effectively than by making a list.
Use pocket cards that will be easier to carry with you for revision and study time on the go. On one side write the French word and on the other side the definition of the word or its translation. Also write the original sentence from which you have found the new word or make your own. Whenever you come across the new word in other writings or conversations, write the full expression down. If your aim is to grow your vocabulary fast, make a flashcard for similar words (synonyms) and opposite words(antonyms). You can also make digital flashcards and keep expanding your vocabulary pool by adding more with each new word. Try Anki and Memrise.
Learners can easily get lost in translation when they fail to identify false cognates.
Don’t be fooled by cognates
Well, Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation.
They are the words that are easiest to learn because they are like the ones you already know. It allows you to use these words straight away because you’re already familiar to them in your own tongue.
By learning cognates in your new language, you will become more confident at using them.
You should pay attention in recognising cognates, quite often they are not spotted by language learners. Beware that cognates have a different pronunciation and pay attention in pronouncing them the French way.
Furthermore, there are false cognates. These are words that exist in both languages but don’t have the same meanings. For example, the French word blessé and the English blessed. Blessé means wounded, hurt.
You should always bear in mind the possibility of false cognates when you encounter new vocabulary. The good news is that only around 5% of cognates in English are false.
Group related vocabulary together
Study vocabulary by themes. Create a list of vocabulary by themes, for example travelling by plane. Find out as many related words as possible and find a short definition or description for each. Write an example sentence for each item; this will allow you to establish connections and it will be much easier to memorise the new words.
make vocabulary trees. You can choose to learn " bedroom items " for example (bed, cupboards, drawers, curtains, windows, bedside lamps etc). You will memorise them easier because they are related, and your brain will put them into context.
Don’t try to learn everything, instead prioritise what you wish to study according to your needs and how you plan to use the language. Always start with what is easiest and most useful and build up your knowledge slowly.
It is of no use to spend 3 hours nonstop at weekends learning French. Your brain will retain less than a third of what you are trying to cram in it. This will lead to lost of motivation and you will soon abandon your dream of mastering the language. Instead find 15 to 30 minutes a day and engage in a French learning activity.
Regular study is paramount.
Revision is key
Include in your studies some time to go back to what you’ve already learned. Reviewing the old concepts is paramount for knowledge storage and recollection. For each hour you spend learning the new, you should spend the same time reviewing the old.
If you want to grab more tips to help you learn French Download the ‘Ultimate Guide To Overcoming The Fear Of Speaking French’