Is it possible to learn French on your own? Absolutely yes! I learned enough of this beautiful language to have conversations with native speakers.
I will admit that it was an intimidating experience in the beginning . It is, however, always intimidating to speak with a native speaker for the first time.
This article will highlight the free resources you can use to get started learning French, but let us start by introducing some important concepts regarding the French language.
What you should know before getting started
1. Masculine and feminine
Do you already speak a language where they differentiate between masculine and feminine words?
If not, let me give you a quick explanation.
In French, every noun/word has a gender, which is not that difficult to understand with this example:
1. Une femme (a female)
2. Un homme (a man)
However, many times there is no logic to the gender of a word. For instance:
1. Une table (a table)
2 Un canapé (a sofa)
My advice is, therefore, to always, and I mean always, learn the gender of the word.
I did not do this, which caused me a lot of extra work later in my studies.
You might wonder why this is so important?
The gender of the word can have an impact on the entire sentence, so it’s a good idea to get it right from the beginning .
You have probably asked yourself if it is possible to speak without an accent?
I would say yes, but you need to be a bit creative.
Depending on your mother tongue, some words and letters can be more difficult than others.
Many people find it difficult to pronounce the French “R”.
This video explains why as well as why you should put a pen in your mouth when you pronounce certain letters and words.
You will quickly notice that you do not always need to use the tongue, especially for the so-called nasal sounds.
3. Speak, read, and write
This sounds like basic advice, but I know for a fact that many people do not follow this method.
I was one of them.
You should always combine these three areas of learning right from the beginning.
And, for whatever reason, many people do not try to speak French. I don’t know why. Maybe because it can be a bit intimidating, which does not make sense if you are alone.
You can try to repeat everything that you learned for the day with your own words.
And yes, this is very difficult in the beginning when you lack the vocabulary to describe basic things about yourself.
However, I found that this method works very well. The reason is simple. Speaking a foreign language often means that you translate things in your head all the time.
Your way of saying things is often different from the people around you. It is therefore a very good idea to develop your own phrases.
So how can you come up with your own phrases when you are a beginner?
You can Google pretty much any sentence and get a good answer. Google Translate also works very well from English to French and vice-versa.
The website Contexto is another brilliant resource. It gives you examples of many colloquial phrases that are super important if you want to understand spoken French.
4. Translate into your mother tongue
Do you already speak more than one language?
You should always translate into your mother tongue. Why?
We tend to think in our mother tongue. I spoke two languages before learning French.
In the beginning, I only used resources with English as their language of instruction.
I slowly noticed that I had to translate everything two times in my head, which slowed down my learning process.
Coffee Break French
This podcast is excellent for beginners. The host is perfectly fluent in French and English, while the co-host is starting her French studies from scratch.
You will make the same progress as the co-host every episode.
Listening to this podcast is like having your own personal tutor. Sometimes you will even feel like you’re involved in the conversations.
In season 3 they make a trip to France to practice what they have learned.
The podcast is completely free. You can, however, pay for extra learning material. I never did as I didn’t think it was necessary.
Step-by-Step on WordPress is another brilliant resource. Why? They have divided the different learning areas from beginner to intermediate.
You will be able to follow a clear study pattern. I found this very useful when I was a beginner.
Many students prefer to avoid the written word. They’d rather watch videos, which also is a good idea.
But one problem with videos is that YouTube channels don’t always provide you with a clear study pattern.
YouTube is, on the other hand, a very good resource when you do not understand something or if you need more explanation.
You can also search for a more in-depth explanation if you get stuck. There are videos for pretty much any French topic.
This website does not yet have a clear study pattern. You can, however, find in-depth explanations of the key elements of the French language.
For now, you can find long articles about the verbs, adjectives, pronouns etc. You can also find exercises and examples.
I started studying on my own, just like you. I can therefore identify the areas that usually pose the biggest problems for beginners.
One such area is the pronunciation. Another one is the fact that this language makes a difference between masculine and feminine nouns.
In fact, the list of obstacles is long, but you will get there if you are motivated.
I have already mentioned that there are several YouTube channels to choose from, but now I’d like to recommend Alexa French.
This channel provides you with a very pedagogical perspective of grammar, which is very important if your intention is to study by yourself.
And yes, studying grammar is a must if you want to ever feel comfortable speaking a foreign language.
You could see grammar as the blueprint on how to say things. You will be able to say things with confidence if you know the key rules by heart.
Don’t let the name fool you, this channel doesn’t provide easy lessons.
However, they do a great job of teaching you how the language is used in everyday life. They interview people in Paris about different topics.
There are always subtitles on every video (English and French combined), but if you are a beginner it will still be difficult.
I would say that this channel is for people who have gotten past the beginner’s level.
And when you do, this channel will provide you with several useful lessons.
I know for a fact that many French learners struggle with the spoken language. The native speakers talk fast and they tend to use a lot of slang.
I also know that many advanced learners still struggle with this. It is therefore a good idea to incorporate this aspect of the language early in your studies.
Italki is not a free resource. It is a platform where you can find personal tutors at a low cost.
You can hire your own tutor for as little as $13 per lesson. I used this service a couple of times and I highly recommend it.
It’s easy to find a tutor and you get to talk to someone in your home environment. Some tutors have a degree in French. However, they tend to charge a higher hourly rate.
I have used this service around 10 times now. I stopped when I started studying at the university.
After my studies I realized that I could talk to myself about the subjects that interested me. This suits me better as I like doing things my own way.
Now let me give you some extra tips that have worked well for me:
- Study every day – 30 minutes is enough. In fact, I don’t think you should study for longer, as it can be exhausting in the long run. Most of us can, however, dedicate 30 minutes every day to our hobbies.
- This will help you create a daily routine, which is very important when it comes to language studies.
- Repetition is key if you want to become fluent. I don’t know why, but some words and tenses need extra attention. It probably has to do with our brains and our way of learning new things. Sometimes you need to study the same things over and over again. This is not a big problem so long as you are aware of it.
- It can, however, be very challenging if you feel that you are not making progress. You are always making progress when you study. Some things just take more time and effort .
- It is very important to get used to the sound of French – This can be achieved by watching shows and listening to music in the language. However, this will not help you that much in your studies if you do not take an active role. You need to look up certain words and phrases that you do not understand.
- I advise you to keep a notebook with you when you watch series and films. Take notes and do research on the words and phrases that you do not understand. This is super important because I have found that we tend to remember things better when we write them down.
- In addition, you can always go back to your notebook if you need to clarify something. I can recall numerous situations where I have heard something that I do not understand. Then I remember that I already wrote a note about this earlier.
I have personally used all the resources and I believe that they will provide you with a clear path to becoming conversational.
Studying a language is never easy, but it helps to follow a path that suits you. Paying for tutoring does not necessarily mean that you will make progress. As I have said numerous times in this article, the best resources tend to be free.
You are more than welcome to ask me a question. I enjoy responding as it helps me in my own studies.