French Made Easy: Even Dummies Can Learn French
Learning French is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning French online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. French is a close cousin to English with thousands of words in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile app include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the how-to tips below and then test your skills with a free French lesson.
How French differs from English
French is one of five main Romance languages, meaning it has Latin roots (i.e. from Rome). If you already know another Romance language, like Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese, you will recognize French grammar as well as most of the vocabulary. If not, you don’t need to know too many rules to get started. French grammar is more straightforward than English and is not a major stumbling block for most learners.
Unlike English, which has no gendered nouns (the is the only definite article), every noun in French is either masculine (preceded by le) or feminine (preceded by la). Both masculine and feminine nouns use the plural form les.
Basic phrases in French
- oui / non – yes / no
- Bonjour – Hello/Good morning
- Au revoir – goodbye
- S’il vous plaît – please
- Merci – thank you
- Je m’appelle… – My name is…
- Je ne comprends pas. – I don’t understand.
- Excusez-moi – Excuse me
Aidez-Moi! (Help me!)
If you know nothing else, being able to ask questions is a good way to start speaking a language. Not only can you start communicating right away, but the answers to your questions will provide you with new vocabulary.
- Où est la station? – Where is the station?
- D’où venez-vous? – Where are you from?
- Quand ce sera? – When will it be?
- Quel heure est-il? What time is it?
- Porquoi? – Why?
- Comment va-tu? – How are you? (literally “how are you going”)?
Verb Conjugation Verbs in French are always conjugated, which means the verb has a different ending depending on whether you, I, we, she, or they are doing the verb. To get you started, here are a few useful verbs in the I form:
- Je veux… – I want…
- Je voudrais… – I would like…
- J’ai… – I have…
Finding the Similarities to English
English is technically a Germanic language, but, because it borrows more than half of its vocabulary from French and Latin, it is very close to a Romance language in practice. As a result, English and French share thousands of “vrais amis”, or “true friends”: words that sound the same and have the same meaning. For example, if I were to tell you that la situation globale de destruction glacier est dangeroux, you’d quickly realize that you understood all five of those French nouns and, because of the context, probably de and est as well. But you can’t always stick an “e” or “x” to the end of an English noun and expect to be understood by a French speaker. Beware of “faux amis”, or “false friends”: French words that sound like English words but have different meanings. For example, it’s not immediately obvious that to wait for something is attendre, while to attend an event is assister, and to assist someone is aider. However, it is useful to note that aider is the true friend of the English word aid (as in to help).
How To Practice Your French
Try your first French lesson with Babbel for free. One of the advantages of the Babbel system is that you are immersed in French from the beginning. The process is easy and intuitive (with lots of helpful hints when you need them), and you can learn at your own pace and set your own lesson plans. Babbel’s French course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. You can master French by yourself, or use Babbel’s community features to connect with other learners, find tandem partners and share expertise. Use the tips above and see which level you can achieve.