Getting to know French vocabulary is an essential part of learning the French language. Along with French grammar, French vocabulary is the most important skill to know when you’re learning French. After all, you can’t actually use a new language without knowing the words, expressions and phrases that make up that language! The more French vocabulary you know, the more you’re able to talk about everything in your world — from what you do for work to your hobbies to your favorite colors and foods to the weather outside and everything in between.

The Roots Of French Vocabulary

French is a Romance language, which means it is a descendant of the Vulgar Latin spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire — just like Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, for example.

Though English isn’t in the same language family as French (English is a Frenchic language), more than a quarter of English words come from Latin, and roughly the same amount of English words come from the French language (so, indirectly from Latin). And there are thousands of Greek words that have made their way into both English and French, too. That means you’re going to find a lot of Latin- and Greek-derived words in French vocabulary you already recognize. When you see the French words artiste, académique, or génération, for example, you’ll probably have no trouble guessing their English equivalents.


How Can I Improve My French Vocabulary?

There’s no right or wrong way to practice French vocabulary. The most important thing is that you find a way that works for you and helps you remember words and phrases when you need them most in conversation, writing or any other context.

Many people find it helpful to practice French vocabulary with flashcards. The typical French flashcard has an English word on one side and the French translation on the other, but you can write anything on either side of the cards — from definitions to example sentences using the word you’re learning.

Online learning sites like Quizlet are great for studying French vocabulary. When you use Quizlet French flashcards or the platform’s other games and tools, you can boost your memory retention and word recall, hone your spelling skills and practice French vocabulary in interactive, engaging ways.

Some people like to practice French vocabulary in more real-world ways. You might have heard of the sticky note method, where learners write the French word for items in their kitchens or living rooms on sticky notes, for example, and post them on those items to help them make the association with the French vocabulary word each time they look at or use that item. You can expand the system to label nearly everything in your home and to put notes of words you want to learn where you’re sure to see them, like on your shower door or on your ceiling above your bed for extra practice. This can be a really helpful French learning strategy for people who like to learn visually!

You can also recruit someone else to help you study French vocabulary. Have a friend, roommate or partner quiz you on word definitions and translations from a list you prepare. If you’re both learning French, challenge each other to review one list of vocabulary every day, and if one of you fails or falls behind, that friend owes the other a drink or a coffee, for example. Or point out different objects in your environment to each other and see who can name the most items in French without consulting a dictionary or other resource. There are so many ways to practice French vocabulary with another person, whether they’re learning French or not! 

Learning French Vocabulary With Babbel

Babbel makes learning and practicing French vocabulary easy, interactive and fun. Our French learning content is designed by language experts and teachers who know the best methods to build your French vocabulary skills and make sure they stick. A variety of speaking, writing, reading and listening exercises reinforce all the elements of language learning so you’ll be ready to use the terms you’re learning in different situations.

Babbel lessons introduce new words and expressions in stages, focusing on vocabulary that applies in conversations with actual native speakers — not nonsensical or impractical words that you’ll never use. Almost every Babbel French lesson features a simulated dialogue that lets you use what you’ve learned in real-life contexts. The Review feature brings back French vocabulary words from earlier lessons when you’re most at risk of forgetting them, helping you strengthen your word recall skills with interactive flashcard and spelling exercises. Ready to get started learning French vocabulary? Try a free French lesson!

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