With its romantic vibe and its melodious rhythm, French is known as one of the most beautiful languages in the world. But in addition to its beauty, the French language is useful no matter where you are. Do you intend to travel to a French-speaking country? Are you planning to relocate? Would you like to get a job abroad or at a local company that uses French as their working language? If that sounds like you, then learning French is the best choice!
Luckily, it won’t be so difficult to learn French if you’re an English speaker. These two languages have had a close relationship since the 11th century when the Duke of Normandy conquered the English throne. Since then, they have shared linguistic structures, vocabulary, pronunciation features, and other aspects that will make it relatively easy to learn French with the help of an expert tutor. And if you’re not sure where to start, have a look at the following guide!
Where Is French Spoken?
French is one of the most spoken languages on the planet. This means that, if you learn French, you’ll have the possibility of speaking with almost 300 million native and non-native speakers around the world, as it’s the official language of these 31 countries:
Of course, the people in these countries speak different varieties and dialects, with their own vocabulary, pronunciation, and syntax. So, if you’re planning to learn French soon, the first step is to understand your needs and requirements to choose accordingly.Start Learning French!
Learn the French Pronunciation System
The French pronunciation system is somewhat challenging to learn. While English and French share the same alphabet, it’s not the same with the pronunciation system. For instance, French has many accents and diacritics that render vowels more open or closed, as in the case of a, à, and â. Don’t worry, your native teacher will easily point out these differences and help you produce French vowels without problems. Meanwhile, here are some tips on how to pronounce the French vowels:
|avoir (to have)||It's pronounced like the "a" in adventure|
|It's pronounced like the "e" in elementary|
|It's pronouncedlike the "e" in very|
|It's pronounced like the "i" in finish|
|It's pronounced like the "o" in October|
|Victor||It's pronounced like the "o" in shop|
|It's pronounced like the "u" in furious. It's halfway between the "ee" sound and the "ooh" movement of the lips. Try saying "ooh" while pronouncing "ee".|
For the nasal vowel sounds (in, en/an, on)
|[ɛ]̃in – im – ain – ein||vin
|It’s pronounced like the “en” in entrance or event (without tapping your tongue).|
|[ɑ̃]an – am – en – em||sans
|It’s pronounced like the “un” in “under” “fun” (without tapping your tongue)|
|[ɔ]̃on – om||maison
|It’s pronounced like the “on” in on (without tapping your tongue).|
1. The French Silent Letters
Many words in French have silent letters, that is, they occur in writing but are not pronounced. Some examples are Descartes or rendezvous. And while they can become a headache, luckily there are many rules that will help you master the French silent letters:
- The letter “e” is never pronounced when it occurs in final position. The only exception is when the syllable is stressed or a monosyllable.
- Other silent letters when in final position are p, g, m, n, s, t, x, z, and d, as in trop (too), sang (blood), or vous (you).
- Instead, the letter “h” is typically silent when it appears at the beginning of words, such as homme or hôpital.
2. The R Sound
The French R is a very difficult sound to learn for speakers of other languages, as it’s produced with the throat instead of the tongue (as if you were trying to gargle!). In addition to practising with your native tutor, you can look for online resources to polish up your French R!
3. The Double L
To complicate matters a bit more, double Ls in French have two different pronunciations: /l/ as in “luck” or /sh/ as in “she”. Unfortunately, it can be tough to know which one to use because rules are not always consistent, but here are some tips to understand how to pronounce the double L:
- If double L occurs after a vowel, you should pronounce it as /l/, as in elle (she) or balle (dance).
- The rule above does not apply when the vowel is an <I>. In that case, you should pronounce the double L as /sh/, as in mouiller (to get wet) or taille (size).
- Similarly, if there’s no vowel before the cluster -ille, as in fille (girl) or bille (marble), you should pronounce the double L as /sh/.
Resources to Learn French Online for Free
If you are a beginner and are looking for tools and resources to take your French skills to the next level, find here some of our top picks:
1. Want to improve your communication skills in a real-life environment while making new friends? Join Conversation Exchange! This is a free platform where you can connect with people who want to learn French and also with native speakers who want to learn other languages. You can help them learn yours while improving your French level!
2. Use apps like Duolingo, Drops, Memrise, or Busuu to polish your skills in your free time. Most of them are free of charge (though you can choose to pay for their subscription and access even more features) and you’ll be able to practice vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure and even put your listening skills to the test in a simple manner.
3. Read the news in French and keep up with what’s going on in the world while taking your French skills to the next level. If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, you can have a look at newspapers like Le Huff Post, which also have English versions in case you need to compare vocabulary or grammar structures.
Some Essential French Idioms
If you want to sound truly fluent in French (and understand everything that people are saying), you need to get familiar with French idioms. These are phrases that make no sense when trying to be interpreted literally, so it’s important to study them in advance to be able to use and understand them in conversation. Here we present you with some of the most essential French idioms you need to know!
|Idiom||Meaning||Example in French||English translation|
|En avoir marre||To be fed up with.||J’en ai marre de tes excuses||I’m fed up with your excuses|
|Avoir la flemme||To feel lazy.||Ils ont la flemme de nettoyer leur chambre||They are too lazy to tidy up their room|
|Tourner la page||To turn the page.||Quand rien ne va plus, il faut savoir tourner la page||When things are not working anymore, it’s time to turn the page|
|Avoir la gueule de bois||To have a hangover.||J’ai fait la fête hier et aujourd’hui j’ai la gueule de bois||I partied yesterday and today I have a hangover|
|Sage comme une image||To be good as gold||Elle a été sage comme une image ce soir||She was good as gold this evening|
|Au ras des paquerettes||To have no interest.||Cette conversation vole au ras des paquerettes||This conversation is of no interest, very basic|
|Être mal en point||To be in a bad shape.||Il a eu un accident de voiture, il est mal en point||He had a car accident, he is in a bad shape|
|Croire dur comme fer||To strongly believe in something.||Le nouveau PDG croit dur comme fer au rôle des femmes pour la société||The new CEO strongly believes in the role of women for the company|
Certainly, French is a language that will open up countless doors for you, both abroad and at home. We hope you have a clearer picture of how to start learning this language from the comfort of your home and what aspects you should focus on! And if you feel you need some extra help to become bilingual in French, you can always contact us at Listen & Learn. We offer individual and group courses, face-to-face or online, which will suit all your needs and requirements!