DIY Beginning French

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Note: This page is still under development. Keep checking back for new info!

Starting a Language

Congratulations on taking your first steps towards learning French! Learning a language has all sorts of benefits, even at the beginning stages. A few examples? Language-learning helps you relate to and build respect for others, it teaches you about other places and peoples, it gives you cognitive benefits, and it builds your communication skills (including in your native language) and confidence.

I started learning French in junior high. Since then, I've also spent time learning Spanish and Korean--but French has always been my favorite, both to learn and to teach others. That first French class was the first time I experienced the magic of foreign-language learning. When you start studying a language and you begin to put together sentences and understand what others are saying for the first time--that experience is really incredible.

French is also a versatile language. Many people don't know that French is an official language in 29 countries and is spoken in Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. Its vocabulary is used in disciplines including ballet, cooking and baking, and fencing. It is one of six official languages of the United Nations, and one of two for the Olympics. And, as many people have told me as the reason they want to learn it, French is simply beautiful.

Some Language-Learning Tips

Learning a language has a lot of benefits, but the process can sometimes feel discouraging. Here are some suggestions for the journey:

  • Be consistent. It's okay if you don't know everything--the key is to keep at it and keep learning.

  • Be patient. This is a process.

  • Speak French as much as possible

  • Use flashcards to memorize new vocabulary

  • Be brave. Jump in and go for it! Things like having a conversation with a native speaker can be intimidating, but the more you do those things, the faster you'll learn.

  • Check out this post on language learning for more ideas

How to Learn French on Your Own

This webpage is designed to help you start learning French on your own. Use the content posted below as a framework. In addition, however, you need to get lots and lots of consistent, frequent practice. The following resources are a great way to do that:

  • The website iTalki lets you practice your new language by speaking to native speakers across the globe--and getting speaking is one of the best things you can do to learn a language. There are tutors on the site who advertise paid services. My favorite way to use the site, though, is setting up a language exchange, where you talk to someone from another country (for free!), spending half the conversation in each person’s native language. You'll learn so much--your language skills will improve, but you'll also learn a ton about other places and cultures.

  • Simple songs can be a great resource for learning French. I've found it easier to remember a set of words when they're set to music. I assembled this YouTube playlist with songs I use with my beginning students. It includes songs for the alphabet, numbers, the days of the week, and so on, along with some children's songs. I also recommend music videos from Alain le Lait for beginners--check out a playlist with his songs here.

  • The app Duolingo: This is a great free resource. In my experience, it works best when it's used as a supplement to your language learning, rather than being the only thing you use.

  • The free video series Téléfrançais is the best I've found for beginning French learners. The series, created by TVOntario, is an excellent supplement to your French learning, and are great to add after you've spent a little time building a base with the language. They are available on YouTube--I've assembled a playlist with the episodes. The videos were made back in the 1980s, but don't let that deter you--even though they're older, my students have always enjoyed watching them. I've created a set of worksheets that go along with the episodes, designed to help you understand what's going and learn the new vocabulary.

  • Books from TPRS Publishing: I've spent a lot of time looking for French reading materials for my beginning students. I--along with many people--originally assumed children's books in French would be the best option. Unfortunately, I've found even picture books can have a wide vocabulary and complex grammar. I eventually found TPRS Publishing. They write short novels geared at beginning learners with simple language that's comprehensible. The novels use the vocabulary and grammar that most beginners have been working on learning. I've used them in my classes, and they're a great way to build your reading skills and overall language skills. Some of the simplest of these novels are posted below.

Purchasing through these links sends a small percentage of what you pay to support this website without changing the cost to you.

Learn French

I'm still working on building a DIY beginning French course for you. Keep checking back!

1. Learn the alphabet

Start with learning and practicing the alphabet in French: This page has all the info!

2. Learn the basics of French pronunciation and reading in French

Go through the information, videos, and recordings I've posted here.

3. Learn the numbers in French

This page tells you how.

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