How to learn a language online

How to learn a language online

wayne parry

Learn French online - for free!

 

 

 

Learning a language doesn't need to be expensive and in fact, it doesn't have to cost anything at all. Many of us fall into a bad habit of going straight for the grammatical exercises out of a textbook that doesn't exactly motivate us to want to learn. We often forget about the cultural aspect of the language and we wonder why it takes so long to learn the language. Here's a helpful guide. Twelve easy steps that I used in my book (Do You Speak English?) to combat this problem. It's fun, it involves no grammar and most of all - it's free.

 

By using examples I've given, you can re-design your own language plan that involves all or many of the twelve steps that I've demonstrated. To be able to speak effectively, it's true that you need to know the rules of the grammar and that's often a mundane chore. That can also be learned online. Take a break from the grammar learning every now and then by using these simple steps to trick your mind into believing that this is a good thing - absorbing the culture of the language. You'll learn a lot faster when your mind is busy moving from one topic to the next and you'll avoid the boredom that often comes with learning a language. Bon chance - good luck with your language learning!  

  

 

STEP ONE : TO KNOW WHERE IT IS SPOKEN

 

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN THE FOLLOWING PLACES:

Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon, Guadeloupe, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, New Caledonia, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Réunion, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, Vanuatu and Wallis et Futuna. 

 

ALSO SPOKEN IN THE FOLLOWING PLACES:

Algeria, Andorra, Aosta Valley (Italy), the Channel Islands (UK), Laos, Lebanon, Louisiana (USA), Mauritius, Mauritania, Morocco, St Barthélemy, St Martin, St Pierre et Miquelon and Tunisia.

 

French is also used by a minority of the population in places like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Pondicherry (India), as well as in the New England states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire (USA).

 

French is spoken and understood around the world, and not only in officially French speaking countries. Here’s a list of the most populous ones.

 

1.      France (60.5 million)

2.      Democratic Republic of the Congo (24.3 million)

3.      Algeria (21 million)

4.      Cote d’Ivoire (12.7 million)

5.      Canada (10.6 million)

6.      Morocco (10.1 million)

7.      Cameroon (7.3 million)

8.      Tunisia (6.4 million)

9.      Belgium (6.3 million)

10.  Haiti (6.3 million)

11.  Guinea (6 million)

12.  Switzerland (3.6 million)

13.  Senegal (3.6 million)

14.  Madagascar (3.5 million)

15.  Republic of the Congo (2.4 million)

16.  Benin (2.1 million)

17.  Chad (2 million)

18.  Togo (2 million)

19.  Lebanon (1.4 million)

20.  Niger (1.3 million)

 

Of course, this is a conservative figure as there would be many more people in these countries who have a fair understanding of French and it doesn’t include the estimated 14 million Britons who speak and understand French, as well as more than 2 million Americans who speak French at home. In total, there are over 300 million people who speak French worldwide. 

 

The purpose of Step One is to become familiar with where the language is spoken and to eliminate any preconceived images of French as being a language that is confined to one country. This will help us to prepare ourselves for the language in further steps to come.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP TWO :          TO CHOOSE A PLACE WHERE IT IS SPOKEN

EXAMPLE:             PARIS

 

Become familiar with the setting of your chosen language by taking a YouTube city tour. There seem to be many filmed tours with English commentaries but it’s important that we take away any narrations in English (or other languages) as this will distract us. We have to find a clip that has a narration in French or no narration at all. The easiest way to do this on YouTube is to type “les rue de….” followed by the name of the chosen city.

 

The purpose of Step Two is to imagine that we’re actually in that place – whether it’s a film clip inside someone’s car or walking down the street. This is almost as good as actually being there. By this stage we should be able to do without any voice-overs in our own language. From now on – it’s only in French.    

 

 

STEP THREE :       TO BECOME FAMILIAR WITH THE SIGNS

EXAMPLE:             VISIT A MARKET IN PARIS

 

The best place to find a variety of signs to read is at a market or by simply strolling down a street like this one in Paris. When there’s no commentary and when it’s in a setting like this, we’re able to focus more on the written aspect of the language as well as take in some of the street life. Markets are ideal for this step.

 

The purpose of Step Three is to train ourselves to absorb written details that will assist us later on. We need to keep observing these signs to be able to store them in our memory and when we associate signs next to objects, this helps us to associate words with images. 

 

 

STEP FOUR :        TO UNDERSTAND THEIR BEHAVIOUR

EXAMPLE:            TELEVISION IN FRENCH

 

The majority of TV programmes in French usually come from France but there is a surprisingly large volume of TV shows from Quebec that make their way across the Atlantic. Watching a television series as opposed to a movie gives you more of an understanding of the characters and situations – a great way for learning the language. It’s important to choose a type of TV series that interests you and here’s a list I’ve put together which includes some popular TV drama from around the world, some cartoons I grew up with (to bring out the child in me, perhaps?) and some adaptations of programmes from elsewhere, such as La Job (The Office), which is originally a British production. The Quebec version is hilarious!

 

Fait Pas Ci, Fait Pas Ça                        sitcom from France

Sous Le Soleil                                        drama series from France

Plus Belle La Vie                                    another drama series from France

Fort Boyard                                              celebrity reality game show from France

Les Bleus                                                cop drama from France

Ben et Thomas                                       teen drama from France

Commissaire Moulin                            cop drama from France

La Vie Devant Nous                              teen drama from France

Engrenages                                           another cop drama from France, known as Spiral in English

450 Chemin du Golf                             sitcom from Quebec

Le Cœur à Ses Raisons                     another sitcom from Quebec

La Job                                                     adaptation of The Office from Quebec

Loft Story                                                adaptation of Big Brother (versions from France & Quebec)

Sop Moté                                               drama series from Cameroon

Haute Tension                                     another drama series from Cameroon

Astérix et Obélix                                   favourite cartoon from France

Les Schtroumpfs                                the original Smurfs from Belgium

Les Aventures de Tintin                    the original Tintin from Belgium  

 

The purpose of Step Four is to open our senses to how people react and behave when speaking French. By typing in one of the above titles we will see a few minutes of a typical episode of one of these programmes and we can then take the next step in becoming more acquainted with that programme by finding a way to obtain the series on DVD or online (legally, please!) so that we can follow some of the characters as the story develops. 

 

 

 

STEP FIVE:           TO UNDERSTAND THE LOCAL FOOD

EXAMPLE:            FRENCH CUISINE

 

French cuisine is one of the most acclaimed cuisines of the world but it can vary from haute cuisine in fine restaurants to typical street food. All across the French speaking world, there is a variety of delicious food which can be found online. Here are some examples of some popular dishes.

 

Steak frites                              (steak and fries)

Coq au Vin                              (rooster in red wine)

Cassoulet                                (duck stew with sausages and beans)

Foie gras                                 (duck or goose liver)

Steak au poivre                      (pepper steak)

Quiche Lorraine                     (popular quiche from the Lorraine region)

Crêpe Suzette                         (savoury crepe dish)

Bœuf Bourgignon                   (beef stewed in red wine)

Raclette                                   (melted cheese with potatoes and ham)

Bouillabaisse                         (fish stew with herbs from Provence)

Ratatouille                               (vegetable stew)

Poutine                                    (fries with cheese curds and gravy from Quebec)

Montreal style bagels            (these differ from the New York variety)

Tourtière                                  (meat pie from Quebec)

Moules frites                           (mussels and fries from Belgium)

Tomate crevette                     (grey shrimp stuffed in tomato from Belgium)

Maafe                                       (Senegalese groundnut stew)

Poulet Yassa                          (chicken dish from Senegal)

Ndolé                                       (fish stew with groundnuts from Cameroon)

Brochettes de chèvre            (goat meat skewers popular all over West Africa)

Crème brûlée                         (burnt cream dessert)

Mille feuille                              (layered puff pastry filled with cream)

Mousse au chocolat              (chocolate mousse)

Profiteroles                             (cream puffs covered in chocolate sauce)

 

The best way to get to know the food is to search for some of these dishes online or simply step into a restaurant. The purpose of Step Five is to get our stomachs interested in the language as well. Previous steps stimulated our senses by observing signs (visual) or learning about where the language is spoken. This time we need to understand what the native speakers usually eat. 

 

 

STEP SIX:             TO LEARN HOW THE FOOD IS MADE

EXAMPLE:            CRÈME BRÛLÉE À L’ ÉRABLE (MAPLE SYRUP)

 

Even though it may be daunting to understand the instructions of a chef in another language, we all understand food and when the ingredients are presented in front of us, we normally know what to do with them. This continuation of food as Step Six is to further involve us in the preparation of local food and motivate us into learning more about what is eaten where that language is spoken. 

 

 

 

 

STEP SEVEN:       TO UNDERSTAND THE MUSIC

EXAMPLE:             MUSIC VIDEO CLIPS IN FRENCH

 

Where to start? The French language has so much to offer and the variety of genres is endless. Here’s a list of what I would listen to in French – from Congolese soukous to French rap. The list is quite diverse and it contains songs that have either been released very recently or within the last year or so.  

 

The best way to listen to these songs would be to copy and paste the names of the songs below and add the word “lyrics” next to them, to be able to read what’s being sung. Of course, it’s also good to watch the official video clips.  

 

FROM METROPOLITAN FRANCE

La Forêt (Lescop)       

Si Mes Larmes Tombent (Christophe Willem)

Mafiosa 4 Générique (Pierre Gambini)

Indélébile (Christophe Willem & Zaho)

Ma Direction (Sexion d’Assaut)

Les Mots (Keen’V)

La Suite (1995)

La Terre est Ronde (Orel San)

 

FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD

Avec de L’Allure (Jacques Durocher)              CANADA

Un Jour ou L’Autre (Jali)                                    BELGIUM

Logobitombo (Moussier Tombola)                 SENEGAL

Viens M’Embrasser (Arielle T)                         GABON

Fais Ta Joie (Aboutou Roots)                          COTE D’IVOIRE

On Vous Connaît (Patience Dabany)             GABON

Chagrin (Revolution)                                         COTE D’IVOIRE

Là Bas (Bisso Na Bisso)                                 CONGO

Dima (Zaho)                                                       ALGERIA

Elle Me Dit (Mika)                                              UNITED KINGDOM

Celui (Colonel Reyel)                                      GUADELOUPE

Alors On Danse (Stromae)                             BELGIUM

Vous Le Verrez (Alexis Abessolo)                  GABON

Ça Là (Lady Ponce)                                         CAMEROON

 

As you can see, there is such an international contribution to music sung in French, and sometimes it comes from parts of the world where French is not officially spoken. It’s possible to hear music sung in French from artists such as Anggun (Indonesia), Tina Arena (Australia) and even Shakira (Colombia). The purpose of this step is to hear the language without accents, as singing often disguises accents, and to further learn more about the popular culture of this language.

 

 

 

 

STEP EIGHT:                  TO BECOME INTERESTED IN A SPORT

EXAMPLE:                      FOOTBALL

 

While it may be quite difficult to become active in a sport by watching it online, it’s not impossible to be creative. Many football matches are unavailable on YouTube so it’s important to use some flexibility. There are some great commentaries on the FIFA video games online – even in French – and they provide an insight into how matches are talked about in French.

 

The most successful (and popular) football teams in France are currently Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Paris St Germain, Auxerre and Monaco. All of these are a part of what’s known as Ligue 1 (League 1) in French football. On an international scale, France has a very strong team, as do other French speaking countries such as Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Switzerland and Senegal.

 

If football (soccer) is not your thing, there’s always rugby which is popular all over France – particularly in Toulouse where it is strongest. Over on the other side of the Atlantic, it’s all about ice hockey and the favourite team in Quebec is undoubtedly the Montreal Canadiens (French spelling). The French Open brings tennis to France every year and the Grand Prix (Formula One) is most popular in Monaco.  

 

Sport, like music, is yet another form of popular culture. By understanding what type of sports are played in that region is a further window of learning about the native speakers’ interests. 

 

 

 

STEP NINE:          TO WATCH SOME FILMS IN FRENCH

EXAMPLE:           TRAILERS OF FILM RELEASES IN THE FRENCH LANGUAGE

 

The French film industry is a thriving one and it is sometimes complimented by the occasional Canadian release or even something of equivalent quality from Belgium or Switzerland. The African countries of the francophonie (French speaking world) often struggle to match the quality that comes out of Europe but some are, nonetheless, very interesting to watch. Here’s a list of very recent movies that are worth watching. Most of these movies have received awards or nominations for the Academy Awards or various film festivals.

 

Monsieur Lazhar                                 Canadian film about an Algerian teacher in Montreal

Le Havre                                               A Finnish film but filmed in France (in French) about refugees

La Guerre est Déclarée                     French film about a woman fighting cancer

Omar M’a Tuer                                     A film from Morocco about a man who is framed for a crime

Illégal                                                     Belgian film about a woman who lives illegally in Belgium

Hors la Loi                                            French – Algerian production set during the war of independence

Incendies                                              Canadian film about a woman who returns to the Middle East

Des Hommes et Des Dieux              Academy Award nomination set during the Algerian war

La Petite Chambre                              Swiss film about a woman who looks after an invalid man

Intouchables                                         One of France’s most successful films ever made

Enre Les Murs                                      French film about a violent school in the suburbs of Paris

L’Enfant                                                 Belgian love story about a criminal who sells his child

Polisse                                                  French film about a child welfare agency

Tournée                                                 French film about cabaret performers with some dialogue in English

Copie Conforme                                  French film set in Tuscany with some dialogue in English and Italian

De Père en Flic                                    Canadian film about a policeman and his son

Les Saignantes                                   Unusual sci-fi from Cameroon

           

The purpose of this step is to become involved in the popular themes that inspire this part of the world. As you may have noticed, many of the above movies deal with situations in suburban Paris or the north of Africa. The movies we watch are usually a reflection of what we experience in everyday life – with certain exceptions. The best way to find these trailers in their French versions is to type “bande annonce” followed by the name of the movie.

 

 

 

 

STEP TEN:            TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH LOCALS

EXAMPLE:            LANGUAGE EXCHANGE VIA SKYPE

 

One of the best ways to communicate effectively is obviously with someone who is a native speaker. While this may not always be possible if you’re living far from where that language is spoken, it’s easy to get online and find people who are willing to exchange languages with you. Some of these websites include My Language Exchange and The Mixxer. The next step is to then set up a time and start speaking on Skype. 

My Language Exchange http://www.mylanguageexchange.com

The Mixxer http://www.language-exchanges.org

 

 

 

STEP ELEVEN:     WORK IN THAT COUNTRY

EXAMPLE:            IN AN OFFICE

 

This step may seem quite hard for a beginner learner but even if we’re unable to understand the whole context, it’s still important to listen to advice and try to understand some of what’s being said. Observing a presentation in French or simply seeing the inside of an office helps us to imagine what it’s like to work in a French speaking environment.

 

 

 

 

STEP TWELVE:    TO UNDERSTAND THE NEWS

EXAMPLE:            NEWS PROGRAMME FROM FRANCE 2 JOURNAL

 

Even though it may seem impossible to understand what's being said, the news always provides us with a background as to what's happening. It also keeps us up to date with what's occurring in that part of the world - not to mention the possibility of starting conversations based on what's currently in the news.

 

 

 

 

THE VOCABULARY YOU NEED

In the next blog there will be a list of the main nouns, verbs and adjectives that are needed to be able to understand basic phrases in French. This list consists of about three hundred commonly used words. Luckily for the English speaker, many words or either similar or identical - differing only in the way they are pronounced. Google Translate has a fairly good tool for listening to the pronunciation of words. After memorising many of these words and more importantly - trying to use them in a sentence, go back to Step One and see how much more of these YouTube clips you understand. Bon travail!    

 

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