Spoken by over 300 million people across 5 continents and one of the fastest-growing languages in the world, there are countless reasons to learn French!
In fact, French is the most studied language other than English. Students can rest assured they are not alone but rather connected to a large community of learners all around the globe.
Do you love French food, art, literature, or cinema?
Choosing French in high school is a great way to channel your appreciation for the culture or even to lay the foundations for a future international career (as there is a broad range of social, economic, and job opportunities available to those who speak French).
It is an incredibly useful language to know for travel, diplomacy, international business and even for careers in engineering, medicine, fashion, architecture… the list goes on.
Studying French in high school will give you a head start on learning the language, as younger people tend to achieve some level of fluency in their second language more quickly than adults.
So, where to begin?
The level at which you actually commence a French course may depend on what prior learning you have had.
Some high schools have separate course pathways for students who have had some French lessons before, and for those who are starting the language from scratch.
Learning French, however, is about gradually building proficiency.
And so your main focus should really well be on your progress in French despite where you begin the lesson from.
If you’d like to know more about what it’s like to study French classes in high school, continue reading to find out some of the essential aspects of language learning.
From understanding the basics of French to useful study tips, this guide serves as a great starting point for students learning la langue française!
Developing the Skills to Understand French
There is a lot of emphases placed on the early stages of learning French as what you study at the beginning will lay the foundations of your language knowledge.
French is a lifelong skill, therefore, it is important to develop a strong base with regards to reading, writing, listening, and speaking as these skills will provide you with something to build on throughout and beyond your high classroom years.
As you learn to read in French, you will be exposed to a number of different texts.
Your teacher may use brochures, comics, emails, or short written excerpts from a podcast before moving onto more advanced sections, newspaper articles, or letters in your classes.
To improve their reading comprehension, beginners are often encouraged to compare original and translated texts.
We suggest you check out some easy bilingual books to read online or simple stories on every day topics that interest you to practice with outside of the classroom.
And always keep a languages dictionary handy!
The more vocabulary you learn about everyday life and become comfortable with reading intermediate texts in French, the less you should rely on the definitions.
When it comes to writing well in French, you may even be tasked with translating passages in order to help enhance your written abilities.
Dictation is also a popular technique used during lessons where learners are asked to write down as best they can what is said by the teacher in French.
Keeping a notebook throughout your lesson and noting any new expressions, words, and phrases you find as you study in French is extremely useful.
To develop your best writing ability, you can then use this list to practise forming sentences or even check over for general revision.
When it comes to putting together bigger texts, always remember to take some time to plan and check your work to ensure your French writing is relevant and coherent.
Strengthening Your Conversation Skills
Listening is another key aspect of learning French.
However having an advanced listening level does not happen overnight, it takes some time and effort to help train your ear to understand how native French speakers talk, the ways in which words are linked together or cut short, and of course the rules of pronunciation.
Common listening exercises which may be used in a lesson include audio clips of conversations, announcements, or interviews with native French speakers.
At first, you may not recognize every single word, however, don't stress just yet, what is most important for beginners is having a general understanding of what is being said.
With your reading, writing, and listening improving, so will your ability to learn how to speak French. From oral presentations and role-plays to reciting poems and having debates during lessons….
There will be a variety of ways your language develops into an intermediate level.
Whether it is reading French articles online, listening to a French podcast, using a free app, or watching a movie with the subtitles on, we encourage you to start to find easy ways of using the language whenever and wherever you can outside of classes as being able to effectively communicate in French and having strong conversation abilities relies on practice in everyday life.
If you have a French text in front of you, why don't you say it aloud and sound out or repeat any unfamiliar words.
This should help you get used to and more comfortable with speaking French.
Learning Basic Grammar and Vocabulary
It is important to note that French and English actually share a lot in common.
Beginners may encounter a few challenges along the way of course like in any subject, however, you should notice some grammar structures and vocabulary are fairly easy to pick up.
Understanding French verbs is crucial to achieving an intermediate level of the language.
Verbs can be separated into three categories. A verb ending in -er, a verb ending in -ir, or a verb ending in -re are all conjugated differently.
In your courses, you'll learn about the different moods of these verbs such as the indicative, subjunctive, imperative, and conditional.
The various simple and compound verb tenses French have to offer such as conjugation of the present, imperfect, future tense etc is another major element for French speakers.
If you want to learn how to speak French like a native, don't forget to spend time on the other grammar aspects such as adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, definite and indefinite articles as well as these are all important parts of French phrases and conversation.
Direct and indirect objects and interrogative and negative constructions are also things that should be covered in your courses as you learn conversational French.
The gender of nouns however is not one of the things spoken English and French have in common.
Before travelling to France, you should certainly take some time to understand this.
Although it may be a relief to know that a third of English words are estimated to be derived from French.
Whilst pronunciation of some words may be very different for Anglophones, you may find in your courses their spelling can actually be quite similar in French!
These are referred to as 'cognates' which are words spelt exactly the same in English as they are in French (e.g. culture, passion, imagination, and solution).
Words that have a similar spelling in both languages and share a common meaning, as well as at least one different definition, are known as 'semi-true cognates' (e.g. parfum, porc, and chef).
The more you read languages and practice French phrases in everyday life, the more you'll notice and understand these grammar aspects in each lesson.
Practical Ways to Improve Your French
Our best advice for making progress in French and going from a basic level to intermediate?
It's simple, with languages, practice really does make perfect!
There are a plethora of free resources available online which you can use in addition to your French courses to help boost your language level.
In order to get to an advanced speaker level, you should make an effort to immerse yourself in French.
Life can get busy so why not listen to the French news, tune in to French radio, check out some great music, you might even pick up some handy conversational phrases by listening to audiobooks or a podcast on the go.
Podcasts especially are becoming incredibly popular with French learners, you could download some free podcasts online from an app relating to any theme being taught in your course.
Consider podcasts on current affairs, sports, culture, or what about podcasts about travelling in France to inspire your next trip!
Lastly, you can find a great tutor online to practice your conversational French.
Connecting with native speakers from France or people who have lots of experience speaking French well can be particularly useful for those wanting to improve their pronunciation, vocabulary or perhaps are needing personalised one-on-one support in course areas they are struggling with.
If your free app and podcasts aren't enough preparation for an upcoming French exam, don't be afraid to check online for a tutor.
People needing extra motivation or a confidence boost throughout their course would also benefit from private tutoring.