How To Choose The Best Way To Learn French
Have you noticed that every "expert" tries to sell you their way to learn French as "the best ever", and "the most natural"? As a student, after listening to a few of these "experts", you get completely lost. And I understand why.
So, in today's video, I will give you guidelines so you can choose the best way to learn French, for you. You will understand how language learning methods work, so you can confidently go through the French learning jungle and choose which methods are best for you.
Main points of the video:
- Every expert will tell you that their method is the best.
- What matters for you as a student is to choose methods which work for you.
- In order to do that, you need to understand a little how language learning methods work in general.
Technical vs natural French learning
- There are many language learning methods.
- But all can be represented on a spectrum from the most technical to the most natural
Characteristics of technical methods:
- classroom approach as we know it or self study with a book.
- you study language facts (grammar, vocabulary, etc.) independently.
- you use tools such as exercises designed to learn, or translating
Many different technical methods exist.
Characteric of a natural French learning approach:
- At its core: learning a language like babies learn their native language, by just soaking in it and scooping it up.
Which is best?
Nowadays methods strive to come closer to this end of the spectrum, or pretend to be doing so (because it's a great argument to sell a method)
In the past, experts used to think that the more technical, the better
Upside and downside of technical methods:
Upside: They are very comfortable. We are used to learning in class and with books, and we know how to learn this way.
Downside: Using a technical approach delays the moment you start speaking in a natural environment (and it might even never happen, because you risk never feeling ready). At worst, the method fails miserably.
Upside and downside of natural methods
Upside: since small children do it succesfully, we know that it works.
Downside: it’s considerably long (roughly from age 0 to age 10 for children). -
- Do you have all that time to learn a language ‘the hard way’?
In my opinion: the best approach is somewhere in the middle.
If you learn a language in be able to speak it, your main activity should be to speak.
Any other thing you do should aim to support the speaking part.
Technical tools are useful to support your learning, and eventually your speaking.
As an adult, you can use things that you know, from your native language, or other languages that you’ve learnt, as well as tools, in order to learn a language faster.
I don’t recommend to try and go “full natural”, while you can actually use tools which will help a lot.
Which tools work for you can be different for everyone (if you have no idea what will work for you, trial and error is always a good approach)
For example almost every one will benefit from using either a vocabulary notebook or a flashcard app (not both).
Some methods pretend to be natural but actually include lots of technical aspects, such as the Assimil method (which I have used successfully to learn Portuguese).
A good method should mix natural aspects and technical aspects. However the fact that a method communicates around being natural does not mean that the technical aspect is left out. The very fact that it is a method makes it technical.
You could also try going full natural, meaning not using a method by just watching movies, listening to natives or speaking to natives. That could work, but I recommend that you don’t cut off completely the possibilities of using tools such as vocabulary learning tools or a little bit of grammar here and there, because it can help.
That's it for today. I hope you now understand a little bit better how language learning methods work.
If you are trying to learn French but are not sure how to proceed, check out these articles:
About the author
Angel Pretot is a French learning coach. He helps English speakers from all over the world learn French fast and become fluent. You can work with him one-on-one (online via skype or a similar software) or join a global community of French learners in his group program the French Fluency Accelerator.