So you want a learn French but don’t know? In this post I am going to explain how to learn French using Language Atlas and other services to create an effective learning strategy!
As you may know a language is divided into 6 levels. This begins with A1 which is the beginner’s level and ends with C2 which is the master level. On this site it is my aim to guide you to C1 level which is the advanced level. At this level you are truly fluent in French. To reach this level it will take you 810-950 hours according to Alliance Française.
Are you ready to start?
Table of Contents
How To Remember Everything You Learn: Use Anki
In the first chapter of how to learn French we will focus on memory. A big part of learning a language is to understand how you can best remember the concepts that you study. A tool that will help you tremendously with this is called Anki. I have used it throughout my langauge learning journey and I urge you do to the same. But what is Anki?
Please have a look at the French A1 Verbs Anki Deck to get a better look at what Anki is and how it functions!
Improve Your Memory With Anki
Have you ever studied for an exam and then forgotten everything a few days after the exam? It is a feeling that most of us experience. Often this would not be a problem. However, when it comes to language this can become a huge issue. Learning vocabulary and grammar to then forget them later on would be a disaster!
Art Kohn, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive science at Duke University, wrote an article about memory said the following about memory and teaching things to people:
“within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of it.”
So, how do we fix this memory problem? With Anki!
Enter Anki – a flashcard system that uses spaced repetition learning!
You can download it here
Why Is Anki So Powerful?
- Active Recall
Active recall means that Anki asks you a question and you have to remember the answer. This is more powerful than passive learning and improves to memory. When you retrieve information from your brain you strengthen your ability to retain information and create connections in your brain between different concepts.
- Spaced Repetition
This system finds it origins in the spacing effect. The spacing effect illustrates how people learn better if reviews are spread out over time.
Spaced repetition introduces new concepts in batches to you. A flashcard appears and if you know the answer the flashcard moves to the next batch. This batch will be shown to you on a later time. The more often you answer correctly the later the intervals become. However, should you answer wrongly, the flashcard moves to the first batch again, and you will see it more often.
Anki takes care of all your scheduling. There’s no need to calculate when you need to use which cards. Furthermore, Anki is available on both for iOS and Android users, so you can download it on your smartphone and use it wherever you are
Now that you understand why Anki is so powerful on your journey of how to learn French we can move onto how you can start learning French!
The Power Of Habits: Why They Make Or Break You
If I asked you right now to study an hour of French everyday would you succeed or stop after a week?
How often have you told yourself that you would start doing something and then found yourself quitting after a week? Or made some kind of New Year’s resolution to only stop after a while?
Most people don’t succeed in forming a new habit. The sudden change in state is too much and you revert back to your old ways.
I urge you to have a look at this 3 minute video from the BBC to learn more about why it is so hard to break old habits and to form new habits.
I sincerely would like you to succeed in learning French. I have had a great journey and it has my enriched my life. I wish the same for you.
So, in this chapter of how to learn French we will learn how to form a new French learning habit?
How To Create A French Learning Habit
We have established that forming a new habit is hard. I am going to propose a learning programme for you so that you pick up learning French easily.
I have used the Habit Guide by James Clear to illustrate this. Should you want to learn more about forming habits then please pick up his book Atomic Habits which contains a lot more useful information. Start with a small habit
Start With A Small Habit
Instead of immediately going over all the lessons why not just start with one? I personally recommend starting with Avoir. After having read this lesson try doing the Anki excercises for Avoir. You can download all the Anki files of Language Atlas here.
Are you done? Good job! That’s it for the day.
The next day just do the Anki exercises for Avoir again. Keep doing this until Anki says that there are no more repetitions left for Avoir. This may take a few days.
Afterwards start with your next lesson, I recommend Être. Do the Anki Flashcards for Être as well. In the following days just do the Flashcards for Être, and if it pops up for Avoir as well.
Are you done with Avoir and Être in Anki? Perfect!
You are getting the hang of things. Finish up the irregular verbs subject, and then move onto whatever subject you like.
You can find the curriculum for French A1 here.
Once you are studying consistently and feel like you can do more, you can increase the amount of new cards on Anki and/or read more lessons.
The most important thing is that you keep at it everyday. It is better to work 20 minutes 7 days a week than to do 2 hours in one day.
This ensures that you are starting of small and makes things easy for you.
If everything has gone well, you now have a habit of reading lessons and doing Anki every day.
Once you have achieved 2 weeks of studying without skipping a day you are ready for the next level.
Are you ready to incorporate speaking as well?
How To Speak French With Italki: Start Talking
When you start reading the lessons and doing the Anki flashcards you will naturally improve your French.
However, the most valuable step in my opinion in learning French is actually speaking it! Just learning grammar and doing Anki is not enough.
Now you may ask yourself: I don’t know any French speaking people, how can I do this?
In this chapter of how to learn French we are going to learn how to start speaking French.
In a nutshell, Italki is a language platform that provides the following three services:
- Allows you to find tandem partners with which you can practice your target language (French) and your tandem partner can practice his/her target language (the language that you are a native speaker of). This is all for free.
- Allows you to speak with native speakers that function as a community tutor. This is a service for which you need to pay a low price, around €5-15 p/h.
- Allows you to speak with professional teachers who will help you with your target language (French). This is a service for which you need to pay a decent price, around €15-25 p/h.
If you are just starting learning French then I do not recommend the tandem partner option. You may need some explanation that a normal native speaker may not be able to provide.
There are three goals that you achieve when you do this:
- Improve and become more comfortable with speaking French
- Improve and become more comfortable with hearing French
- Create new and targeted flashcards
The first two goals are quite evident. If you want to learn French you have to be able to speak and understand it. The third is something that will serve you well in your language learning journey.
Choosing A Tutor/Teacher
The best option is to use the community tutors for everyday conversation and simple grammar, and the professional teachers for difficult grammatical concepts.
In my opinion there are three criteria that you should keep in mind when selection a tutor/teacher:
- Cost: how affordable is this person?
For community tutors a rate of €5-15 or $5-15 per hour is reasonable. The rate you go with is a choice you have to make personally as what is affordable differs per person.
- Availability: how much do our schedules align?
The teachers/tutors live all over the world and have their own shedules. Try to see if their schedule matches yours. Having a conversation should fit within your normal daily schedule.
- Linguistically similar: do you have any languages in common?
When you begin learning a language you will know very few words. If your tutor/teacher has a common language other than French it can be easier for you to communicate.
Please don’t take this as a cue to avoid speaking French, however in the early stages this can help a lot. When you progress this matters a lot less.
You may notice that I did not mention reviews. This is because the standard rating that people generally give if something is satisfactory is 5 stars. This makes it hard to judge if someone is really good or not.
Moreover, every day new tutors/teachers join. Therefore the best way to find out is to do a few trial lessons.
Search for a community tutor and select 4 people that seem like a good fit for you and request a trial lesson. One person per week.
Once you have done this MAKE AN APPOINTMENT.
The act of choosing someone, settling a date, and then paying is already a big commitment.
After the 4 weeks you will probably have at least 1 or 2 favourites. These are the ones that you will talk to for the coming times.
If none are a good fit then do the same thing again until you find someone.
The Italki Conversation
So, you have chosen someone, but you have no idea what to talk about? And I bet you are a bit afraid because you only know how to order a coffee in French?
Don’t worry, everyone experiences this. I could tell you not to be afraid, but emotions such as fear are a normal part of life. Accept the fear and just do it.
What are you losing? Think about the regret you will feel if you don’t do it. So have a go, if will be a fun experience!
Now, what should you talk about with the tutor/teacher? This is a topic that people generally worry over, however it just a simple conversation that you will have. Nevertheless I can give you some tips from personal experience
Why are you learning French? This is generally something that is brought up during the first conversation.
What are your hobbies? You can talk about some of the things that you like to do. Because you do them often you should be familiar with them.
Things that you are passionate about. What do you care a lot about? Maybe it is a green initiative that you are part of, or writing about science-fiction? It doesn’t matter. As long as you feel passionate about something then it counts. This makes the conversation easier and more fun for you both.
Discuss an Article that you have read. Imagine you read an article on SpaceX. The company is sending a rocket into space. What do you think about this? Should there be more done? Or maybe you don’t agree at all? This helps improve your reading skills as you need to read an article and your speaking and listening skills.
Generally speaking once you have spoken a few times the two of you will get to know each other a bit better and this will be easier.
Don’t forget to ask your tutor/teacher what he or she likes to do as well. You can practice how to form questions, and learn some more about your tutor/teacher.
During the conversation there will be sentences that are difficult/impossible to make. Imagine that you want say: I play the guitar. However you don’t know how. You try but cannot succeed. Your tutor finally helps you and gives you that answer.
Je joue de la guitare
I play the guitar
When this happens tell him/her to write that sentence down in the chat by saying:
Pourriez-vous écrire cette phrase s’il vous plaît ?
You tutor/teacher will write it down and after the conversation is done you will have at least 5 sentences.
Use those 5 sentences to make Flashcards with the Language Atlas card format.
This is very important step in your journey of how to learn French.
How To Make Anki Cards
Here is a video showing you how to make Anki Cards. I have also included a written explanation below.
You will make Anki cards throughout journey of how to learn French. I will show you how to do this using the phrase we mentioned above.
Je joue de la guitare
I play the guitar
You can make 4 cards with this phrase.
- The conjugation of jouer into joue.
- Reading the French sentence and knowing what it means in English.
- Reading the English sentence and knowing what it means in French.
- Type the correct conjugation.
By filling in the fields one time in Anki it will automatically generate four cards for us
- Start Anki.
- Click on French A1 Speaking and then on add.
- Add “I play the guitar” in both Translation fields.
- Enter the phrase into Google and choose a picture that you like. Drag this in the Picture field.
- Enter “Je joue de la guitare” in the Sentence and Answer field.
- In the Sentence field, delete the word joue and replace this with two underscores: Je __ de la guitare.
- In the This Need To Be Conjugated field enter the infinitive (full verb) of joue which is jouer.
- In the Answer Conjugation field enter joue.
- Go here to generate an audio file of the sentence. Enter “Je joue de la guitare.” Download the file and drag it to the Sound field.
- Click add to finish!
You have now made four cards of this phrase and Anki will make it part of your schedule.
Making new Anki Cards is one of the most important steps you can take on your journey of how to learn French. I urge you strongly to do this.
If all has gone well you will now have arrived at what I like to call the ideal schedule. This is what you will do daily to learn how to speak French. The starting time is something that I chose arbitrarily. This shows how to learn French by studying 1 hours a day.
Monday 19:00 – 20:00
- Read a lesson on a certain subject (e.g. regular -re verbs)
- Do Anki exercises
- Listen to French news/podcast
Tuesday 19:00 – 20:00
- Read a lesson on a certain subject (e.g. tu vs on )
- Do Anki exercises
- Listen to French news/podcast
Wednesday 19:00 – 20:00
- Speak with tutor (e.g. a normal conversation where I mentioned my plans for the week)
- Create 5 new Anki Flashcards based on the lesson
- Do the Anki exercises
Thursday 19:00 – 20:00
- Read a lesson on a certain subject (e.g. reflexive verbs )
- Do Anki exercises
- Listened to French news/podcast
Friday 19:00 – 20:00
- Spoke with my tutor (e.g. discussed an article that I had read earlier)
- Created 5 new Anki Flashcards based on the lesson
- Do the Anki exercises
Saturday 19:00 – 20:00
- Do a TV5 Monde exercises
- Create 3-5 Anki Flashcards based on the lesson (optional)
- Did Anki exercises
Sunday is a free day!
I recommend you to speak twice a week for about 30-60 minutes. The timeframe can differ per person. Please see what works best for you.
In the resources section I have put some more information regarding the news/podcasts and TV5 Monde.
What If You Slip Up?
It is okay to miss one day, but never let it happen two times in a row. This is a bad sign
If you want to mitigate this then I implore you to decrease your French workload.
- Adjust the settings in Anki to have fewer new cards per day
- Cut down on the amount of lessons that you are doing
- Try to speak for fewer minutes
I urge you to reflect on the following this:
- What is preventing you from studying French?
- What are some things that are likely to get in the way of you studying French?
- What can you do get around the things that prevent you from learning French?
But What About Writing Skills?
Using my method you will surely get fluent in French. You are training the following areas
However, as you can see, there is one area missing: writing
Improving your writing is especially important if you wish to work or study in a country that speaks your target language. However, there may be some people that simply wish to communicate with French people without focusing on writing. Therefore I didn’t include it with the other chapters.
There are many services that claim that can check your writing for you.
However, in my opinion, the best way to improve your writing skills is to write and have your work be corrected by a community tutor or a teacher.
Ordered from easy to most difficult I have proposed three forms of writing exercises that you can do.
- Write an (imaginary) letter to a friend
- Summarize an article that you have read on a topic
- Write an essay on a topic of your choosing
After you have done any of these exercises, you can send it to your tutor/teacher and have it checked. When you talk with your tutor/teacher you can receive the correction and discuss what can be improved and the actual content itself.
This will help improve your writing skills, and also your speaking and listening skills once you discuss your actual writing.
When looking at how to learn French I do recommend focusing on writing if you truly wish to become fluent.
Language Atlas can help you a lot in your journey to become fluent in French. Nevertheless there are also other resources that I implore you to consider.
On your journey of how to learn French I urge you to use these resources.
Translation services are inherently flawed. They can give you a rough indication of a sentence but often get it wrong in conveying the right context. However, they can be useful, especially in the beginning.
You may have heard or used Goole Translate. Don’t use Google Translate.
The translation you get with it I find often subpar. If you must you a translation service use Deepl. It is much better and has greater customization possibilities.
These services give you the sentence in which a word is used so you can understand the context. This in turn will improve your understanding and the accuracy
You can consult /r/French and pose your question there after having checked if the question hasn’t already been answered. Please read the rules on the sidebar.
Also, don’t post any homework there. For any homework question you should go to the homework subreddit.
If you have a A2/B1 level then I would recommend Journal en français facile.
If you have a B2 level then I would recommend France Info Radio.
If you have a C1 level then I would recommend France Inter.
Lingua has articles for A1-B1. There are questions that you can answer once you are done reading the articles. This is a good resource for beginners
Bounjour de France has articles ranging from A1 to C1. I personally think that you should use this resource if you are a beginner
Le Parisien is a good publication if you have a B1/B2 level. The articles are aimed at the general public with a focus on stories that are more popular among the people
Le Monde is a leading publication with a variety of stories. It is seen as one of the best publications of France and the World. This should be used if you have a B2+ level.
TV5 Monde is a great place to do exercises from A1 to B2.
Go to the level that you have and you will be able to find a lot of exercises that match it.
You are able to filter to a subject that you find interesting and find a lot of exercises for that.
It also has a test to know which level you have.
Your own personal question file
Throughout your learning journey you will find things that you cannot understand.
Every time this happens, copy this sentence/concept and put it into a word file.
The next time you speak with your tutor/teacher you can ask this question and get an explanation.
Afterwards you can make an Anki File based on this.
Final Thoughts On How To Learn French
Learning a new language has been incredibly rewarding for me.
I have met new people and made friends from all over the world
I have studies in both Toulouse and Paris and enjoyed my time there immensely.
I have seen sights which I will never forget
This journey may become difficult at times, but the reward is gigantic.
If you have any questions please post them below and I will answer them
I wish you the best of luck!