Overview for learning French

So what is the best way to go about learning French? 

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Let me say straightaway that learning French –or indeed any language for that matter – is something anyone can do at any age. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that it is only for the young ones! It is of course true that the earlier you learn a language, the better you will be at it and the quicker you will become fluent - most children of seven years old or under will learn to speak a new language without any accent and with relative ease.
However, not only can learning a new language be good fun, it is also extremely good for dusting the old brain off – and last but not least of course, it is very important if you are coming to either live in France or plan to have a second home here. Communication is vital!
 
So what is the best way to go about learning French? Most of us have what is commonly termed as “schoolboy” French (we can all probably discuss our last camping holiday and how the weather was!) but to get beyond this, the best way is really to immerse yourself in the language. When you visit France, try to steer away from the English crowd to start with (as tempting as it may be!). Remember that no-one minds if you make mistakes, and the French love to hear their language spoken with an English accent (much as we like to hear English spoken with a French accent, of course). Get talking to whoever you can in shops, restaurants, when sight seeing and try to strike up a conversation. Tell them that you really want to learn. Listen to what they say and even if you don’t understand everything, chances are that there will be some words you WILL understand and that you will get the gist of what is being said to you. Also if you listen carefully, you will probably pick up a word or two from the sense of what is being said which you can store away for future use.
 
I learnt French from age eight and had a French teacher which undoubtedly helped. I then corresponded with my French penfriend who I still know to this day and we wrote to each other each week, she in English, me in French. These days of course it would be on email but finding a correspondent to exchange with is a great way of practising your written French and also learning new phrases. So when you are over in France, see if you can find someone who might want to do just this so you can both benefit.
 
Before coming to France, look out for evening classes at the local college or adult education centre. Not only can being around other people in the same position as you be very encouraging, but having a fixed time to study every week can also help you stick to it.
 
Another good way to learn is to watch French TV and listen to French radio. Even if you do find it hard to understand, you will at least get used to the pronunciation and the rhythms of spoken French. The news is a good one as this tends to be spoken more slowly. I still listen to French talk radio almost every day when driving around!
 
Try to incorporate enjoyable ways to learn French: do French crosswords or puzzles, read the French newspaper on a regular basis - or if comics interest you get hold of Asterix, or Tin-Tin for a bit of light entertainment.
 
Finally, the best way to really learn French is to be here in France and to have patience. It won’t happen overnight but you will gradually find that you are talking and understanding very well.

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