For me, a big part of what makes travelling enjoyable is talking with people I meet – especially if I have to try to communicate in a language not my own. Learning French has been a project of mine for years. Sometimes, I think I’m making progress; often, I’m not so sure! But what always spurs me on to greater efforts, is knowing that I’m going to be in a French-speaking environment again. Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful.
#5. Recorded and printed language courses. One of the most useful for me is called Le français sans peine (French With Ease) published by Assimil. It’s full of dialogues, conversations, stories … even a bit of humour … all supported by CDs. Rosetta Stone also gets great reviews; I’ve only tried their Italian course, and found it was a good way to begin.
#4. Books and newspapers in French. When Harry Potter was all the rage, I bought the first book in French. Having just read it in English, I found this a good way to increase my French vocabulary, while not having to simultaneously figure out all the details of the story. Asterix in French is a lot of fun (though I miss most of the puns) and there are endless newspapers from France and Quebec available online. Or try books for kids – picture books, especially.
#3. Apps and other online resources. Duolingo is one of the best. It mixes writing, reading and listening, and keeps track of your progress – it even reminds you, if you go too long between lessons, and you can practise on your computer and on your smartphone. If you’re a member of your local library, also check out Mango languge learning. And the BBC has an excellent French-learning site. Or just google “learn french online” and browse the 720,000,000 results!
#2. Recently, I’ve been working through the French Learn in Your Car CDs. As someone who often neglects to sit down and “concentrate” on French, listening and speaking as I drive is very helpful.
#1. But best of all? Find someone to speak French with – a friend, a neighbour, a tutor (check out the Alliance Française in your area). Regardless of your level of learning, there is no substitute for actually having to listen, understand, and respond.
Good luck! Share a comment if you have other resources you’ve found helpful.
A bientôt en France!