It is fascinating that how to learn French has taken such a technological leap in such a short period of time. Just a few years ago, I was turning my visitors interested in how to learn French onto the new devices at the time, such as podcasts and French lesson downloads.
Of course, one of the advantages of these methods over traditional language learning courses was that they are free. But beyond that, the breakthrough they represented was the greater availability and variety of language learning content.
It is well established that learning a new language requires a lot of exposure to it, which was always somewhat limited in the days of learning by the book. Essential factors like pronunciation and every day usage and phrases were usually undercut in favor of tedious grammar lessons and boring texts.
Then came the age of audio-visual lessons that promoted listening to words and sentences of your target language, and repeating them. They even had those quirky television shows where some actors ran around Paris speaking French, their sentences were broken down so that the viewer could try to understand, repeat and learn.
The only problem was, just like in school, a one-hour lesson 2 or 3 times a week is not nearly enough to help anyone really master a foreign language. It is good for learning the fundamentals, but it is practically impossible to become anywhere near fluent with that alone.
Modern language learning educators have understood that the key to acquiring a language is partial or total immersion.
That makes sense because when thrown into a foreign country with a different language, you learn it much more quickly and effectively.
Just think of Amanda Knox (the young American accused of murder in Italy) arguing her own case in Italian after living there for just a few short years. Well, they were probably the longest years of her life because she was incarcerated, but the point is, she was able to argue with police detectives or stand in front of an Italian court and speak in their language!
Now, I can hear you asking "But, how am I going to get immersed in French? I don't live over there!" That is what has me so enthused about all the new technology of the past few years. The internet just keeps on giving!
These days, you can virtually take a trip to Paris before you ever set foot over there. How to learn French is now at your fingertips whether you're looking for songs in French, movies in French, grammar lessons, vocabulary lessons, explanation of phrases and idioms, demo of pronunciation, etc., etc.
Even text translation, dictionary and thesaurus offerings are there for you effortlessly. Should you prefer more structured language learning methods, websites and downloads are available for that as well.
A quick jump on Youtube to search how to learn French gives you a slew of lessons, from basic to advanced, some more elaborate than others.
The key is not finding the perfect lesson or method, but to instill enough discipline in yourself to spend as much time as you possibly can on your exposure to the French language.
Immersion is everything. Just like those who have the advantage of physically being immersed in the language by going where it is spoken, you need to go where you can surround yourself with it as much as you can.
Language immersion in a foreign country means multiple linguistic stimuli each and every day. To match that kind of exposure, how to learn French has to be in your activities daily as well, even multiple times each day if you're really committed and motivated to become fluent.
I'm a big fan of traveling to Brasil. During one of my trips, I remember meeting a tour guide who spoke fluent English with an American tone.
I asked him if he had spent a lot of time in the US. He told me he had never left Brasil. He learned English because he loved Heavy Metal music and listened to it every single day. So, he wanted to know what they were saying in the songs, and that is what motivated him to immerse himself in it every day. Now he was earning a living thanks to his knowledge of English.
If this guy could learn a language listening to Hard Rock, surely you can do it with all the latest funfilled tools like Youtube, podcasts, smart phones and other technological marvels of our time. Simply immerse yourself every single day, and be persistent until you can say "Mais oui, je parle français!"
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