This article will show you how not to learn French. If you are practicing these, you are doing the wrong thing.
How not to learn French
So you’ve decided to tackle that bucket list item by learning French. Maybe you have a holiday or business trip and want to impress someone or need something new and challenging.
Whatever the reason, learning a new language is not as simple as it sounds. Like most people, your school experience probably involved sitting in a classroom for hours, listening to a teacher speak another language while someone wrote down what they said on the board.
You may have even finished the course with fluency in speaking, reading, and writing another language…Then promptly forget everything again once you go back to your regular life.
The problem with conventional methods of learning a new language is that they fail to address the challenges that almost every learner faces from the very first day.
That’s why it’s important to know exactly what mistakes not to make so you can get the best return on your investment and set yourself up for success right from the start.
Don’t assume you know words by looking at their spelling
When you learn a new language, you are stepping into someone else’s shoes and trying to see the world from their perspective. One of the first things you will have to get used to is sorting new words into their correct categories.
This is where many learners make the mistake of assuming that if they recognize the word’s spelling, they already know what it means and can go on to use it in a sentence.
As a result, when someone corrects their pronunciation, they are often left confused and frustrated because their assumption that the word’s spelling was correct turns out false.
This is because many French words sound totally different from how you would expect them to be based on their English counterparts.
Confusion between the verbs “Avoir” & “Être”
One of the most common vocabulary mistakes learners make is to confuse the French verbs “avoir” and “être”, which both translate to “to be” in English.
The verb “avoir”, which means “to have” in English, is used to describe something that is either owned by or in possession of the person you are speaking to. For example, if someone asks you what you have in your bag, you can respond with “J’ai des Livres.”
For the verb “être”, which means “to be” in English, you use it when describing the person’s state of being or something that is happening at present.
For example, if someone asks you what is happening in your life right now, you would respond with “Je suis étudiant.”
Using sentence equivalents instead of individual words
One of the biggest mistakes learners make is translating entire sentences from their native language into French. Rather than focus on one word at a time, they jump straight to using their current vocabulary level to create a new sentence in their target language.
Learning to speak French fluently can be a slow process, so you don’t want to risk rushing the process by skipping the basics and jumping right into complex sentence building.
This means that you should start by learning basic sentence equivalents, such as “I like…” and “I don’t like…”, as well as the words for colors and numbers. Once you feel comfortable building basic sentences, you can move on to more complex ones.
Failing to use audio-based learning tools
Suppose you’re taking a course that involves reading from a textbook. In that case, you may want to think about switching to an auditory learning tool instead.
This will help you avoid falling into the trap of reading and re-reading the same material repeatedly without making any real progress.
As learners, we all have a limited amount of time and energy, so we must be careful not to waste either. This can happen when we fall into the trap of trying to learn everything at once without setting any priorities.
When this happens, we are more likely to get overwhelmed, give up and fall right back to where we started. Audio-based learning tools can help you avoid this by breaking down complex concepts into more manageable chunks, allowing you to progress more quickly while using less energy in the process.
Trying to learn everything at once
We’ve all been guilty of trying to learn everything at once at some point or another.
It’s only natural to want to dive straight into what most people see as the fun part of learning a new language: being able to understand and be understood in conversation.
However, the only thing this will do is cause frustration for both you and your partner. This will make conversation more difficult, which may make both parties want to give up before they even get started.
This can set you back to the point where you may need to start over or even give up learning a new language altogether. When learning a new language, it’s important to remember that everything you do is one step closer to your goal, no matter how small that step may be. Don’t worry about being perfect; focus on making daily progress.
Neglecting vocabulary development
Another biggest mistakes learners make is focusing all their attention on sentence building without paying attention to their vocabulary development.
This can lead to having the right sentence structure but with words that sound like you are speaking another language. While this may get you a laugh at a party, it is not the best way to make friends when traveling.
To avoid this, you can use a “spacing effect” approach, which means that you study new words every few days or weeks and then revisit them again a few months later. This spreads your learning over time and makes it easier to recall everything later.
Using incorrect pronunciation from the start
One of the biggest challenges you will face when learning German is that you will likely have to change how you pronounce words from your native language.
While some pronunciations are similar, many French words sound totally different from how you would expect them to be based on their English counterparts.
If you try to pronounce them the same way, you risk sounding silly and coming across as someone who is trying too hard to sound appealing.
And while this is normal in the beginning, it is important to remember that people will appreciate your efforts to at least try to pronounce words correctly, even if they don’t sound exactly right.
It’s better to make a few mistakes while learning and improve in time than to jump in and start pronouncing everything incorrectly from the start.
Not choosing the right materials for your learning style
Who knows you better than you do? Not everyone learns the same way, so choosing a language learning method that works best for you is important.
If you thrive on a structured approach and love to be held accountable for your progress, a group or one-on-one language course may be the perfect fit for you.
Suppose you prefer something a bit more flexible. In that case, an online language learning platform can provide a more relaxed learning environment with the added bonus of picking and choosing when and what you study.
Another option is to purchase a language-learning audiobook and use it while driving or doing chores around the house.
Not having a solid grammar foundation before vocab practice
The best way to build a solid foundation in French grammar is to use the “Teach Yourself” approach.
This means that you look for a textbook or audio-based course that explains all of the most important concepts, such as verb conjugation, declination, gender and other essential components of French grammar.
Once you have a solid foundation, learning new vocabulary is easier because you can understand how sentences are structured and how specific words fit into that structure. Suppose you try to jump straight into vocabulary practice without having a solid understanding of how sentences are built.
In that case, you will likely struggle to make sense of what you’re reading and run the risk of adding incorrect vocabulary to your existing knowledge.