I am sure you have noticed that the French you have learned in a class, or from a book, or even from those bygone school days, bears little or no relation to the French language you hear generally. I thought it was just a case of time, patients and hard work that would reap the reward of the ability to engage in the delights of a proper French conversation. I was right about the patients and the hard work, but I had no idea how long it would take. And to add to the misery, I was still struggling after three years. I asked myself what was it that was taking me so long? The answer, after many weeks of deliberation, not only surprised me, but it also became the solution to speed up the learning process.
Having accumulated reams of paper from countless exercises and a number of text books, I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to remember it all. I also realized that I was not getting anywhere fast because of the methods used in the teaching of French that are widely adopted and accepted as the standard way of teaching. Most of the material and methodology was based in writing the language and not speaking it. Let me be clear: of course, here, I am talking about the, “repeat after me”, technique, which, without doubt is important, but I am sure you will agree it is a far cry from talking in the general fashion we use everyday, or as I am doing now. With this simple thought in mind, I began to examine what was really important to know about the French language when it came to speaking it .
First, let’s look at an example of too much to remember.
Penser (to think)
I will think is, “Je penserai”
You (also Plural) vous ponserez
You will think, is,tu penseras(s fem)
He/she will think, is, il/elle pensera
We will think, is, nous penserons.
They will think is, ils/elles penseront
It’s only when you are writing do you need to know all the different verb endings, rai, rez, etc. I will say again, to know these endings is important, but when the prime objective is communication in a social situation, it makes no sense to concentrate so much time, and effort on the written endings. Unless you intend to write a book of course.
As you can see, there are only three elements to commit to memory as far as expressing the future is concerned, rai, rez (1. ray) ras ra (2. ra) and rons, ront (3. ron). This of course applies to many other French verbs ending in, er. The subject or object of the sentence or phrase has already been indicated verbally by using I, you, he/she, you plural, we, and they – masculine/feminine
The second, and most important element in the search for a speedier method of learning French, lies not only in the in-depth studying of French, which goes without saying, but strangely in examining ones own language. That is ones own personal language: the phrases, the expression, the exclamations, the slang one uses everyday.
What you say, and how you say it, is who you are. We all, as individuals, have imbedded within our minds a vocabulary that we automatically and instantly refer to that we know and trust to convey what we mean. The amount and type of vocabulary is influenced by our upbringing, education, lifestyle, life-choice, the people we have as friends and work colleagues. It is this common vocabulary we need to translate into French, or at least find an equivalent. When I say, common, I mean common to oneself.
The one element missing in the standard method of teaching French is how to link, or what words/phrases to use to formulate all the verbs and vocabulary together into coherent, meaningful sentences. It is this formulation that is often the stumbling block to instantaneous, spontaneous conversation. “I know what I want to say, but I just can’t find the right words quick enough.” Those words, those linking words, might be as simple as, although, (bien que / quoique), as well as, (ainsi que), and so on (et ainsi de suite), between (entré), even so (quand même), during (pendant), despite (malgré); instead of (au lieu de).
In fact, there is a finite number of such words, or links, that we all take for granted.
Once you have the minimum of those links clear in your mind, you will remember them in French because you naturally and without thinking, use them in your everyday conversations in English. Try it.
As well as describing himself as an eternal student of French language, Keith Young is a writer and videographer living and working in France. After attending two of the standard French teaching lessons, he discovered something was missing. He decided to teach himself. After developing a new approach to self teaching with Pret – a – Parler, and the accompanying Pret – a – Formulate, he has never looked back. For more details visit [http://www.readytospeakfrench.co.uk]
“I still use the simple technique of teaching myself and carry the comprehensive Pret – a – Parler verb tables and the Pret – a – Formulate tables with me. They have been an essential study aid. The speed of my learning curve has since shot off the scale. It works for me. If anything, you will have a very portable tool to prepare you for any situation”