For understanding I suggest (besides the obvious time spent listening) to listen specifically to children’s audio books and to “bad” movies.
The reason is that in these settings there are over-emphasized phrases that are “over-pronounced” and this is one of the ways to actually get your auditory brain to decide what kind of new sounds are important before putting in dumb exercise time.
For speaking nothing really replaces speaking which is conspicuously absent from your list. Do you have the opportunity to set up skype tandem sessions with someone who wants to learn your language in turn?
Another thing that somewhat helps with speaking is to form lots of sentences in your head. For example, in the metro, I would look at the ads and speak any number I saw in French in my head, and my number-to-French conversion has indeed become automatic very quickly. Or I play shopping conversations in my head while going to the shop.
I’d strongly suggest finding a local group that speaks French socially, and going along!
Meetup.com is a good way to do this, but it isn’t the only way to find groups. (It just so happens to be very strong on French language groups near where I live, which is why I know about it).
Once you’ve located a nearby group that welcomes people at your level, go along and practice. I find it’s a very different feeling talking during a weekly class, more relaxed and often with a wider variety of discussions on things that interest you. It’s a great way to pick up vocab and confidence, for both speaking and listening. The only possible downside is that people are usually fairly forgiving of small errors at that sort of event, so you’ll want to still do some classes so you’ve got a teacher to pick up your mistakes!
Immersion helped my French extremely and attempting to be friends with French. Don’t be shy, attempt to talk to everyone.
Also, try to learn the tenses for some important verbs.
ex. to go
irai (future, je)
je vais aller (near future) I’m going
je suis allé (past tense) i went
In big cities in France, you can take lessons at L’Alliance française. Many foreigner friends of mine found that this is a great experience, not only because of the high quality of lessons but also because of the social events with all the students and french as the only common language.
I’ve never been in a position to try this myself, but one thing you could do is go talk to elderly people. They are often bored and will be grateful for some human interaction and conversation even if it’s with a foreigner who can’t speak very well. Just go to wherever they hang out, or go to an old folks’ home. Elderly people love telling stories.
This answer was designed for an English speaker who starts from scratch; it is not focused on speech but rather on fundamentals and tools, as I find awareness of these somewhat lacking, and being exposed to random popular content and one-size-fits-all online training, overrated.
Take charge; usually a language class involves incremental lessons about grammar with some lexicon using various types of activities, such as conversation. If you have to rely heavily on the English language, make sure to first read the Wikipedia article on the French language and all linked material, notes and external links in English(see also English words with French origins, and French Literature with some reading cues.)
Getting to know the International Phonetic Alphabet and how it is leveraged in French should prove essential with pronunciation. Aside from audio content such as what you mention, you can generate audio from any word/sentence using the Google translate engine like so(simply input your words in the URL; not perfect yet useful). To understand and research the things you hear and read about, a small “tool chain” made from available references1 is useful; for example:
[ TLFi ] – Definitions & quotes from classic authors(look them
up; use Google translate to help)
[ Verb tenses tool x
y z ] – Enter whatever conjugated verb to figure out the
[ Collins ] – En-Fr /
Fr-En (see also Cambridge) – Translation with examples
[ Google Ngram
viewer ] – Generate and analyze contexts and trends in books
This edition of Jean de La Fontaine‘s classic fables is illustrated; this can prove challenging but that shouldn’t stop anyone, as all the tools are available and questions can be asked on this very site. A beginner need not settle for easy, and could research all the words they find in one of those fables and use clues from their native language as they read, trying to grasp the gist of the sentences. Maybe printing one of these small fables, pinning it somewhere and learning it by heart could be useful. Whatever the activity, take notes for further research on topics you have a real interest in and keep track of your progress.2
1. Aside from the grammar section provided from the link, see Bonjour de France and the paper version of “Le petit Grevisse – grammaire française“.
2. If you want to challenge youself with etymology and in depth grammar, maybe look for the Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, sous dir. Alain Rey, ed. Le Robert, and Le Bon Usage, Grevisse et Goosse, ed. Duculot.
A friend of mine had what I think is an excellent method.. Watching movies, especially contemporary movies which have more informal speech. Both of our mothers learned English by watching tv, so we’re both big believers in the audio-visual method :-). Although of course supplementing with grammar is indispensable if you want to sound at all educated as well.
She would ideally watch the same movie 3 times – the first time with English subtitles of course, to just understand what was going on, another time with French captions, to integrate the oral and written aspects, and finally without a net at all. But she said the French caption was by far the most helpful round, as French is not a language whose pronunciation you can guess at very gracefully :-(.
Unfortunately France has nothing like ADA, so the pickings at the (otherwise impressive) local public library were slim, there were few French-language movies with French captions available. Supplementing with subtitles from sites such as opensubtitles.org was very helpful. And these days you should get plenty on netflix, which is much more mindful of access than any French company. I’d go for the last one if I was in your shoes.
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