Let this be the year you master French
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about France and the French language? Maybe it’s a friendly morning “Bonjour”, or the Eiffel Tower keeping a watch over Paris at night or perhaps devouring a plate of fresh baguette and French cheese. Whatever it is, we’re sure it’s a nice thought!
As it stands, more than 300 million people around the globe speak French, making it the fifth most popular spoken language in the world. That’s counting the number of people who speak the language, not the number of native French speakers.
Spoken across 5 different continents, French is one of the best languages to learn for budding travelers, alongside Spanish. If you’re already a native speaker of a Romance language, it might be a little easier for you to pick up French. That being said, as a native English speaker, you’ll have to invest roughly 600 hours of study time into learning French.
It’s the language of love, of course. Naturally, we had to mention that French is the universal “language of love”. With its flowery language and distinguishable accent, it’s full of romantic sounds for the ears. Plus, since Paris is said to be the capital of love, it’s no surprise French comes out on top as the most romantic language.
It can boost your career. Speaking French can set you high above other people in the international job market. Not only is it the working language of the United Nations and the European Union, speaking French also opens up job opportunities in France and many other French-speaking countries, such as Canada and Belgium.
French culture is everything. French culture is known for its fashion, art, and cuisine. Having knowledge of the language really helps you get in touch with all aspects of life in France. You’re able to connect with French people on a closer level and appreciate small habits and nuances much more than someone who doesn’t speak French.
Food, food, and more food! Whether it be onion soup, a breakfast croissant, or a whole stack of cheese, French culture places a lot of importance on enjoying food together with family or friends. Knowing some French foodie phrases (and typical French ingredients) you’ll be able to release your inner gourmand in no time!
It’s a pretty impossible task to cover all aspects of French grammar in this article, so instead, we’ll take you through a couple of points to get you started - beginning with tenses.
There are actually more than 20 tenses in French! But don’t panic, a lot of them aren’t used anymore. Some of the main tenses you need to know are présent (simple present), imparfait (perfect), passé composé (present perfect), futur simple (simple future), and conditionnel présent (conditional present).
Here’s a quick look at how these work for “aller” (to go):
|Présent||Je vais||I go|
|Imparfait||J'allais||I was going|
|Passé composé||Je suis allé||I went|
|Futur simple||J'irai||I will go|
|Conditionnel présent||J'irais||I would go|
Probably the two most important verbs in the French language are “avoir” (to have) and “être” (to be).
As you've seen in the quick snapshot above, verb conjugation is the process of changing the form of the verb depending on the person, tense, mood, and number. Like other Romance languages, there are many different forms of French verbs, complete with different endings depending on the sentence.
Probably the two most important verbs in the French language are “avoir” (to have) and “être” (to be). Learning these verbs and how they’re conjugated will get you off to a great start in learning French grammar.
Avoir - present tense
J’ai - I have
Tu as - You have (informal)
Elle/Il a - She/he has
Nous avons - We have
Vous avez - You have (formal or plural)
Elles/Ils ont - They have
Être - present tense
Je suis - I am
Tu es - You are (informal)
Elle/Il est - She/he is
Nous sommes - We are
Vous êtes - You are (formal or plural)
Elles/Ils sont - They are
“Être” and “avoir” are the two principal French auxiliary verbs, which are used together with main verbs to help form sentences in different tenses. Let’s see this in action! We’ll take “manger” (to eat) as our main or full verb here and show you how to conjugate it in one of the most common past tenses - passé composé. The auxiliary or helping verb, in this case, is “avoir.”
J’ai mangé - I ate/have eaten
Tu as mangé - You ate/have eaten (informal)
Elle/Il a mangé - She/he ate/has eaten
Nous avons mangé - We ate/have eaten
Vous avez mangé - You ate/have eaten (formal or plural)
Elles/Ils ont mangé - They ate/have eaten
We mentioned “aller” (to go) in the previous section about tenses and it’s a good example of a verb that takes “être” as its auxiliary verb. Here’s how you conjugate it in the passé composé.
Je suis allé - I went
Tu es allé - You went (informal)
Elle/Il est allé - She/he went
Nous sommes allés - We went
Vous êtes allés - You went (formal or plural)
Elles/Ils sont allés - They went
Having a real, native-sounding French accent is probably the ultimate goal for any French learner. It may take some time to excel in your French pronunciation, but think of how you’ll feel when someone mistakes you for a native speaker!
On top of the standard 26 Latin letters that make up the French alphabet, you’ll need to recognize the additional vowel accent marks. There are 4 types of French accents in total: the acute or aigu accent (like é), the grave accent (like è), the circonflexe accent (like ê), and the tréma (like ë). Take a look at the video below for a guide on how to pronounce both acute and grave accents.
If you want to practice speaking French in the real world and you have already covered some of the trickier sounds, next you can equip yourself with some common French vocabulary and basics in French. These are perfect phrases for your first conversations.
With the Tandem app, you can easily find native speakers to practice your conversations in French! Call us biased, but we truly believe that Tandem is the best way to learn French online. It’s a great complimentary app to your French lesson or online course and with millions of members in the community, you’re bound to find someone with similar interests to you who can help you improve your French language skills. Sign up for Tandem here for a fun and free online French learning alternative!
Training your ears to a foreign language is an important part of language acquisition.
Training your ears to a foreign language is an important part of language acquisition. Not only does it fine-tune your listening skills, but it also gets you accustomed to nuances of sounds that improve your overall pronunciation.
For intermediate French learners, head to newsinslowfrench.com and get your daily dose of the news from France and the rest of the world. Advanced French and into true crime podcasts? Check out L’heure du crime from RTL!
Every single French learner, whether beginner, intermediate or advanced needs their go-to online dictionary. For those of you yet to find your favorite dictionary, we’d recommend Word Reference. If you’re a bit more old school and would prefer a real Dictionary book (we don’t blame you!), the Collins English to French dictionary is your best bet.