Ultimate guide to help you speak French


Discover 6 easy ways to get you speaking fluent French

There are now a multitude of choices to help you learn how to speak French. The days of going to the local library and taking out a book are long gone. Different ways of teaching are now easily accessible. The first question you have to ask yourself is this:

First question: are you prepared to pay for your learning solution?

If you want to learn how to speak French for free, then you’ll need to come back later for another post. Here, I want to assume that you are prepared to invest a little in your learning. Don’t forget that your time is your money as well. With some solutions, you will learn quicker than others. You might think it’s for free whereas if you spent a little bit you might get a lot further a lot quicker. Solutions that cost money are invariably delivered by professionals who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational engineering order to have the best quality learning solution out there. For them, it’s all about ensuring results. Just like anything in this consumer world, people want results quickly, and paid learning language solutions are under pressure to deliver too.

There are in fact 6 different ways to learn French. And within those 6 ways are different “modules”. I’ll describe them below. The thing is, each module is designed to do different things and treat different skill sets that make up what’s known as language acquisition.

So here are some more detailed explanations of the types of learning available and what they are for.

Face-to-face training with a teacher

individual french classesIndividual courses:
Individual or private courses are created around tailor made programs designed for intensive oral practice, guidance, explanations, corrections, and individual role-plays. Individual classes are well-adapted to specialised courses and for learners of French with special needs/constraints. They are often the most expensive type of training because you have to pay your teacher for each lesson.

Individual coaching:
These are short or even one-shot individual courses, focused on one specific French objective: for example, preparing a presentation or a written document. The coach helps with a specific topic or skill, often using individual role-plays. They really do require an expert trainer.

Individual tutoring:
A « light » extensive course designed to accompany French learners who are following an e-learning (online learning) program. The tutor provides guidance, and corrections, and is required to master the technological resources.

group french classes

Thematic workshops:
For in-depth group role plays and simulation, and group oral practice, then workshops are the perfect solution. They are usually one or two day group trainings focussed on a particular theme and at least an intermediate level of French is required. They do require a skilled group facilitator.

Group courses:
Group French classes are extensive training courses that enable oral practice, explanations, corrections, and role-plays. Group training can be motivating and facilitates collaborative learning but they do tend to have a lot of absentee learners. They are usually the cheapest solution for face to face training.

Intensive immersions in France:
An intensive immersion in France is when you actually travel to France to a professional school to specifically learn French. Intensives help quickly develop fluency and oral comprehension. These courses are the most effective formula of face-to-face training. In France, there are lots and lots of immersion courses on offer in virtually every city and major town, and many in rural locations too. The best ones offer combinations of individual, group, intercultural and social situation training. Immersions are obviously the most expensive ways to learn how to speak French.

Video training

video french learningIndividual Video training:
This is face-to-face training at distance by webcam, often via Skype, but there are now several online platforms that exist too specifically for French teachers.  Video training can be used for individual courses, tutoring and coaching. Generally, classes include a virtual whiteboard. They are very useful for mobile learners or those working in isolated sites with no access to a local teacher. Seeing the trainer can enhance motivation, but technical problems are still frequent. They require a trainer specialised in the medium.

Video conferences:
These are rarely used for the moment in language training, as technical problems are still rife but I think I have a promising future.

Telephone training

French telephone classesIndividual telephone training:
This is a flexible and cost-effective type of training, when the trainer is usually based offshore. Telephone classes can be used for individual training or tutoring and are excellent for practising telephone communication, developing fluency and maintenance. They are more intensive than face-to-face training, but less adapted for coaching and specialised training. They are not advised for beginners.

Conference Calls:
Conference calls in their daily work environment. Group oral practice, collaborative learning, explanations/corrections, and group role-plays.

Written communication classes

learn how to speak FrenchChat rooms, messaging, Web conferences:
Facilitates the development of « live » written communication, both individually and in a group, with or without a trainer (collaborative learning). Useful communication tool between tutors and learners.

Mail, email and forums:
Helps to develop written communication, grammatical knowledge, and vocabulary; also used in tutored courses.

Self-access French learning

self-access French learningResources, CD or CD-ROM based methods:
These are passive knowledge based solutions, and are now really pretty much all available online. Solutions like Audible, Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and of course Rocket. These solutions tend to work on grammar and vocabulary, oral and reading comprehension. Click here for a comparison of Rosetta Stone and Rocket French. Self-access is the best solution if you want a more global but cheap way of learning how to speak French. However, motivation here is the key factor. As you’ll be counting a lot on yourself, you’ll need to make sure the solution is fun, motivating, and that you clearly get the feeling that you are progressing. Otherwise, you’ll just give up after a few weeks.

So what should YOU choose?

It is easy to say “give them all a go, and find the one that works best for you”, but life is not like that, is it? You’re here because you’re interested, but you need answers on the best way to learn how to speak French. So I’m going to go out on a limb, and here is a learning path that I would propose for you if you’re starting from scratch as a beginner:

Your current levelSolutionReason Why
BeginnerSelf-accessWill strongly test your motivation to succeed. Will help you get the basics for not much cost
Pre-intermediateGroup classes and self-accessYou'll need live real interaction to discuss and apply what you've learned. Keep using self-access to work on the fundamentals
Intermediate Immersion Will allow you to progress much more quickly and also take advantage of the beauty of France without feeling frustrated to not being able to converse with people outside of classes
Post-intermediate Individual classes and telephone You now know exactly what you want and you can help your trainer create a personalised program to help you succeed
Nearly fluent Coaching Whether for business or even for social French coaching is a short sharp shock to the system to help you overcome a specific language barrier

There you go! By following this learning path, you’ll be varying the different learning solutions, and therefore retaining pleasure and motivation in learning. Doing the same thing over and over can quickly get boring. So once you progress, you can reward yourself with changing.

I hope this article helps you to make things a lot clearer on how to learn to speak French. It can also hopefully help you when choosing your next course.