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How to Learn French Efficiently – 12 Top Tips

Mis à jour : 4 nov. 2020

Learning French, like any other new language, implies a lot of memorization, and often, as adults, our memory is not what it used to be. So what is the best way to learn French? These 12 tips will help you memorize new information longer, and learn French more efficiently.

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12. Always Study French with Audio


Let’s start with one truth that many French students don’t realise but which is key if you want to do more than just read novels or French magazines…


Written French and spoken French are almost 2 different languages.

There are many silent letters, glidings, liaisons, etc… and they are everywhere, including in French verb conjugations and grammar.

Many students are still learning French mostly with written material, or traditional methods that over enunciate every single word.

Formal school curriculum usually focus on grammar and verb conjugations – the teachers don’t have a choice: they have to cover the imposed curriculum, and that leaves little time for anything else!

“The spoken French taught in American classrooms is a fiction, based on ideas about how people should speak, not on how they do speak” Waught & Fonseca-Greber University of Arizona

Yet, if you want to learn French to communicate in French, not just to pass exams, you need to train to understand modern spoken French. I wrote a whole article about modern spoken French with many examples, so I invite you to read it should you like to know more.

Picking the right French audiobook is your first challenge; and from your choice may very well depend the success or failure of your French studies.

Now let’s talk about your own study style.


11. Be in Touch with your Own Learning Style


Do you need to write? Or do you need to listen? Or do you need to read to learn things by heart?

Whatever the method you are using to learn French, make sure you adapt it to YOUR learning style.

This being said, studying French with audio is a must if you want to learn French to communicate: understand modern spoken French and speak French yourself.

I developed an audio-based modern French placement test. Check it out to see if you can understand modern spoken French



10. Self Studying is NOT for Everybody


When it comes to learning languages, not everybody is the same. I’ve taught hundreds of students, and I can tell you from experience that some people have an easier time with languages than others. It’s not fair, and it’s not popular to say it… but it’s true.

It doesn’t mean that someone less gifted cannot learn French, but it means that self-studying is not for everybody.


When it comes to learning languages, not everybody is the same. I’ve taught hundreds of students, and I can tell you from experience that some people have an easier time with languages than others. It’s not fair, and it’s not popular to say it… but it’s true.

It doesn’t mean that someone less gifted cannot learn French, but it means that self-studying is not for everybody.

Some students need the expertise of a teacher to guide them through their studies, motivate them and find creative ways to explain the same point until it is understood. Skype and/or phone French lessons can be a good solution.

On this topic, you may be interested in my article on how to select the best learning method and avoid scams.


9. Beware of Free French learning tools


Nowadays every French teaching website is offering something free. Free French lessons. Free tips. Free videos…

OK. I get it. Free is lovely.

However if the material is not good, then ‘free’ can be a total waste of your time. And your time is valuable.

Be particularly careful about social networks. It’s easy to get lost in there, and jump from one funny video to another but at the end, actually learn very little – or not what you should be learning!

There is also some really good free material out there – if you have not done it already, I encourage you download my free French learning audiobook.

However, if you are serious about learning French, you need to follow a structured path which gently leads you through the different French learning stages. At one point I suggest you invest into a reliable French learning method.

The method you choose has to come with solid grammatical explanations – very few people can master French without first understanding French grammar – and audio recordings featuring both traditional and modern French.


8. Translate French Into English as Little as Possible


When you are a total beginner, some translation is going to occur. As you advance in your French studies, try as much as possible to avoid translating.

Translating adds a huge step in the process of speaking:

Idea –> English –> French versus just idea –>French

It makes your brain waste 30% more time and energy and will fool you into making a mistake when the literal translation doesn’t work – which is unfortunately often the case in French!

So if you don’t translate, what should you do?



7. Link French to Images and Visual Situations, not English words


Try as much as possible to link the new French vocabulary to images, situations, feelings and NOT to English words.

For example, when learning “j’ai froid”, visualize that you are cold, bring up the feeling, not the English words “I – am – cold” – which won’t translate well since in this particular case, we don’t use “I am”, but “I have” in French…

And never change the English sentence to adapt it to the French – “ah, Ok, the French say “I HAVE cold”…

Let’s see what this does for your brain:

  • “Brrrr” I am cold so….je… then être in je form…. how do you say cold again? Oh yes froid je suis froid – oh but wait a minute! The French don’t use “I am” for that one… they say I “have” cold so have is avoir… so the je form is j’ai so… j’ai froid…. or is it j’ai froide?


Maybe this sounds familiar?

It is MUCH simpler and faster to link the feeling of cold or “brrrr” to “j’ai froid”.

If you are doing flashcards to study French – which I strongly encourage you do – draw the word/situation whenever possible instead of writing English. Even if you are not a good artist, you’ll (hopefully?) remember what your drawing meant, and it’s much more efficient to learn French this way.

This is a very impor