Congratulations on deciding to start learning French. That’s great news! But you’d be forgiven for wondering, where on earth do I start? Well, in France, ideally *badum-tsss*. Fun fact: France is also known as “L’Hexagone” - take a look at the map if you want to see why!
But if heading to France isn’t quite possible at the moment, don’t panic. This complete guide to learning French will have everything you need to start learning with all the enthusiasm, confidence and joie de vivre you could ever need!
Did you know that there are 275 million people in the world who speak French? Alongside the fact that it’s spoken on four continents, it’s well known as one of the top languages in the world of art, food, culture, fashion and music! (why not check out these French songs to start you off?) C'est parti!
In this complete guide to French, we’ll share loads of tips, advice and useful links to help you learn. Don’t worry if you struggle to remember everything we talk about - we’ll summarise at the end (and maybe you should bookmark this page, just in case!)
Learning any language is worth your time! Whether it’s French or another language, learning a language allows you to connect with people from all over the world, experience different cultures and help with a bit of brain training all at the same time! We’re living in an increasingly globalised world, so learning another language like French can help you to boost your career and the likelihood of finding a new job, make travelling much easier and it opens you up to a world of new entertainment, like music, art, books and films. Trust us, it's definitely worth it.
Why learn French?
France is divided into 22 different regions, all offering something different. The variety and choice of the country alone is a great reason to learn French.The main benefit that springs to mind when thinking of reasons to learn French is the fact that you’ll be able to connect with millions of people around the world. But outside of that, there are several more top reasons to learn French:
Of course, those reasons are ‘fun’ ones. And they’re probably true too. But in reality, the biggest advantages to learning French will be personal to you. Everyone has a different motivation when it comes to learning. You may want to learn French to connect with family, friends, or loved ones, or you could be planning to visit France (or Canada or Morocco or Switzerland or Côte d'Ivoire or Luxembourg or…) and want to get the most out of your trip by chatting to the locals and making a connection with them. You might find that learning French will increase your career prospects, and it’s a valuable skill to have that’ll allow you to create and build professional workplace connections. Whatever your situation, there are so many useful reasons to learn the French language.
You can start learning French by finding a convenient learning system that’s both effective and fun. French language learning apps are great for this (*cough*, like us, *cough*)! You need to find a way to learn that you can access whenever you want it, and that you can really stick to.
Start learning French by practicing little and often. As you probably know already, learning a new language is a marathon, not a sprint. Most importantly, amid our busy schedules, you should expect to study at your time and on your terms.
Another great way to start learning French is to find an activity you enjoy and try doing it in French. In other words, what we’re saying is don’t ignore what you’re interested in in your native language! It might be cooking, Star Wars, powerlifting or skincare routines. If you enjoy the topic, try to seek it out in French. It’s much more likely that you’ll remain engaged in a topic that you’re already familiar with. We encourage you to immerse yourself in content you actually enjoy. Don’t force yourself to find an online magazine about the French economy if you’re not interested in economics anyway! Save learning about new topics when you’ve got the basics of a language on lock.
It’s important to note that fluency doesn’t come overnight! To speak French fluently, you need to proactively make time to learn and stick with it for a long period of time. Of course, you want those interpersonal connections as quickly as possible to feel like you’re succeeding in having a decent conversation! But it does take time. When you’re just starting out, it’s more fun to make someone laugh with a silly mistake than to correctly use the imperfect subjunctive - we promise!
You should remember that you can be ANY age and start learning a new language! The idea that there’s a cut-off point for language acquisition is incredibly common. People think that unless you learned a language when you were a child, there’s no hope and it’ll be near-impossible to grasp.
NEWSFLASH: That’s not the case! Learning French as an adult or young adult IS possible. You CAN grasp a language, no matter your age. The difference between adults learning and children learning is that children are pretty much fearless when it comes to making mistakes. Did you know that language anxiety affects around a third of adult learners? Because many of us have this fear, there’s a risk we miss out on learning key French words and phrases.
So whether you’re 5 or 50, you can learn French easily by consistently practising! The best way to learn French is to be mindful of the fact that languages are about more than just vocabulary and grammar. Languages like French are built around people, culture, and connection.
Did you know that about 30% of modern English words are of French origin? In fact, French is a great language for English speakers to pick up. With regular learning sessions, it’s likely that you’ll be able to see results quickly (e.g. 1-3 months), meaning that you’ll be able to understand some of the more useful phrases and have short conversations with people in that time frame. The following phrases will be really useful in everyday conversations and are a great starting point for basic vocabulary.
Check out our French Phrasebook for more words and phrases.
It’s likely that you’ve asked yourself (or typed into Google) “What’s the average time it takes to learn French?” Well, we’ve got the short answer: It’s not as simple as that! You might be thinking it takes weeks, months or even years to learn French. You start doubting yourself and wonder, “Can I learn French??” “Do I have the time?”
But whether you’ve got 3 minutes, 4 weeks, 6 months or a whole year, there’s always time to learn. It IS possible, no matter how much time you’ve got! Dedicate a bit of time to daily lessons. It could be on your commute into work or while you’re waiting for dinner to cook - those few minutes could be the difference between remembering and forgetting.
We know, in a dream world, you’d click your fingers and be fluent in French instantly. But in reality, finding hacks on how to learn French fast isn’t the best way to learn. Of course it’s understandable why you want to learn French fast. You’ve not got time to spend slaving away over vocab, and we’re not all in a position to be able to pop over to Paris for a homestay to learn French! When it comes to learning as an adult, it’s easy to get impatient and want to learn it as fast as possible. But think about how slowly you learned a language at school - although you probably don’t remember much from those classes, the point we’re trying to make here is that short sessions, done often are key.
That’s not to say that we don’t have some tips for you. We do! If you are searching for the fastest ways to learn French, here are some ways to accelerate learning French for beginners.
No, we don’t mean being stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a mate. We’re talking about French vocabulary that sounds like one thing, but means something else. French and English share a complicated linguistic history, and these false friends can easily cause you to make a mistake and get the wrong idea (or to say something embarrassing that you definitely don’t mean!) For example, words like blessé and blessed, bras and bras, and monnaie/money are basically identical, but mean very different things.
French: Blessé = Injured | English: Blessed = holy or sacred; religious
French: Bras = arm | English: Bras = underwear (!)
French: Monnaie = loose change (l’argent is the word for money) | English: Money = … we’re not defining this one, it’s pretty self explanatory 👀
Sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear 😐 but if motivation came easily, the world would be a different place. Everyone would be running faster than Usain Bolt, making millions going viral on TikTok and giving Jamie a run for his money in the kitchen. We know life’s not that easy. The pressures of life mean that the feeling of “I can’t be bothered” is all too familiar.
A great way to incorporate language learning into your life is to set short, daily learning goals that you’ll easily stick to. Couple that with a learning reminder (which you can easily set up on your phone), and you’ll be learning French quickly in no time!
Bear with us here. We’re not saying that grammar isn’t important. Of course it is. Yet studies have shown that diving into grammar (and as such, the theories and reasoning behind why words and sentences are formed in the way that they are) too early can actually slow down your progress. It might seem counterintuitive, but when you’re just starting out, the most important thing is to get out of your comfort zone and keep practising the basic French words and phrases that you know. If that means throwing yourself head-first into language learning, then go for it! Fine-tuning French verbs, tenses and genders can come later - connections with people are more beneficial.
So really, the short answer to how to learn French quickly is to find something that you enjoy doing already, and do that in French! Watch a French crime drama on Netflix, or use French subtitles on your favourite show. If you’re a fan of podcasts, find some French-speaking ones on a topic you’re interested in. Search for French-speaking Beauty bloggers on YouTube and watch them unbox products from France! That’s why we’ve made our language learning app the way we did, packing in as many entertaining videos as we can so you’ll enjoy your learning and stay motivated.
We hate to break it to you, but there’s no single ‘best’ way to learn French. There are loads of different ways to learn!
When learning French, it’s really important to consider the way of learning for you as an individual. You can arm yourself with different tools to help you learn French effectively. For example:
Plus, another handy tip from us: It’s okay to feel like you suck when you start! If you think you’re bad at languages, we’re here to tell you you’re not. You’ve just not found the right way to learn yet! (and if you want a quick ego boost, here are 40 French words you didn’t know you already knew!)
The best way to learn French (and quickly stop feeling like you’re bad at it!) is to learn relevant French words and phrases that meet your needs will help you to feel more knowledgeable in certain situations. For example, if your fear is around comprehension and understanding people, it can be helpful to see and hear language spoken in different contexts by different people. Practising expressing your thoughts and responses to questions is also a useful way to help you grasp your new language. Guess what? Memrise actually does all of that. Check it out here.
Learning as an adult can be difficult. It was so much easier when you were young, with school language lessons or sessions with a tutor that your parents organised. But zoom all the way forward to the present day, and you’ll most likely find that this little thing called ‘life’ gets in the way.
Maybe you’re trying to advance your career and work demands more of your time. You’re also probably trying to maintain regular meet-ups with all your friends so you don’t lose touch (Video calls still count, right?). If you’re living with roommates or family, it’s hard to find a quiet space to dial into an online French class (especially with everyone working from home nowadays). You might have a family of your own, and you already find yourself spending every spare minute helping your kids with their homework. Who’s got time to go to a French class?
Many of us need a way of learning that just seamlessly fits into our lifestyle, rather than us making time for it. Wouldn’t you rather be able to learn French on the commute into the office rather than begrudgingly drag yourself to a French class after a long day’s work?
Fun fact: France is the largest country in the European Union, with a population of approx. 67 million. Each region in France offers something different, whether it’s a stunning coastline, amazing historical landmarks or fabulous food. So if your goal is to be able to visit these places and successfully know enough French words and phrases to get by, you should ask yourself the following questions:
The good news is that you have several options when it comes to learning French on your own. There are benefits and drawbacks with all of them, but, like the best way to learn, it all comes down to your personal preference. Whether it’s apps, podcasts or ebooks, there’ll be something out there for you. Just make sure you’re all connected to the internet first!
Learn French with ebooks
When it comes to learning French, people often turn to a book or an ebook first. We’re conditioned to think that learning academically is the only way to go, however, it might not be the best way to learn for you. Even if it’s an ebook, it can still be tedious to trawl through trying to find an engaging starting point. If you see the words on the page and try to piece together how to pronounce them on your own, it’s likely you’ll struggle.
The truth is, we learn French by listening. You’ll have to also look up how things are pronounced as you’re learning the words and phrases, mostly because we haven’t quite invented books that speak just yet. We built Memrise to do quite the opposite - you’re taught the words and phrases by native speakers through videos. So not only will you learn the words quickly, but you’ll also understand how it’s spoken by real people.
Learn French with podcasts
French podcasts can be a great way to learn French as a beginner. You get experience with listening to the language, almost as if you were part of the conversation (even though you miss out on speaking the language back to them!) It can also be a handy way to absorb spoken French, especially if you need to get used to the pace and intonation of the language. Another benefit is that you can choose topics that interest you! However, it can be tricky if you’re not used to colloquial expressions, or struggle to focus when the hosts talk over one another.
Learning French Online, or with an App
As long as you have a decent internet connection, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to self-teaching French. Whether it’s an online course, a French learning computer programme, an app or a quiz, there are plenty of ways to learn a language on your own.
Of course, there are loads of language learning apps available, so you’ll want to choose the one that suits you best. You might be thinking, “surely an app is basically just a textbook, on my phone?” and we’ll tell you that with some apps, you’re not wrong. Some apps and online programmes feature the same robotic, monotonous voices you heard on school exam tapes, and the teaching format can get dry and dull really quickly. So as we mentioned earlier, you need to find an online learning method that’s engaging, fun and that works for you. A great way to start is by finding an app that lets you start learning French for free. You’ll want to find an app that features words and phrases that you’ll actually use in real-life situations, and where the voice recordings are of genuine native speakers.
Learning French with Memrise:
Memrise can help you with:
We won’t be so good for:
You might be thinking “Of course they’d toot their own horn”, seeing as you’re reading this on Memrise.com. But we created our language learning system to do all the things we see missing in the other books, videos, and apps out there. So we believe that Memrise is the best online programme to learn French, because we let you learn the vocabulary you find useful, help you learn fast, keep you motivated through entertainment, surround you with French native speakers, and give you the confidence to communicate.
We have a website for those who want to learn French at home on a computer and an app for those who learn better on the go. We teach you with videos of native speakers saying useful phrases, with the accents, the pace and the body language that makes French so rich and colourful. You can choose different levels to learn from at any time, meaning that you can skip to the parts that you find the most interesting.
The best app to learn French
Along with the ability to learn French online, we’ve also built the best app to learn French. The app is created from the ground up to make it the best learning experience on your phone and on-the-go. Of course, as we said, we might be a little bit biased… 👀 but the best app for adults is one that allows you to learn in bite-sized chunks, with real native speakers, wherever you are in the world.
We also know you’ve not got all the time in the world. You need an app that gets straight to the point and teaches you useful phrases you’ll actually use. You also want to connect with people, so while learning practical phrases, we also throw in ways to teach you to speak like the locals do, so you can make those all-important human connections. #winning!
Other reasons our app is awesome
Well, you’ve made it to the final part of the *complete* guide to learning French! We’re impressed. You’re clearly serious about learning French and you must be super motivated to start. We think you should be rewarded handsomely for your efforts - tweet us @memrise with the hashtag #CestPartiMemrise and we’ll DM you a surprise…
Before you go though, here are our KEY take-home tips and tricks for you to remember when learning French:
Maintenant, allez apprendre le français !