There is no magic formula for learning how to speak French - it requires time, energy, and patience. There are, however, some techniques which will make your language study more efficient and thus help you to learn French more quickly.
The two main aspects to language study are learning and practicing, and they go hand in hand. Memorizing vocabulary words won't do you any good if you are unable to use them, so you have to supplement your studies with practice. The following tips on learning French include plenty of practice ideas - if you really want to learn how to speak French, do as many of the following as possible.
French ClassesOne of the most efficient ways to learn how to speak French is to take a class. If you don't want to attend a language school, there are almost certainly some reasonably-priced French classes available at your local community college or adult education center.
If at all possible, spend some time in a French-speaking country - that is the absolute best way to learn French.
Online French LessonsWork on the basic vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and verb lessons in my French for Beginners section. You can choose between studying with the checklist (for a logical study order) or by topic.
Take a look at French in English and True Cognates to see what you already know.
Study the differences between French and English to see what you need to concentrate on.
Listen to FrenchListen to spoken French every day. The more you listen, the easier it will be for you to acquire that lovely French accent.
Invest in some audio resources. Listen to French radio and watch television - even though it will be difficult to understand, it will help you get used to the rhythms of French speech.
Listen to French music - you may not understand all the words, but your subconscious will be working away. Watch French movies. While reading the English subtitles, your mind will unconsciously work on decoding the French (well, that's what my high school teacher told me anyway). ;-)
French listening links
Read FrenchRead French newspapers and magazines. For each article, make a list of the words you don't know, look them all up after you finish the article, and then read it again while referring to the list.
Ditto for French literature.
Check out these French readers and bilingual books. Or you might prefer reading children's books like Le Petit Prince.
Use a dictionary to make flashcards and themed word lists.
- Use the flashcards to label everything in your house - doors, walls, bookshelves, rooms, etc.
- Keep word lists in a binder - flip through the pages every day to test yourself. When you're sure that you know every word on a list, remove it from the binder to make room for new lists.
Speak FrenchYou can't learn how to speak French in a vacuum - at some point you just have to get out there and speak it. First, do some solo work on pronunciation, and then put your French into practice:
Use French whenever and wherever you can. One obvious situation is shopping - write your shopping lists in French, count out your four apples or six cans of tuna fish in French, look at prices and imagine how to say them in French, etc.
Try to think in French. When walking to the refrigerator, think J'ai soif or Qu'est-ce que je vais manger ?
Join the Alliance française - this non-profit organization is devoted to promoting French throughout the world, with parties and other activities where you can meet other francophones and practice your French. You'll meet everyone from beginners to native speakers. Guaranteed to help you learn French and have fun at the same time.
Do you feel nervous when you try to speak? Here are some tips on overcoming speaking anxiety.
French speaking links
Write in FrenchUse the forum to ask questions and exchange messages with other French speakers.
Find a pen pal to practice with.
More French writing links
Have Fun with FrenchEnjoy yourself - learning doesn't have to be a chore. Take a look at the inspiration and fun links.
Make a language scrapbook to keep all of your notes and related information in one place.