The Step-by-step French Learning Guide That’s Full of Free Resources
Learning French also prepares you for going abroad and lets you communicate with people from many different cultures, not just in Europe but also in Africa, where a large portion of the population speaks French.
As you advance in your French learning journey, you may become a language learning addict! Good news for future polyglots: speaking French will help you to learn other romance languages like Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, as they all have similar Latin roots.
Hopefully, you’re now itching to get started, so without further ado, here’s the promised guide with 100% free resources that you can use to learn by yourself, anytime and anywhere, broken down into 12 simple weeks.
Learn French Step-by-step: A 3-month Study Plan
Weeks 1 and 2:
Numbers 1 to 100
It’s the same for foreign language learners and you’ll need to study French numbers before moving on. I would recommend learning how to count up to 20 in the first week, and reinforcing that info during the second week. If you have time during your second week, try to get up to 100.
As for numbers higher than 100, save them for later, after you’ve mastered this three-month curriculum. Those won’t be as necessary in everyday French life as the other topics in this curriculum are.
It’s best to practice these now before you add more vocabulary to your repertoire, as you’ll need them to start any conversation. It’s also smart to get in the habit of speaking conversational French early on, so real conversations aren’t as intimidating later.
Their French phrases and greetings page has all the essential greetings complete with audio pronunciations and English definitions. As a bonus, you can test yourself with text and audio games when you think you’re ready, which is a great way to solidify what you’ve learned and have some fun while you’re at it.
FluentU is another source to start learning how to communicate in real-world French. Because it uses exclusively authentic content and sorts the library by learner level, you’ll be able to keep using it throughout your French journey.
Conjugate the Two Most Important Verbs: Être and Avoir
These two little verbs will be your best friends throughout the whole French process, as you’ll use them to form almost every common expression and to construct past tenses in French.
Reverso Conjugation is a great online tool that shows you how to conjugate any verb, including these ones. For weeks one and two, learn only the present-tense forms of être and avoir (the forms in the upper left box after you type a verb into Reverso Conjugation). These are the first steps of verb conjugation that you’ll be building on as you progress.
Basic Definite and Indefinite Articles
Weeks 3 and 4:
Days of the Week and Months of the Year
The days of the week are some of the simplest vocabulary you’ll need to know, and you can start practicing by visiting BBC Primary Languages, a site filled with vocabulary, songs and audio clips of all languages.
Their days of the week guide gives you everything you need to know, going far beyond just the names of the days to include the French words for weekend, day, afternoon, night, etc. Their guide to the months includes bonuses like how to talk about your birthday and how to say which month you’re going on vacation.
How to Tell Time
Weeks three and four in this curriculum are really all about how to get by with day-to-day vocabulary, and telling time is one of the most important things you’ll want to know from the moment you wake up!
Since you learned French numbers in weeks one and two, putting them together now to tell time should be easy. You just need this phrase: Il est ___ heure(s) ___. (Literally: It is ___ hour(s) ___.)
How to Talk About the Weather
Continuing with the day-to-day theme, you’ll need to study-up on weather words. At the very minimum, you’ll want to know how to say things like it’s cold, it’s raining and the weather is bad.
Even if you’re not going to be memorizing all 43 words in that guide, I love it because it has a great section at the end that looks at weather phrases that the French use as double philosophical meanings—so cool!
Present Tense Conjugations of –Er Verbs
Essentially, there are three main groups of verbs in the French language and this one is good to start with since it’s arguably the most intuitive (we’ll get to the others later).
In fact, verbs that have the “-er” ending are by far the most useful regular verbs in the French language. That is because some 90% of all French verbs have the “-er” verb ending. That means that if you master this group of verbs and the associated tenses, you should be well on your way to French verb mastery!
Weeks 5 and 6:
You didn’t think I’d forget this simple but necessary lesson, did you? I purposefully put it here because by now, after learning some rich vocabulary and starting to conjugate verbs, you might be ready for a bit of a break.
Have no fear! As it’s no fun to just memorize huge lists one after another, I recommend ProProfs Flashcards, a platform that lets anyone create study flashcards. Their French household flashcards are a fun way to learn and once you’ve practiced enough, there’s an option to keep score of how many you get correct each round.
Immerse Yourself in French by Using FluentU
You might start up a movie only to find that you’re struggling to understand more than a few words at a time. You might find that you’re relying on the English subtitles too much, but no French subtitles are available. If there are French subtitles, how do you know that they’re accurate, or which of a word’s 10 definitions are being used in a particular sentence?
The FluentU program provides a bridge between learner-oriented and authentic content by taking real videos made by and for French speakers and enhancing them with learning features. The program’s content library includes videos like movie clips and trailers, short films, hit music videos from French artists and even content from popular vloggers like Cyprien.
If you’re not sure where to begin, you can filter the videos by language skill level, format (clips, commercials, talks/speeches, etc.) and topic (food and cuisine, business, humor, etc.). This takes the guesswork out of learning with authentic content, since you’ll know exactly what to expect and can tailor your studies to your level and interests.
The subtitles on FluentU have been vetted by language experts, ensuring their accuracy, and you can actually toggle the English and French captions on or off—so you can go ahead and hide the English text if you find yourself getting too distracted by it. And you don’t have to worry about not understanding what you’re watching, because you can hover over or click on any word in the subtitles to see its contextual definition and other videos where the word is used.
Understanding and Speaking French Like a Pro
Spoken French is often the most feared aspect of the language. Unlike Spanish, French isn’t pronounced as it’s written. For example, the word endings “é,” “ais,” “ait” and “aient” are all pronounced the same! So with this daunting task of speaking and understanding spoken French, what can you do to reach fluency?
9. Find an excuse to speak French every day… to yourself, in the shower, it doesn’t matter!
Maybe you’ll get stares in the street, but accept them with pride! I literally say whatever comes to mind… the point is to speak fluidly and consciously listen to your pronunciation.
10. Look for language exchange partners to get conversation practice.
Meetup has French conversation groups in many cities. Often these groups are “language exchanges,” meaning you and a native French speaker will spend part of the time speaking in French and part in English, so you both get practice in.
11. Have some free time on your hands? Time to go abroad!
It’s time to take a vacation to France or another French-speaking region and interact with the locals. Your French will improve amazingly even after a short time abroad if you consciously avoid English (no English-speaking tour groups!).
Charlemagne once said, “to have another language is to possess a second soul.” Learning French opens your mind to a new way of thinking. Not only do you learn the language, you learn the culture, the history. For reasons both personal and economic, learning another language, especially a widely spoken language like French, is one of the best decisions you can make.