How to learn French (or any language for that matter)


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If you live in Montreal and don't speak French, you've probably wanted to pick it up sometime but for whatever reason, never did. Whether it's for professional or social reasons, knowing French in Montreal can go a long way, and learning it doesn't have to be as hard as it's made out to be. This 10-step instruction guide outlines the basic habits and tasks that are essential to learning French (or any language for that matter), which applies across the board to individuals of any learning style or level of language proficiency.

1. Understand that learning a new language is like getting into the habit of exercise after a lengthy period of inertia. Unless you have a clearly defined objective and your motivation to succeed is greater than your fear of pain or failure, chances of quitting early on are very high.

2. Identify the SMART criteria of your goal.

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish? Why do you want to do it?
  • Measurable: How will you measure progress? How will you know you've succeeded?
  • Achievable: Is it realistic? How will you attain this goal?
  • Relevant: Is it necessary to your life right now? Will it help you in future?
  • Time-bound: When will you have attained this goal? What will you do daily towards it?

3. Lose your ego (i.e. accept that you might be bad at first, or even after months). Many times people will take on a difficult task and say "I can't do this" or "I'm not smart enough" because it hurts their pride less to justify their own failure by admitting that they suck. You cannot get better until you fail.

4. Gather the necessary resources, such as grammar books, dictionaries etc. A vast amount of information can be found for free in libraries or online through a simple Google search.

5. Plan your study method and schedule according to your strengths, needs and constraints, and stick to them.

  • Method: How much vocabulary and grammar? Reading and writing? Listening and speaking? How many words or phrases will you memorize a day?
  • Schedule: How many hours in a week will you consistently set aside to study? Are you studying 30 minutes a day every day? An hour every other day?

Alternatively, sign up for a course at a university, community centre or sessions from a private tutor.

6. Expose yourself to French media (music, television, movies, news). Listening is one of the most important aspects of communication which is the fundamental purpose of language. Luckily, this step can be done in your downtime so there's no excuse not to do it.

7. Integrate your learning into your daily life in any way you can (e.g. identify objects you see in French, try practicing what you know any time you go out in public). This step requires the most effort as it forces you out of your comfort zone, but it is equally the most crucial one to your progress.

8. Make as many mistakes as possible! Making awful, embarrassing mistakes that haunt your memory will ensure that you don't repeat the same ones in the future.

9. Have fun with it! Learning a language should be enjoyable, not dreadful. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break and try again in a more positive state of mind.

10. Repeat steps 5 to 9 until your desired level of fluency is achieved. Keep in mind step 3 throughout the process of working towards this goal, which will minimize stress and negativity. It is highly recommended to brush up on your skills every now and then in order for your learning to stay fresh in your mind.

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