French is a descendant of the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish,Romanian, Sardinian and Catalan. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and Belgium, which French has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul, and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian.
It is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, la francophonie, the community of French-speaking countries. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to the European Union, 129 million, or twenty-six percent of the Union's total population, can speak French, of whom 72 million are native speakers (65 million in France, 4.5 million in Belgium, plus 2.5 million in Switzerland, which is not part of the EU) and 69 million are second-language or foreign language speakers, thus making French the third language in the European Union that people state they are most able to speak, after English and German. Twenty percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French, totaling roughly 145.6 million people in Europe alone.
George Weber, author of "Top Languages: The World's 10 most influential Languages", wrote that until the end of the nineteenth century, French had a global dominance similar to that now occupied by English. He said "nobody could pass for educated without the ability to speak French" and "However, French dominance was never so complete as its rival's is now for the simple reason that 100 years ago large parts of the world were not yet connected to rest as they are all today. In Mongolia it was sufficient to speak Mongolian, in Madagascar Malagasy could get you anywhere. Globalization had not been heard of then." As a result of extensive colonial ambitions of France and Belgium (at that time governed by a French-speaking elite), between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to the Americas, Africa, Polynesia, the Levant, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.
According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la francophonie, French speakers will number approximately 500 million people in 2025 and 650 million people, or approximately seven percent of the world's population by 2050.
French is a moderately inflected language, in many ways like its fellow Romance languages. Case is indicated usually by word order or by the form of the verb. Nouns have two genders - masculine and feminine. Adjectives generally inflect based on the number and gender of the noun. Verbs have many forms or combinations of tense, aspect, and mood, and either fall into a regular conjugation or are irregular.
Nouns in French have two genders: masculine (masculin) and feminine (féminin). This categorization is usually arbitrary and has no relation to the nature of the noun itself. There are no hard and fast rules for guessing the gender of a noun if you haven't memorized it, but in general a noun ending in -e is likely to be feminine.
French adjectives usually change to reflect the number and gender of the nouns they describe. They usually follow the noun, though some adjectives (like petit or bon) precede it.
French has several articles. There are three definite articles: the masculine (le), the feminine (la), and the plural (les no matter the gender). These all translate to "the" in English. There are indefinite articles (du, de la, and des) as well, used to indicate indefinite nouns. They inflect for gender and number in the same way definite articles do. English lacks an exact equivalent of indefinite articles, but the closest word would be "some," as in "some books" or "some songs."
French verb endings change according to the subject's number and relation to the speaker. They also change to reflect mood, tense, and aspect.
Tense and aspect Edit
There are three basic tenses: present, past, and future. There are two aspects, or ways in which the completion of the verb relates to the flow of time: the perfective (referring to action that was, is, or will be complete) and the imperfective (referring to actions that are continuous or habitual in the past).
There are three moods that indicate the speaker's attitude to his or her words; the imperative mood is used to give commands, the subjunctive mood expresses need, doubt, or desire, and the conditional is used to describe hypothetical or possible actions. The most common mood is the indicative, used in simple statement of facts, though other moods are not uncommon.
- Available on Desktop, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone for free.
- Gamified lesson format includes a variety of speaking, listening, translation, and multiple choice challenges covering many fields.
- iOS version has guided "chats" with bots.
- Duolingo Effectiveness Study and more research here.
- Keep in mind, though, that while this course is good, it's not perfect. The words "Chatte" and "Chienne" (female versions of cat and dog respectively) literally mean pussy and bitch. Yes, technically what Duolingo teaches you is correct, but if you go to France and say "J'ai une chienne", they are likely to assume you're talking about your wife. Moral of the story is this: USE OTHER SOURCES
- Available on Desktop, iOS, and Android for free.
- Pre-made and user-generated material (over 20 million users) means more progression and challenges.
- You can even find courses to correspond with other programs such as Assimil(not yet for french, RIP) or Duolingo.
- Highly regarded app for French learners.
- More languages in the future
Commercial Products Edit
- Assimil French Without Toil - oldschool, '50-s course, thorough but a bit dated.
- Assimil (New) French With Ease - 113 lessons, the best Assimil course ever, in itself it can get you to B1 level (it claims B2 but that's a bit overstretched).
- Assimil Using French - the continuation of the French With Ease course with excerpts from newspapers and literary works (i.e. unadulterated French).
- Assimil is strongly recommended because it will teach you idioms as no other course can.
- I myself would not dare to recommend using Assimil exclusively but there are some people who reached higher-intermediate/lower-advanced (no, I won't use the word fluent) level with only this course.
- Warning: This is generally true for other courses but with Assimil I cannot stress this enough: You should never overuse it! Only take it in the prescribed amount: half an hour a day for the passive wave, another half for the active one.
- You can thank the Internet if you find it expensive... however ff you want to be a good goy but you are on a budget you might consider buying only the books and get the audio from... places.
- 5 levels available.
- Recommended as a beginning tool
- Strongly not recommended to be used as the only tool.
- Covers pronunciation, reading, listening, vocabulary, writing.
- Very poor for grammar.
- Easy to use. Shouldn't take more than an hour to set up and begin using.
- More expensive than it's worth. Thank you based internet!
- 3 levels with 100 total lessons.
- Recommended as a learning tool.
- Strongly not recomended to be used as the only tool.
- Covers mainly speaking and being able to hold a conversation.
- Easy to use, just open the audio file and repeat.
- Much more expensive than it's worth.
- http://www.pimsleur.com Try a free lesson!
- Michel Thomas French Foundation and Foundation Review Course - 8 hours of grammar drilling plus the reviews.
- Michel Thomas French Advanced and Advanced Review Course - 4 more hours of grammar drilling plus the reviews.
- Michel Thomas is the man. He was a Holocaust survivor, a French spy and interrogator in the WWII, a linguist, a successful businessman and a celebrity. Stealing his method from Socrates and beefing it up with his linguistic knowledge he used it for language teaching. He tutored people like Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen.
- These two courses teach more than 90-95% of the French grammar you'll ever need in your life. However it is not enough to listen to them only once, you should use your Review courses to review the material until it seeps in to your brain.
- Warning: Michel Thomas has a really-really strong Yiddish/Polish accent so you should first use Pimsleur or the FSI French Phonology course to get your French sounds straight.
- Michel Thomas teaches you grammar: how to use verbs. You'll have the skeleton of the language in your hands but won't have any vocabulary. It is not recommended to use MT only.
- It is strongly recommended to at least once run through MT. You will feel like Neo at the end of Matrix, seeing random symbols making sense (in this case, the grammar of French) floating in the air.
- Overpriced, and Michel is dead already (RIP), so thank you based Internet!
Basically Michel Thomas but by a Brit, slower-paced.
LingQ (by Steve Kaufmann)
- Available on Desktop, iOS, and Android.
- $10USD/month; very limited free trial available.
- Main function of the website is that is assists with "language input" i.e. reading and listening. While reading with LingQ you can click on words for a definition which creates a "LingQ" (read: link). Everyday you a prompted to review lingq's you have created using a flashcard method similar to memrise.
- If the available (user generated) lessons and content is not enough you can import your own content using a browser extension.
- There is also a forum for talking with others, and personal tutor lessons as well.
- Creator Steve Kaufmann has an active YouTube channel where he talks about learning languages, and about LingQ's functionality (linked above).
Books and .PDF files Edit
French English Frequency Dictionaries
This French to English frequency dictionary series covers all practical French vocabulary, listed by how often you actually use these words. It will get your vocabulary up to standard fast. In the book series you will find:
- the top 10.000 most used French words, listed by frequency and alphabet
- Frequency rankings as part of speech (most used nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc..)
- 10.000 French to English example sentences showing word usage
- Phonetic spelling of French words through the International Phonetic Alphabet
- Recommended in conjunction with an aural-oral program (Michel Thomas or Pimsleur)
French - English Bilingual Books
These French-English bilingual books show the English version of the story on the left, and the French text on the right. They also include a frequency and alphabetical French-English dictionary made specifically for the book.
- Alice in Wonderland / Alice au Pays des Merveilles
- The Hound of the Baskervilles/ Le Chien des Baskerville
- The Picture of Dorian Gray / Le Portrait de Dorian Gray
French for Reading by Karl Sandberg
Complete French Grammar by W. H. Fraser and J. Squair
Useful Websites Edit
- This website contains a lot of exercises for learning and practicing your french.
- Live podcasts for improving your listening and speaking skills.
- A Multifunction dictionary with definitions, translations and also a tool for conjugating verbs.
- It also contains the latest news.
- Also check the fairly similar France 24
- In this website you will find a lot of information and activities to understand french grammar and conjugation.
- Conjugation exercises.
- Free website containing hundreds of great lessons on a variety of topics.
- Great source for new vocab which is found in relevant categories.
- Grammar is explained easily to understand as the writer is a French teacher.
- Many lessons come with quizzes to perfect your knowledge.
- Only covers reading and writing-use other resources for speaking and listening and in addition to it.
Podcast Français Facile
- Podcast to improve listening and speaking skills.
- Covers many topics: grammar, phónetique, slang, vocabulaire, etc.
- It can be used online without downloading the podcast
- FSI French Basic Course - don't let the word "Basic" fool you. In FSI terminology, Basic means you have to strap yourself in and focus
- Professinal Working Fluency - Link is dead too.
- The motto of FSI could be: "There's no school like the old school... and I'm the fucking headmaster." (RockNRolla)
- FSI is like bootcamp. You either submit or you give up. It's his way or the highway. But if you are perseverant enough, FSI can make a (French-speaking) man out of you, boy. By itself.
- Only recommended for those people who have self-discipline (so not your average anon).
- FSI is a little bit dated but uses a lot of military/diplomatic vocabulary which is kinda cool.
- FSI is free and it is legally so. The baby boomers paid for this (yet another) government program in the '60s, funding warfare and espionage worldwide in the name of the 'Murrican Empire. But at least we can make use of those dollars.
- Alternative Download: FSI French Basic Course Recordings: units 1-3, 4-12, 13-18, 19-24
French in Action
- 52-episode immersion course, produced by Yale University Press, and aired on US public television in the 1980s.
- Official page at Annenberg Learner
- YouTube playlist
- Uz-Translations (a very useful that you should definitely check out)
- Sublearning - learn languages from movie subtitles. Flash card system in 62 languages
- The Battle of Algiers (La Bataille d'Alger)
- Le goût des autres
- Les quatre cents coups
- Trois Couleurs: Bleu
- Trois Couleurs : Rouge
- La Règle du jeu
- Quai des Orfèvres
- La Grande Illusion
- L'Âge Des Ténèbres
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain
Le Roi des Coeurs
Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources
La Belle et La Bete
- La nuit nous appartient (episodes can be found on YouTube)
- Bienvenue chez Cauet (episodes can be found on YouTube)
- Les Guignols, formerly les guignols de l'info (long-running political satyre show, old episodes can be found on YouTube and are cool if you want to get familiar with french political history, recent episodes are available on Dailymotion after they air every sunday and are cool to keep in touch with what happens in France)
- Subito Texto (episodes can be found at leskwat.telequebec.tv along with other shows)
- If you are an /sp/ guy, french channels TF1 and France 2 often stream rugby and soccer games for free as long as you are in France. Sneak behind a proxy and you'll be golden.
Famous Pop Singer ("Variétés")
- Alizée (variété/pop)
- Zaz (variété/chanson)
- Stromae (variété/chanson/pop)
- Charles Aznavour (chanson/variété)
- Daniel Balavoine (variété/pop)
- Jacques Brel (chanson)
- Étienne Daho (new wave)
- Dalida (chanson)
- Jacques Dutronc (yéyé)
- Mylène Farmer (synthpop/darkwave/pop/variété)
- Claude François (pop/disco)
- Serge Gainsbourg (jazz/chanson/reggae)
- France Gall (yéyé)
- Johnny Hallyday (rock'n'roll/pop rock/variété)
- Patricia Kaas
- Philippe Katerine (nouvelle scène française/experimental pop/disco/comedy)
- Françoise Hardy (yéyé/variété)
- Nolwenn Leroy (variété)
- Lorie (variété/pop)
- Mireille Mathieu (pop)
- Vanessa Paradis (pop)
- Édith Piaf (chanson)
- Michel Sardou (variété/pop)
- Charles Trenet (chanson/jazz)
- Boris Vian (chanson/jazz)
- Air (chillout)
- Alex Gopher
- Bob Sinclar (house/electrohouse)
- Daft Punk (house)
- Dimitri from Paris
- Étienne De Crécy (house)
- Laurent Garnier (house)
- Justice (electrohouse)
- Kavinsky (synthpop)
- Les Joyaux De La Princesse (dark ambient)
- Mr. Oizo (experimental techno)
- Sexy Sushi (synthpunk)
- Paradis (house)
- Noir Désir (alternative rock)
- Diabologum (alternative rock)
- Dionysos (alternative rock)
- Indochine (new wave)
- Les Fatals Picards (comedy rock)
- Les Rita Mitsouko (alternative rock)
- Mass Hysteria
- Miossec (alternative rock)
- Rinôçérôse (electrorock)
- Taxi Girl (new wave)
- Jean Leloup (Quebecois Rock)
- Alcest (black metal/shoegaze)
- Les Discrets (shoegaze)
- Cosa Nostra Klub (industrial black metal)
- Gojira (technical death metal)
- Peste Noire (black metal)
- Ultra Vomit (grindcore/comedy)
- Gronibard (grindcore/comedy)
- TTC (alternative hip-hop/experimental hip-hop/club rap)
- IAM (oldschool)
- Suprême NTM (oldschool)
- Booba (oldschool/thug rap/trap)
- Stupeflip (alternative hip-hop)
- Lunatic (oldschool)
- Klub des Loosers (alternative hip-hop)
- Fauve (spoken word)
- L'Atelier (alternative hip-hop/experimental hip-hop)
- Fatal Bazooka (comedy rap)
- Orelsan (conscient rap)
- L'Étranger (1942) - Albert Camus
- Le Petit Prince (1943) - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (1845) - Alexander Dumas
- Germinal (1885) - Emile Zola
- La Vie devant soi (1975) - Romain Gary a.k.a. Émile Ajar
- Contes de la Bécasse (1883) - Guy de Maupassant
- Le Horla (1887) - Guy de Maupassant
- Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers (1870) - Jules Verne
- Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) - Victor Hugo
- Candide (1759) - Voltaire
- Justine, ou Les Malheurs de la Vertu (1791) - Marquis de Sade
- La Peau de chagrin (1831) - Honoré de Balzac
- L'Immoraliste (1902) - André Gide
- Journal du voleur (1949) - Jean Genet
- Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932) - Louis-Ferdinand Céline
- Soumission (2015) - Michel Houellebecq
- Free public domain ebooks, just keep in mind that older texts are often written in a dated and more complex language.
Anime/Cartoons (French dubs)Edit
- This goes for all languages, but it's imperative that you use your interests and hobbies to your advantage. Identify what these are and include French with them.
- And in the case of french, consider yourself lucky : the french education system is notoriously inefficient for languages. This combined with local laws for preservation of the language and culture mean that everything, and I do mean everything published in France has a translation. If you are into movies or TV, even your good ol' murrican blockbusters have a french dub and TV shows are translated about a year or two after they air in the US or UK.
- If you are a weeb, that also means loads of manga are translated officially (France is the country that translates, publishes and reads the most manga in the world, right after Japan) and the francophone scanlation (search for "scantrad") scene is very active, so is anime subbing. Not to mention that since the beginning of the decade, manga has gotten a better reputation in the public eye and editors are very much aware of it. If you are a european buyfag ready to drop a few bucks, there are a lot of quality editions (especially for classics or artsy stuff) with good printing and paper quality, reworked translation from original japanese, editions with additional informations for better comprehension, exclusive interviews of the author...
- LEARN HOW TO CONJUGATE!!!
This goes for all romantic languages, especially French. French has more conjugations than English, and getting the hang of using them will make your life a walk in the linguistic forest.
- Once you've done that though, move onto to the tenses. French has a lot of tenses, many of which have no accurate (if any at all) English equivalents. Luckily for you, some of the harder ones are not used too often. Sure, subjunctive is a bitch to get used to, especially if you're an English speaker, but you'll uncommonly come across it day-to-day conversation.
- Bonus tip: French has a lot of unspoken tenses that are reserved for writing (passé simple, passé anterieur, etc.). You'll get used to these after reading a book.
- French, being one of the main languages in the first world, often has its own translation of video games. Whether it be Battlefield 3, WoW, or Runescape, there's a good chance there is a French version, which not only exposes you to a whole new spectrum of vocabulary, but provides a French community along with that game which allows you to interact with natives, teaching you the colloquial language in the process.
- Here is a list of recent (DS and on) Nintendo games, for instance, that have French translations (at least in the Euro releases, which often have Italian, German, Spanish and English packed in as well: you can usually find your desired language through the main screen options). A game like Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is a good start: https://www.nintendo.com/consumer/gameslist/games_playable_in_french.jsp?system=all
- Pre Assassin's Creed era Ubisoft games are not only good, but their french dub is arguably better than the english one, occasionally starring some famous actors (like Emma de Caunes in Beyond Good & Evil and a cameo of the french voice for Dwayne the Rock in Rayman 3), so that could be good training.
- To go along with that, you should also try setting your cell phone, iPod, or even computer (if you're brave), to French to learn technical vocab.
- Playing a childhood's videogame [like Pokémon] on french will do the trick. Specially RPG's since they rely A LOT on text comprenhension and hence brand-new vocabulary to learn and old known words to review. Written and comprehension skills shall be improved after a while.
- BONUS: If you can buy a small notebook (to carry it virtually everytime) and a pencil for writing unknown words, you may remember easier those naily new words and go back your own steps for future reference.
- Contrary to popular belief and the cliché that french is a traditional and deep rooted language, french evolves fast. As spoken in France, it borrows some vernacular words from arabic and gets some cool and trendy words from english (such as "cool" and "trendy"). Tech lexicon is also vastly untranslated, or just loosely adaptated. That is not as true for french as spoken in Belgium, and especially not true in Québec where laws forbid the use of english words in the public space and in official publications. For instance a frenchman has a smartphone, a québequois has an ordiphone or a téléphone intélligent and a belgian has a GSM.
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