15 Tips for Learning French on Your Own

By OptiLingo • 10 minute read

tips for learning french

When you’re learning French, you need all the advice you can get. And there are countless tips for learning French. But which ones work best? And which ones are fun and interesting enough to complete? Here are 15 top tips for learning French that you may not think of doing, but you definitely should. 

Can I Teach Myself French?

Absolutely. Since you already speak English, learning French is a completely achievable goal. And thanks to countless resources, you can even do it from the comfort of your home. As long as you have a good study plan and determination, you can reach French fluency fast by teaching yourself. Just make sure you include these top tips for learning French.

Psst! Did you know we have a language learning app?

  1. It teaches you useful words and phrases.
  2. Presented in a natural, everyday context.
  3. Spaced out over time, so you absorb your new language organically.
  4. It’s kind of like learning the words to your new favorite song!

You’re only one click away!


How Long Will It Take to Learn French on My Own?

The truth is, we can’t tell you an exact number. How long it takes to learn a language depends on various things. The good news is, of your native language is English, you’ll have an easier time mastering French. This is because English and French are closely related. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) lists French as a Category 1 language. This means that it would take approximately 24 weeks or 600 hours to reach fluency. But of course, this depends on how much time you put into your studies. Which means that it’s entirely possible to learn French in as little as 3 months. By using these top tips for learning French, you will definitely fast track your fluency.

1. Set Specific Goals

Whether you’re learning French for school, a job, or travel, you need to set a goal. And this means something more specific than reaching proficiency or fluency in French. SMART goals are best practice when you’re setting up your language learning schedule. 

A good goal could be mastering 20 common phrases a week. Or 30 vocabulary words along with their appropriate genders. While counting how much vocabulary you know won’t help, these tiny goals bring you closer to your ultimate goal of fluency.

tips for learning french with schedule

2. Create a Language Learning Schedule

When you’re learning a foreign language, you’re in it for the long haul. Although reaching French fluency is relatively faster than other languages for English speakers, you should still plan your journey ahead.

That’s why it’s important for you to come up with a language learning schedule. When you’re calculating your daily time to study, there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. 20 minutes/day is enough to reap the benefits of being bilingual.
  2. These 20 minutes can be combined with other activities. Listen to a podcast at the gym. Revise on your commute. Watch a French move when you’re relaxing. You can fit your language learning around your normal schedule easily. 

The longer you live by your language learning schedule, the more natural it will feel. And soon, learning French will become a habit. By then, you won’t even need these tips for learning French.

3. Practice All Four Skills of Language Learning

The four principles of language learning are reading, writing, listening, and speaking. If you abandon one of them, you’ll start lagging in your language learning. And you won’t reach proficiency.

Make sure you practice all four skills. If you feel like one of them is particularly hard compared to the rest, spend more time on exercises that reinforce that skill. Read French books, write to a penpal in France, listen to francophone podcasts, and speak the language regularly.

4. Use the Right Resources

There are various resources you can use for learning French. You can join a class, buy a textbook, or download a language learning app. Whichever resource you use, make sure it’s the right one for you. 

But how do you know if what you chose is right? Firstly, it brings you closer to your goals. If you feel like you’re progressing, and you are prepares you to use French in any situation, it’s working for you. And secondly, you need to enjoy it. If you’re having fun while you’re studying, you’ll surely reach success.

5. Tip for Differentiating Noun Genders

One of the hardest parts of learning French is the different noun genders. However, there are a few tricks you can use to remember which nouns are feminin or masculin. One of these is to look at the endings of the nouns. Some specific endings are most commonly associated with one gender.

Endings of Feminine Nouns:

  • most of the endings with -e, for example: -ise (surprise), -ine (mandarine), -alle (balle), -elle (poubelle), -euse (danseuse), -esse (maîtresse), -ette (fourchette), -ille (fille), -ière (théière), -ance (romance) and -ence (urgence)
  • -ude, -ure, -ade (attitude, peinture and promenade)
  • tion, -sion, -son (natation, pension, maison)
  • -ée, -té, (idée, liberté)

Endings of Masculin Nouns:

  • few endings with -e, for example: -tre (théâtre), -cle (article), -age (fromage), -ège (siège) and -isme (capitalisme)
  • –and (marchand)
  • -ou (bijou)
  • -oir (comptoir)
  • -ment (gouvernement)
  • -il, -ail, -eil (fil, ail, accueil)
  • -eau (couteau)
  • -eur (professeur)
  • consonants in general

Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules. But even if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. A French native would still understand what you’re saying.

tips for learning french genders

6. Build On What You Know

Thanks to the similarities between English and French, your vocabulary is already big. The words which are the same or similar in both languages are called cognates. A lot of the time, these cognates are spelled the same, and have similar pronunciations too. 

French and English share many common roots, and there are a number of French loan words in the English language (resume, café, entrepreneur, etc…) Implementing cognates is a great trick if you want to know how to learn French quickly.

7. Beware of False Cognates

While cognates are your friend when you’re learning French, there are some tricky ones out there too. These “false friends” are words that look similar, but their meaning is different. Using the wrong word can cause some misunderstanding or embarrassment, so always watch out for these.

Some examples of false French cognates are:

  • bras – elbow
  • blessé – wounded
  • envie – wish, desire
  • journeé – travel
  • location – rental
  • coin – corner

8. Talk to Yourself in French and Practice Your Accent

You may feel crazy doing this, but trust me, it helps. Speaking French to yourself is more beneficial than you think. By getting used to saying French words out loud, you can practice your pronunciation. The more you practice, the faster you’ll reach fluency.

You’ll also feel more confident when the time comes to speak to French locals. Regardless of what your accent may sound like, you’ll speak clearly enough to be understood, which is the ultimate goal of learning a language. 

9. Tips for Immersing Yourself at Home

Most of us don’t have the luxury to hop on a plane and learn French on the busy streets of Paris. However, we can easily create a French immersion environment from the comfort of our homes. Bring a piece of France with you with these tips for learning French:

  • Watch French Movies: Watching French movies is not just fun, it’s also a great way to hear how everyday French people speak. Watch them with French subtitles for an additional French reading exercise.
  • Listen to French Music: There are plenty of great French songs to listen to online. By memorizing these lyrics you can expand your vocabulary fast. Sing yourself to French fluency quickly!
  • Learn About French Culture: French culture and history is incredibly rich. Learn about the art, the food, the customs, and become a francophone to motivate your French learning.
  • Watch YouTube Videos: YouTube is a free resource for language learners. Follow French people’s channels for an authentic listening experience. There are plenty of videos in all categories for you to enjoy.

tips for learning french with films

10. Learn High-Frequency Words in French

Fluency is not about how many words you know. It’s about knowing the right words. And learning the most common words and phrases is the fastest road to fluency. According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of our everyday speech comes from 20% of our vocabulary. This is true for all languages. If you can learn the most common expressions, you’ll reach French fluency in record time. 

11. Make Comprehensible Input Part of Your French Studies

Comprehensible Input is a language learning theory by Stephen Krashen. You may not have heard of it, but you definitely understand the concept behind it. Babies learn languages with apparent ease. And the truth is, adults can use the same techniques to learn a foreign language. To make this technique a part of your studies, you need two things:

  1. Study materials that are exactly one level above your current knowledge.
  2. Study materials where you understand everything from context.

The first point is for your motivation. If it’s too easy, you’ll get bored. If it’s too hard, you’ll give up. But if it’s just the right level for you, you’ll fast-track your studies. And the second point is to help your vocabulary. Even if you find unfamiliar words, if you understand the meaning by context (with a picture or explanation), you’ll learn those words faster.

12. Use Spaced Repetition to Learn Effectively

You diligently studied French. The same day, you can recall most of your lesson. However, by the next day, you’ll have forgotten most of what you learned. A week later, only 20% of your French study materials remain. This is called the forgetting curve. Our brains are purposefully trying to forget. 

If you want to fast-track your studies, you need to fight the forgetting curve. The only way to do that is with spaced repetition. This technique is all about revision. Revise your lessons and French knowledge periodically. At first, review often. The more you do it, the more spaced out your revision sessions can be. This is how you commit your French learning materials to your long term memory.

13. Keep Your Language Learning Motivation Up

Regardless of why you’re learning French, it’s important to keep working for your goal. Many language learners reach a certain level of knowledge where their motivation stalls. This is called the intermediate language learning plateau. But, you mustn’t let it defeat you. Keep in my why you’re studying, and how much further you need to go. Once you through this state, French fluency will be a piece of cake to achieve.

tips for learning french

14. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Every language learner makes mistakes. That’s a fact. But being afraid of them is going to limit your French learning progress. If you’re unsure about the grammar, or the pronunciation of a word, don’t worry. And don’t stop speaking either. Just say what you is right, and if a French person corrects you, welcome the feedback. Their corrections help you to French fluency.

15. Use the Best Language Learning App

Learning French is a big undertaking, but these tips can help you learn it faster and more effectively. And if you’re looking to successfully master the language in the shortest time possible, OptiLingo is your best option.

This mobile app combines all these tips for learning French to create the ultimate learning experience. We present high-frequency phrases with comprehensible input and spaced repetition. You can learn how the locals speak, and build up your confidence to be fluent in French. Try your free French lesson today, and access the possibility to a faster road to fluency!