General Question

lemming's avatar

How do I become fluent in a language asap?

Asked by lemming (3913 points ) October 5th, 2010

I’m studying French in college, but I’m still not fluent. Other than going to a French speaking country, can you give me any tips to get me speaking fluently as soon as possible? Do you know of any sites where you can speak with native speakers or others learning the language for free? Or even where I could get an internet pen pal? Any tips are much appreciated. Thanks.

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32 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Unless you are some sort of linguistics supergenius, you do not.
It takes years of practice.
What you can do however is read french newspapers, magazines, or watch french movies.

Theotherkira's avatar

Get a French-English dictionary, first of all. Start by learning all of the useful phrases, and work from there.

The_Idler's avatar

I wouldn’t bother learning if I wasn’t going to get the opportunity to immerse myself (ie “go there”).

For me, without immersion, it is impossible.

Besides that point, @ragingloli has good ideas.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My SO is currently using this site to learn French. It allows you to practice with other people in the site’s community.

RocketGuy's avatar

Immersion is best because you hear people use various phrases in their respective contexts.

lemming's avatar

Thanks Pied_Pfeffer, that looks good, i’ll definitly sign up and see what it’s like. RocketGuy and The_Idler, I am going to go to France next summer, but that will only be for three months so I want to be close to fluent as I can before I leave.

The_Idler's avatar

You’ll learn twice as much or more, in those three months, as you will in this year. Good Luck.

mrlaconic's avatar

I like www.livemocha.com – select your language, take lessons, and then submit your writing / speaking samples to other people on the site who can help critique you.

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lillycoyote's avatar

Is there a French Club at your college? They may have some resources. Look into it. Also look for opportunities to talk to native French speakers where you live. The woman who runs the cheese shop/gourmet deli up the street from me is French. If I wanted to practice my French. I would go in there and engage her in conversation for a few minutes every day or so, not so much that it interfered with running her business or that I got on her nerves, and if she blew me off I would stop, of course, but you get the picture, maybe there’s something like that you can do. Just a thought.

heresjohnny's avatar

If you can find it, watch sesame street in the language you are trying to learn. It may sound weird, but when I was learning German, it helped immensely (although I was also in Germany at the time). Especially if you are a beginner, but even as you advance, it’s very helpful.

But the best way is just to be around people who speak it. Just thinking out loud (err, writing. You know what I mean), does your college have an international student center? Maybe a place where exchange students hang out? Try finding a french exchange student and making friends with them.

YellowsubmarineOnfluther's avatar

rosetta stone if you cant go to belguim or france, it works wonders

MissAnthrope's avatar

Immersion is key, as is practice, practice, practice. Find a group that gets together for conversation. That’s really the best way to get used to hearing it and speaking it.

I had about 5 years of French and spent an exchange year there. I learned more in the first month than I did in all 5 years of schooling combined.

Pandora's avatar

I agree with @YellowsubmarineOnfluther My son did the rosetta stone program and he said it was quite easy and really helps make you fluent faster. However, he has studied several languages so it has become easier for him to learn to apply accents and to understand how vocabulary structure is different yet similiar in several languages.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone is ridiculously expensive. It sounds like the OP might not have that kind of cash to burn.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the answers above are all excellent. Berlitz makes a CD book combination and it is about $12 I think. The book is pocket size for quick reference, and it teaches you commonly used phrases for travel and general conversation. The CD follows the book ad lets you hear how to pronounce everything and gives you opportunity to repeat. It covers things like, meeting someone (friends and dating), restaurant, hotel, bank, transportation.

SuperMouse's avatar

Don’t forget your local library! Rosetta Stone, Mango, or some other language program may be available to you for free there.

JLeslie's avatar

Also, I would try Amazon.com people must sell used Rosetta Stone.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Alliance Francaise has a lot of opportunities to expand your conversational French.

Check with your university to see what sort of language clubs they have, or if there are scholarships to study abroad next summer. Many programs have November-December-January deadlines, so it’s not too soon to start planning for next year.

Also, BBC Languages

Nullo's avatar

Go to the French-speaking parts of Canada.

The fastest way is total immersion. Go to the place where your target language is spoken, armed with nothing but a dictionary and a phrasebook, and live. Attend regular language classes while you’re there.
Assuming that you start from zero, you’re looking at total fluency inside of three years, mastery in about 5.

JLeslie's avatar

If you take a trip to Quebec, know that Montreal is very English speaking, you won’t learn a thing there. Quebec City is more French, but almost everyone in the tourist industry speaks English. If you go out to the countryside or even out to the Laurentians, many people will barely speak English I would guess. Quebec City is fantastic by the way, so charming, I was just there last month.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Jleslie Eastern Montreal is almost exclusively French as is the South shore, Northern Laval, and many pockets of total Francophonie in the Montreal area. Your impressions were based on your experiences Downtown and the areas west of Rue St. Laurent (St Lawrence street). You can learn excellent French in Montreal, if you spend your time in the many French areas of that city. Wherever you do in that city, speak French and think in French. You will learn the language. I did!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence good to know.

iphigeneia's avatar

Regularly use the language. Everything you read, hear, or think, mentally translate it into the target language to the best of your ability. Connect with other speakers or learners of the language. If you treat them as friends rather than tutors, most people will be happy to help you practice. If their skills are not as advanced as yours, teach them, because that is one of the best ways to develop your own knowledge.

I’ve learned from some of my friends who are studying French that translating French books or music into English is one of the easiest ways to put yourself over the line from classroom French into French you can actually use.

Good luck!

mattbrowne's avatar

Forget the concept of asap and easy ways, because kidding yourself would be counterproductive.

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DocteurAville's avatar

Asap doesn’t apply to languages. It takes a lifetime. You can be fluent in any language from 2 years and up, residing in the country where the language is spoken, with hard working on it.

lemming's avatar

I’m already reading philosophical works in French, so being fluent in the not so distant future isn’t totaly out of the question, and I’m certainly not kidding myself. Just looking for tips on how to get there as quickly as possible. Thanks for all the helpful answers! :)

Nullo's avatar

I’ve found that comic books are helpful for learning a language, since much of the context is provided through the pictures. They are not a substitute for regular lessons.
Here you are in luck. France and Belgium, combined, represent the third-largest comic book/graphic novel market in the world, producing such gems as Asterix, The Smurfs (localized name), and Lucky Luke. Think of it as a conversation group where you don’t have to worry about the discussion lagging.

JLeslie's avatar

@lemming I’m betting you are pretty fluent then. Probably listening to anything will help you, movies, language tapes, and if there is a French club of some sort in your area where you can meet up for a drink or dinner and spend the evening in French it would probably help. It’s about getting the rhythm of the language at this point probably, and practicing speaking. I’m guessing you are already at the point where you think in French for the most part, you’re not translating.

I speak Spanish pretty well, but being away from it for months at a time; well, it’s tough when I first need to start speaking it again, takes an adjustment all over again. So, it’s not just becoming fluent, it’s maintaining it.

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