FAQ

SPEAKING FRENCH

French spelling reflects more the way French was spoken a few centuries ago and is therefore a poor guide to today’s pronunciation.

For any language, speaking and listening to the language you’re learning during your lesson is crucial to developing confidence that you can communicate with a native speaker.

It is especially important when learning French because French spelling reflects more the way French was spoken a few centuries ago and is therefore a poor guide to today’s pronunciation. Here are a two reasons why:

A lot of letters are silent in French and consequently are not pronounced.

For example if you want to say that your friend, Marc, is French you will write:

Marc est français

but say

mar – kay – fran- say

In French pronunciation, words link into eachother. Foreigners often feel like they’re hearing an incredibly long word when it’s actually several words linking into each others. This is known as liaisons in French.

When a word ends with a consonant and the next starts with a vowel the consonant often becomes part of the first syllable of the next word. Often French learners know each word in a sentence but when hearing them linked, the words sound like something else completely.

If you want to say that your friend Marc is in the United States you will write:

Marc est aux Etats-Unis

but say

mar-kay-toh-zeta-zuni

(all in one breath!)

YOU NEED TO HEAR AND SPEAK FRENCH

French pronunciation does have consistent rules but unless you hear and speak French a lot when learning French, understanding French people speaking French can be quite challenging.

Nowadays it is still quite common for people to learn French, like they would learn a dead language (like Latin for example) by mostly reading and writing. Frustratingly, after years of study they will still have no confidence to speak French.

When learning this way, you might develop some understanding of written texts and some writing skills in French but you end up having no idea or confidence about how to pronounce what you’ve learnt. People also end up feeling that it’s very difficult to understand people speaking French. With this old fashion way of teaching French your speaking and listening skills do not grow hand in hand with your reading and writing ones.

However, at French Tutor we will concentrate on speaking French all the time. You will be communicating confidently in French before you know it.

we believe that focusing too much on the exactitude of your spelling and on the complexities of the French grammar won’t help you to speak French.

Developing good reading and writing skills is essential to master any language and French is no exception. However even if these skills are important to master a language, the development of oral skills involves complex processes that are both intellectual and physical.

At French Tutor, by focusing first on the development of oral skills, you’ll develop a strong confidence of how French sounds and that you can communicate in French. When given reading and writing exercises, to strengthen your study at home, you’ll be then able to compare your knowledge of how French sounds to the way it’s written. By listening to dialogues on CDs you’ll also be able to reinforce this knowledge on your own.

By discovering, during the lessons, the rules of French pronunciation and having personal feedback you’ll be able to pronounce more and more confidently and accurately what you read. Little by little you’ll develop a strong sense of how the written word is pronounced in French. From that point on reading in French becomes an important asset in learning French because you already know how to pronounce the written word in French.

Focusing too much on written French and on French spelling is often counterproductive. Students end up learning things they do not need to at the proficiency level they’re at and more importantly their oral skills do not grow hand in hand with their literacy ones. It can also mislead you in pronouncing French, discouraging you, and makes you feel as if you have a terrible pronunciation when you just didn’t have enough practice speaking French. It is not a really fun way to learn as well.

At French Tutor you’ll learn to read and write in French, even at a beginner’s level. In the same way you learnt your own language, once you develop the confidence to speak the language and have a sense of fluency, then reading and writing French more accurately are incredible assets in the full development of your expression and in mastering French.

However until reaching that stage of confidence and fluency we believe that focusing too much on the exactitude of your spelling and on the complexities of the French grammar won’t help you to speak French.

In the same way that a tumultuous river is not the best environment to learn to swim, a normal conversation is not the best environment to learn to speak French.

With a normal conversation it is quite hard to improve your language skills.? A native French speaker might speak French very well but might have no idea on how to teach you French effectively, let alone to teach you French through conversation.

In a normal conversation, we tend to jump from one thing to another. During the train of a conversation, something that is said might make us think of something else and in a split of a second we might change topics completely and start talking of something completely unrelated or that seems to be at first.

In the same breath, we may also use verbs at different tenses (To be for example: I am… I was … I will be) or with different subjects (I, you, he, she, we or they).

So that we don’t repeat indefinitely words we mentioned before we often replace them with little words, that give little clue to what we’re talking about, if we missed these words the first time. For example:

How much did it cost you? Do you think they’ll like it? Will you bring it there? Will you bring the other one with it? Are you going to bring them both there?

A normal conversation is quite disconcerting when learning a language because to get a sense of improvement and to build confidence in speaking a language you need to use vocabulary and grammar structures quite repeatedly before you can use them freely. Using them only once and moving on to something else doesn’t bring you the confidence that you can use them time and time again without any problem. It also makes it very hard to memorize anything as memory and repetition are somehow linked.

WE LEARN THROUGH FOCUSED CONVERSATIONS

At French Tutor you’ll learn through conversation but with conversations that have some focus. You’ll start speaking French using repeatedly some particular vocabulary and specific grammar structures in different contexts. This way you can build confidence and get a sense of mastery and fluency, with the new vocabulary and grammar that has been introduced, before your language skills are extended and that you move on to other levels.

It’s estimated that an English speaker who has never studied French already knows 15,000 French words! So there really is no need to start from scratch!

Learning any language requires some commitment and effort, and French is no exception. However, if you’re already speaking English you have a little advantage because French and English have a lot in common.

Have you ever heard these expressions:

“c’est la vie”, “tête à tête”, “excusez-moi”, “joie de vivre”,“raison d’être”, “comme ci comme ça”, “carte blanche”, “cul de sac”, “un je ne sais quoi”, “enfant terrible!”, “fait accompli”, “idée fixe”, “chic”, “déjà vu”, “de rigueur”, “à la mode”, “impasse”, “repartee”, “brunette”, “blasé”, “laissez-faire”, “bon voyage!”, “touché!”, “voilà!”, …

When speaking English everyday, you might hear or regularly use some borrowed French expressions. However, what you might not realise is that you already know a great deal more than these typical French sayings. How much more? Lots and lots more! In fact you already know thousands of French words.

For example, you probably know:

fruit, certitude, avenue, mayonnaise,catalogue, miracle, restaurant, octave, orange, impact, conversation, normal, satire, client, questionnaire, niche, usage, parachute, importance, carafe, imaginative, habitat, machine, artiste,direct, possible,experience, …

During the 11th century, the Norman conquerors brought to England the French and Latin languages by which they ruled the country. The influence of French continued, in the centuries that followed, and became a compelling force in the growth and development of English. Over 300 years later, when English was finally re-established as the language of the English King and Court, thousands of French words were already well incorporated, even into the local vernacular.

French is now acknowledged for its extraordinary contribution to the English language: linguists say that between 50 – 60 % of English comes from French and its Latin roots. In other words, French and English have plenty of words in common.

It’s estimated that an English speaker who has never studied French already knows 15 000 French words! So there really is no need to start from scratch!.

At French Tutor, you’ll learn techniques to immediately call to mind hundreds of French words, without having to make any effort to memorize them and with a few tips on pronunciation, you’ll be able to use them right away.

This way, you’ll build vocabulary very quickly and you won’t feel like you’re trudging around at the bottom of a mountain, you’ll move ahead by leaps and bounds in your progress to the top!