Eleven Ways To Learn French Faster from A Dutch Language Learning Genius
by Mark Benninga
I think I am a language genius. I am able to pick up new languages at an extremely fast rate.
I can also imitate accents, pitch and intonation on a level ordinary people rarely attain. I can read 20 languages and I am solidly conversational in over 10 languages.
I’m Not Bragging
I don’t say this in order to brag about it because I believe that any gift people possess is a gift God imparted. But as the American sports figure Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it!”
So how can I help you, a typical American without ANY knowledge of a foreign language?
Here’s my list of tips that will help you learn French faster and have more fun.
You may discover that you have talents you never dreamed of!
1. Start with Simple Examples . . .
I am Mark Benninga: Je suis Mark Benninga.
You are Barack Obama: Vous êtes Barack Obama.
She is Hillary Clinton: Elle est Hillary Clinton.
We are people: Nous sommes des gens.
You are famous people: Vous êtes des gens célèbres.
They are nice: Ils sont gentils.
. . . Then Simplify Even More
If that still sounds too complicated for you, perhaps you would like to press the “simplify” button. Here’s what happens when we simplify these phrases again.
I: je (moi)
you: vous (tu for children and friends)
you plural: vous
I am: je suis
you are: tu es
he is: il est
she is: elle est
we are: nous sommes
you are: vous êtes
they are: ils sont
Do you see patterns starting to emerge?
2. Think Visually When You Are Learning French
In the past language books contained sentences, phrases and words, with a minimum of visual aids. This is not good. Most people think visually, that is: they are better at remembering things they see than at words they hear. This will be the more so for the average American who has not been much exposed to foreign language training.
Make the World Your Visual Aid
The way to do that is to make everything that you see be your visual aid.
So, while seeing the sentence: I am Mark Benninga, at the same time you will visualize my picture + the translation of the sentence in French.
While translating the phrase: You are Barack Obama, you will see the a picture of the 44’th president of the United States before your eyes.
This is very important, because it will help you remember your newly acquired foreign language skill in a visual context. Most people have a much better developed visual memory than auditory memory.
Let’s illustrate this with some more examples:
You see a house, see and say the French word for house maison.
When se see the area in front of the house see the French word:
Then you can put it together and say.
devant la maison : (in front of the house). The English translation is added for comprehension’s sake.
Next you see the house again, but now from the backside.
You read the word: derrière (behind) followed by the phrase:
derrière la maison (behind the house).
The same can be done for many other prepositions, such as:
dans la maison: in the house
sur la maison: on top of the house
A coté de LA MAISON: next to the house, etc.
It is of extreme importance that you can see what you are learning, so that you will be able to learn words in a visual context imitating a normal everyday situation.
3. Your Training Should Use Good Audio Recordings
Seeing words in context is fine, but it’s not enough! You should also HEAR the words in order to know their pronunciation. Moreover, hearing and seeing at the same time considerably facilitates the learning and remembering process in your brain. It is easier, for example, to remember that
Window is fenêtre in French, if you have not just SEEN the word fenêtre, but have also HEARD it.
Therefore the training should be auditive besides being visual.
Here we immediately bump into a problem as you will notice that the pronunciation of the word is not in line with the way you would expect it to be pronounced on the basis of how it is written.
For example fenêtre (window) is not pronounced “fenetre” or something, but fe net tra (with the additional difficulty that the e in the syllable net is drawn out rendering the phonetical spelling more difficult)
Plancher (floor) is not pronounced like voucher, but rather like buffet (er= ai).
For this reason it is highly recommended that any language course you start doing begin with some specific pronunciation exercises. That will help you to master the main pronunciation patterns of written words in the new language before taking up the actual learning of the language.
Here too, in my view, language training should be practical: that is, pronunciation exercises should be on simple, practical words for the sake of already acquiring some nice, useful vocabulary while training your pronunciation instead of going over long lists of academical words without any particular use for your situation as a beginning student.
So rather learn the pronunciation of words like toit (roof), jardin (garden), voiture (car) instead of learning words like vraisemblable (probable) or féérique (fairytalelike).
4. You Should Be Actively Involved in Your Training
Learning a new language by making use of visual and auditive means is wonderful, but not enough. You should be forced to play an active part in the learning process yourself!
This can be done in various ways.
You should repeat the words you hear. Let’s go back to the beginning.
You hear: Vous êtes Barack Obama (You are Barack Obama.) and you immediately repeat what you hear, while at the same time trying to pronounce it as correctly as possible, including using the right pitch and intonation.
Repeating words is not only a useful tool to master correct pronunciation. It is also an additional aid to remember them! So here again: it is a two-edged thing (comparable to the use of visual and auditive aids mentioned earlier in this article).
5. Your Training Should Be Subject Oriented
Ever seen old French books from, let’s say. a hundred years ago? They went like this:
Publius sent his servant to fetch his spear.
The atrium was beautifully decorated by the maid-servant.
Caesar decided to declare war on what is today France.
Beautiful sentences, aren’t they? But what is their use in language acquisition? Hardly any, except for maybe a few language freaks (like me).
I would rather suggest a more subject- oriented way of training, for example on the subject: house. .
I could imagine the following way of doing so:
living-room: salle de séjour, living
stairs: escalier, etc.
At a slightly more advanced level this can be extended to small useful sentences, such as:
Le living est derrière la cuisine : The living-room is behind the kitchen.
Or: La cuisine contient deux fenêtres, l’une rouge et l’autre blanche: The kitchen contains two windows, one red and the other white.
By covering one subject at at time and especially by making use of so-called variation drills the course will make learning easy and practical besides facilitating an almost automatic acquisition of (good) vocabulary.
6. Your Training Should Use Variation Drills
La chaise dans le coin est bleue (the chair in the corner is blue)
The pupil now says: La chaise dans le coin est verte (the chair in the corner is green)
Notice also verte in stead of vert. . This is the feminine form of the word green, the use of which is obligatory here because chaise (chair) is feminin in French. By doing this type of exercises your grammar skills will improve simultaneously.
The subject maison (house) gives scope for an almost endless amount of practical training situations.
Je suis assis dans la chaise rouge devant la cheminée: I am sitting in the red chair in front of the fireplace.
Je suis assis dans la chaise violette devant la cheminée (I am sitting in the violet chair…)
(sur le canapé)
Je suis assis sur le canapé devant …
(I am sitting on the couch in front of…)
Je suis debout devant la cheminée (I am standing in front of the fireplace)…, etc.
I walk in the street (je marche dans la rue) (courir)
Je cours dans la rue (I run in the street) (ville)
Je cours en ville ( I run in town) (toi)
Tu cours en ville (you run in town) lui
Il court en ville (he runs in town) nous
Nous courons en ville (we run in town) vous
Vous courez en ville (you plural run in town) eux
Ils courent en ville (they run in town) sur la plage
Ils courent sur la plage (they run on the beach) dans l’eau de la mer
Ils courent dans l’eau de la mer (they run in the water of the sea), etc.
From these examples it may be gathered that different types of training can be practiced. This leads to the following conclusion(s):
7. Your Training Should Expand Your Vocabulary in an Easy Attractive Way
La belle fille a des cheveux longs: the beautiful girl has long hair (beaux yeux)
La belle fille a de beaux yeux: the beautiful girl has lovely eyes. (longues jambes)
La belle fille a de longues jambes (the beautiful girl has long legs), etc.
Here different physical, psychological and other features of “the beautiful girl” may be evaluated in the foreign language, while at the same time practicing acquired skills and expanding into new vocabulary as well as learning new grammar features.
With the aid of this type of easy drills the student will be able to acquire a relatively large, practical vocabulary in a very short time.
But maybe the speed will be too great for some students.
8. You Should Always Have The Opportunity to do Exercises Again
He can now do repetitive exercises on specific furniture, such as:
I like this chair: j’aime cette chaise (couch)
J’aime ce canapé (bed)
J’aime ce lit, etc.
9. Advanced Students Must Get More Difficult Lessons
Some people may think their speed at mastering the new language is hampered by all kinds of easy exercises rendering their advance too slow for their liking. For these people more demanding exercises should be included giving them a taste of using the speedway in learning their new language.
A special key called Difficult Exercises should be at hand, giving these students the opportunity to stretch their brains.
For example, if your French is pretty good try this:
La chaise que tu aimes est celle que je viens d’acheter dans un magasin spécialisé en meubles sofistiqués (the chair which you like is the one I just bought in a store specialsing in sophisticated furniture) (êre fier de)
La chaise dont tu es fier est celle que je viens d’acheter dans un magasin spécialisé en meubles sofistiqués. (the chair you are proud of is the one that I just bought in a store specialsing in sophisticated furniture), etc.
10. Advanced Students Must Get To Study Lessons That Interest Them
Different people have different interests. A plumber has a different field of interests than a lawyer, and a lawyer’s specialisiation differs from a theologian’s specialisation. So once you have mastered the basics of a language having covered basic grammar and vocubalary features you may start looking forward to learning about you own special field of knowledge in the foreign language.
For this reason an advanced course should provide you with a whole scope of subjects to choose from,
for example theology:
God so much loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that anyone believing in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Dieu a tant aimé lemonde qu’il a donné son Fils unique afin que quiconque croit en lui ne périsse point, mais aie la vie éternelle…
or if you are a politician you might be interested in sentences like:
The intention by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to proclaim an independent Palestinian state is an issue hotly debated these days in the Assembly of the United Nations…
L’intention du président palestinien Mahmud Abbas de proclamer son état palestinien indépendent est à ce moment un sujet chaud de majeure importance pour l’Assemblé des Nations Unis
A lawyer might want to see a sentence like:
La Cour d’Appel a proposé comme témoin principal dans le cas judiciaire du double meurtre le chef de police, Monsieur X, qui était sur place au moment où…
The Court of Appeal has proposed as its main witness in the double murder case the head of police, Mr. X, who was around at the time of…
Not only should special advanced subject exercises be available for students exercising a specific profession, but reading texts should be included as well so as to further enhance the students’ vocubalury learning and training. This leads to my tenth suggestion on behalf of the development of good language training courses:
11. Your Training Should Contain Reading Texts at Different Levels
For easy reading texts one can think of reading exercises like the following:
The house was situated in a busy part of town. Its green walls were beautiful. People liked to look at it and talk to its owner whenever they saw him on the street….
La maison se trouvait dans une partie animée de la ville. Ses murs verts étaient magnifiques. Les gens aimaient la regarder et aimaient parler avec son propriétaire toujours quand ils le voiaient dans la rue…
At a more complicated level one could think of a text of the following make-up:
German and American politicians keep pondering about the possible outcome of the latest European negotiations on the evermore deteriorating situation concerning Greece’s financial debt crisis.. This week it became clear,however, that Europe is not interested in a too forceful American involvement as to what it should do in order to resolve the present crisis…
Politiciens allemands et américains continuent de réfléchir sur le résultat possible des négotiations européennes ultérieures touchant la situation autour de la crise des dettes grecques s’aggravant de plus en plus. Cette semaine, pourtant, il est devenu clair que l’Europe ne s’intéresse pas à un engagement américain trop aggressif ayant l’objectif de soumettre les européens aux idées des américains comment il faudrait résoudre la crise actuelle..
So far my contribution. I hope this contribution will be to the satisfaction of everyone reading my article.
Ed: Mark Benninga is looking for work that would use his language talents. If you would like to contact him please contact-us.