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The Fastest Way to Learn French

Let's face it: you've probably got a busy life. Between work or school, family, friends, errands, and just relaxing every once in awhile, there's never enough time in the day. And now you've decided to take on a whole new challenge by learning French.

Whether you're learning French to speak with your new in-laws, for an upcoming business trip, or simply because you love the sound of it, you want to become fluent and ready to communicate as fast as possible.

There are five basic ways to learn French. These approaches include learning through complete French immersion, learning through translation, grammar-based learning, communication-based learning, and vocabulary-based learning.

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Every method has its own advantages and disadvantages. While it's important to note that what is fast for one learner is not always fast for another, there is one method that is often considered the fastest way to learn French. Get your passport ready, because it's time for French immersion.

The fastest way to learn French is the Immersion Approach

True to its name, the immersion approach plunges you into French language and culture, which makes it the fastest way to learn French. It involves traveling to a French-speaking country, spending an extended period of time there, and living your day-to-day life in French.

While France is probably the best place in the world to learn French, other regions such as Quebec, Canada or certain countries in Africa and the Caribbean may also be a good option for those looking for French-speaking natives.

An often-mentioned alternative to the travel immersion approach is the personal immersion approach, when you learn the language by dating or becoming close friends with someone who speaks French.

The Advantages of the Immersion Approach

For those who don't like formal study, have some time and money to spare, want to learn a language in its natural environment and are outgoing and ambitious, this is the perfect French learning method!

Immersion forces French learners to use the language on a daily basis, helps them connect with native speakers, and teaches them valuable knowledge about French culture. Not only that, but it does all of this within a very short period of time. Immersion is, without a doubt, one of the fastest ways to learn French.

The Disadvantages of the Immersion Approach

While there's no denying that immersion is probably the fastest way to learn French, it's also arguably the most complicated. For many, learning French through immersion isn't the best way to learn French or the easiest way to learn French.

This method is expensive, time-consuming, and not to mention stressful. Although most native French speakers are welcoming and will help you with your first contact with the language, the initial communication barriers and culture shock can be very stressful and even frightening.

But let's be honest here: We don't all have the time, money and freedom required to leave everything and travel to France to learn the language. Fortunately, however, there are some ways we can learn French fast through immersion right from our very own cities.

Here are 10 great ways to immerse yourself in French wherever you are:

1. Find a conversation partner. If you really want to immerse yourself without leaving home, you need to find a conversation partner to talk with on a regular basis. A conversation partner doesn't need to be a teacher, but should be a native French speaker who is willing to help you practice. To find a partner, start by talking to family and friends to see if there's anyone in your network. If this doesn't work, consider posting an announcement on a local community list or searching online.

2. Join a conversation club. Much like a conversation partner, a club can provide you with the chance to practice your French and learn from others on a regular basis. Check local listings to see if there are any French conversation clubs or meetups in your area. If there aren't, consider starting one!

3. Go shopping in French. Seek out any local immigrant community that speaks French and find the shops they use. This might be an ethnic food market, a convenience store, a coffee shop, etc. Visit these places when you run errands and you'll not only be forced to read some French labels, but you might also get the chance to practice with the locals and make some French-speaking friends (and possible future conversation partners).

4. Volunteer in French. Look for ways to get involved in your community with people who speak your target language. Schools, nonprofit organizations, libraries, places of worship, medical clinics, immigration services, ESL classes...There are all great ways to meet some native French speakers to both practice and make a difference.

5. Label your home or office. Do you want to get organized and practice your French skills at the same time? Put French labels on the things you regularly use. Use masking tape or post-it notes to label as many items as possible, and before you know it your vocabulary will be better than ever! This is an excellent way to make learning French a part of your everyday life.

6. Change your language settings. While you know that you're not living in France, your computer and phone don't need to know that! Immerse yourself in the language daily and learn technical vocabulary by changing your computer, phone, camera and/or TV settings to French.

7. Watch like a local. Instead of laying on the couch watching reruns of an American TV show, find a movie, TV or program in French to watch. Do some online research or ask native French friends for some suggestions. You can even watch in French with English subtitles (this is great when getting started) or add French subtitles while watching your favorite English programs.

8. Keep up on current events. One of the best ways to sound like a native is to know what to talk about. Keep up on hot news and current events in French-speaking countries and not only will you be able to start some great conversations, you'll also learn useful vocabulary and valuable cultural knowledge.

9. Keep a journal in French. Write your way to a happier life while practicing your language skills by keeping a journal in French. This journal can be used to take notes, write short stories, talk about your day, or simply keep track of your French learning process.

10. Have fun in French. Make French a part of your hobbies. If you like to read, read books in French (children's books are a great way to start for beginners). If you like to listen to music, download some French hits. If you like to sing, sing in French. If you like to play video games, search for games in French or connect with French-speaking players when playing. Play French board games with fellow learners or native speakers. You can even look for French blogs and videos related to your hobbies.

By doing this, you can go native without needing to go abroad. Before you know it, you'll be on your way to learning French as fast as possible and having a great time while doing it. So what are you waiting for? Allez-y!

À bientôt !

Marie-Claire Rivière and the Rocket French Team