Welcome to the world of French. As a complete beginner, you will need to know some important facts about the French language.
1. First, you need to know that each language is a different language. No language was made looking at the rules of another, so you cannot expect the system of pronunciation in French to be the same as that in English or any other language that looks like it. The same holds true for grammar and sentence formation as well. French looks like English because both have the same Roman script, but this does not mean that they will sound the same. Also, remember, even if you learn the French pronunciation, there will be exceptions in many words since the natives pronounce them a particular way, and so you will need to memorize them.
2. French is derived mainly from Latin which accounts for about 60% of English vocabulary either directly or via a romance language. French also includes words from Gaulish and Germanic languages (especially old Frankish).
3. You can expect there to be some similarities between French and English in terms of common vocabulary or words borrowed or derived from each other. But please remember that most French words will be very different from English. In fact, I myself have done a Master’s degree in English and can only suggest that you sideline your knowledge of English while you are learning French. Try not to let it interfere, and each time you sit to study French you give yourself this little reminder that it is not English right now.
4. French has many nuances just as any different language would. So to learn it, you will have to accept some finer details just the way they have been fixed in language. Even if you do not, it would change anything in the language. Most of my students are keen to find out the logic in language and each of its little details, and there are times when things just exist and so you just have to accept them without trying to find the reason for everything.
5. In French, just like in Hindi all inanimate objects have a gender. Also, the adjectives, articles, and prepositions get modified in their form as per the gender of the noun. So it becomes important to know the gender of French nouns. As a kid, while acquiring Hindi, we never asked anyone why “Pankha hota hai” or “Kursi hoti hai”. We just accepted it the way it is. The same is the case with French. Although many French nouns have certain endings in their spellings that help us to identify the gender, to start with, a beginner must learn basic nouns each time along with their genders. In any case, exceptions do exist.
6. Talking of exceptions, you need to know that French grammar is highly organized and systematic as compared to English. For those who do not agree with me, I would say that English seems easier to us because most of us have had an English- speaking environment around us since childhood and so it is partially an acquired language and partially a learned language. But for French, especially as adults and absolute beginners not being surrounded by it, it seems comparatively difficult. But I assure you that if you program your brain today to accept and appreciate these differences instead of criticizing or being afraid of them, your learning journey will become much smoother and more enriching. Once you’ve completed all French grammar systematically till level B1, it will start making a lot of sense to you. French grammar is taught with the actual rule explained first and almost every concept is accompanied by exceptions which are explained with examples as well.
7. As boring as it may sound, being a non-native adult, grammar learning is an essential part of learning a language. You cannot expect to learn French just by watching movies or listening to music. You might be able to speak a few words and expressions, but if you want a strong base in sentence formation and comfort while communicating, then immediately prepare yourself mentally to learn and revise a lot of grammar multiple times, especially during levels A1 and A2. Well-organized handwritten notes are also extremely necessary at all times for repeated practice.
8. Speaking for absolute beginners does not happen just magically or immediately. As a newbie, you will take the first 10- 15 days to get the hang of the language and start understanding how the pronunciations and structures are different from other languages, while the trainer equips you with basic vocabulary and simple sentence structures. So initially you might be able to speak just a little like introducing yourself, but expecting to speak naturally in A1 or A2 about any theme is just unrealistic. To get to a level of comfort of speaking naturally, you will obviously need a lot of patience, a strong base in vocabulary, and simple sentence formation to start with. So language learning takes its own natural time, and you must give it that very patiently and consistently while never missing even one self-study session on your end.
9. French contains what we call “Les faux amis”, literally translating to “false friends” or “false cognates”. This means that there are some French words that might seem to have a meaning similar to that in English, but in reality, it is a completely different word. So these kinds of words and their meanings have to be learned separately.
10. French prepositions seem to give a really hard time to most learners. There is a concept of contracted prepositions which vary as per the number and gender of the noun that they are being used with. They seem tricky, but they are actually really easy for those who do not allow the brain fog to consume them while learning. Having said that, you should also remember that places, countries, and inanimate objects all have a gender: either masculine or feminine. So the articles, possessive adjectives, demonstrative adjectives, and prepositions with them will also vary as per the rules fixed in grammar.
11. French tenses are very differently formed than English. For example, “I eat” and “I am eating”, both are made in the same manner in French. So to start with, I usually help my students keep the English equivalents of these tenses in mind, and we practice a lot of sentence formation in different tenses. In any case, understanding the differences in tenses, their formation, and usage is a long journey, and will require multiple revisions and lots of time. Translations in any case will not help.
To conclude, the French language has unlimited nuances and differences from the English language. So if you are a beginner or somewhere in the middle of your French learning journey, you must know that it is a long journey that needs you to prepare and program your brain in multiple ways to understand and appreciate all these differences.
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