Need to pick up French fast? Here’s a four step method that, while not free, can be done with little cost, on your own time, and without much hassle.
1) Start with an audio course. I used the Michel Thomas Method and recommend it, but there are also other audio courses.
Many libraries have Michel Thomas sets. Otherwise, if you are subscribed to Audible, you can use your monthly credit to try out the first CD of MT French and decide if you like it. If you aren’t subscribed, you can sign up for a free trial, listen to the first CD, and decide if you like it.
I like audio courses in general because they focus on listening and speaking, which is the bedrock of any language. Especially with French, where the writing system does not line up with the spoken language in the way you expect, it’s a good idea to start out with the spoken language. Once you learn the sounds of French, it is easier to understand how written French conveys those sounds.
Audio courses also keep you focused in another way. All you have to do is press play and follow along with the course. There’s no checking dictionaries, there are no boring exercises that you have to will yourself through and then later check. Starting to learn French can be overwhelming, and this focus of activity helps keep you moving along and making progress.
2) Once you know French basics from the audio course, start reading. You should start with the simplest materials you can find and gradually work your way to more advanced texts. When you were learning to read English you didn’t start off by reading novels and reports, why would that strategy work in French? Try starting with Wikipedia articles or really basic children’s books.
3) Once you can read a bit of French, start watching French-language TV. Try starting with dubs of series you have already seen and like. Since you have already seen the series, you already know what is happening, so you can focus on the language and what is being said. Since you like the series, you’re more likely to stick with it, even though at first you won’t be able to understand much of the dialog.
4) Start having French conversations online. From reading French texts and watching French-language content, you will have gained familiarity with French as it’s actually used. Now it’s time to take this one step further by interacting with French speakers. There are several sites for language exchanges. If you play video games, you can also try playing with French speakers.
At the end of this four step method, you will have experience speaking, understandings, and reading French in a variety of contexts. You will have the foundations to go further with the language in whatever direction you like.