How to learn French fast. The hero’s journey.

As most things in life, language learning can be compared to a hero’s journey or quest.

The hero sets out on an adventure, faces obstacles and eventually emerges victorious.

In the picture below, the little sword marks the spot where our own hero stands. That’s you. And in front of our Hero are the 2 first obstacles: The Present tense (hump 1) and the Past tense (hump 2)

Getting over these 2 humps is probably the single most important achievement a student will accomplish and the one that I personally look out for in all students: “Are they willing to get over the Present and the Passé Composé?“, I ask myself.

Practically, this implies studying around 30 to 40 verbs in these 2 French tenses in order to open the doors to bigger and better things. They are your rite of passage, in a way. In parallel to this, you will need to study the pronunciation of French which holds in 4 spread-out PDF pages and necessitates an hour of your time.

Once you get over these 2 humps, you will have completed 40% of the work and here’s why: Firstly it will prove to you that you are capable of taking the bull by the horns and overcoming the obstacle. If you can do it twice, you can do it more.

The second reason is just practical. We need verbs in order to speak and it so happens that a lot of French is based on conjugation.

In terms of time, you can reasonably do this in under a month... or even 7 days. How much? Ok, let’s call it 2 weeks. Yes, I am serious.

Of course, these two humps of the Present and Past tense are not floating in thin air. They are supported by the Vocabulary that you will need in order to build sentences. You will want to name things. How do we say the scissors, the lamp, the window?

For this, OuiCommunicate has vocabulary videos that are organized by themes. You can learn all you want about the bathroom, the kitchen, marine animals or shops. Do you have to know them all? Certainly not! You can pick and choose. If you are certain you will never need the French word for “pothole” or “cheese grater” just skip it.

After these 2 main humps are cleared, we are officially on our way to clear a number of smaller humps before finishing Phase 1.

First, we will need to know “his”, “our” or “her”. These are the Possessives. Quick lesson and easily done. Then in quick succession, you will want to know how to ask questions and build negative sentences.

Where to next? Don’t neglect the pronunciation ! Make sure you absolutely understand how the combinations of letters give us new sounds in French.

Since you know how to say “his” and “her”, you might want to say “This, that, those” … another small hump you can easily clear!

(Below: outline of the 13 humps you need to clear before defeating boss number 1)

Can you compare things yet in French? It is useful to say “more than… less than”. Another easy lesson, especially compared to English !

How about expressing causes? If you can ask questions, you should be able to answer “because…” or “due to…” Our next little hump is the Plural (when there is more than one). Oh that was easy ! Barely took me 2 hours.

Are all verbs the same? No! Some are “support verbs” (modal verbs). Luckily there are only 4 in French. Easily done. Let’s go !

Three more little humps that the Hero must clear are Prepositions (in, under, on…), Conjunctions (But, however…) and of course some Pronouns (me, you, they, it…)

Wow ! Congratulations ! How easy was that? You have already defeated boss number 1. The first part of you learning of French is over.

(Below: the first part is finished!)

Phase number 2 in the Hero’s journey starts here !

The second phase
of your hero’s journey starts here and things get much easier.

Naturally, you will continue to build your vocabulary with our videos and now might be the time to include more tenses in your game.

How about the past continuous (L’imparfait) to say that things “were happening” or “used to happen”?

And how about using the future tense? (things that “will” happen) We might as well throw in the Conditional straight away since it is essentially the same tense in French. (Things that “would” happen)

(Below: full program of phase 2)

We can then learn the Imperative to give orders or make suggestions. Easy stuff !

Still in this second phase of your learning, you want to be sure to know all the Pronouns and since we are now officially advanced we should learn about all the variants of the French “linking sounds” as well as the feminine adjectives which will allow us to sound more posh!

Let’s throw in a lesson on how to tell the time and we will close phase 2 on this. Bravo, you have defeated the second boss !

Phase number 3 of the Hero’s journey starts here !

In the third part of the Hero’s journey, we can use some more elaborate tenses such as the past perfect (P-q-P), learn how to use quoting (reported speech), the future perfect (futur anterieur), the passive, the subjunctive and the Reflexive verbs which are more numerous than in English.

And that’s pretty much it… Congratulations … you have overcome all the battles in the hero’s journey and gone through the 3 main stages of the game ! You now know all the French you would realistically need !!!!

(Below: Congratulations, you have completed Phase 3!)

Yes but what if I don’t feel like a hero?
What if I just want to take my jolly time?
Not to panic! It is perfectly alright also. Let’s examine this.

Case 1. Elevator mode.

A student who doesn’t feel like a Hero might do 2 different things….The first is that they might enter Elevator Mode… An elevator doesn’t usually go forward and instead goes up and down. In this case, the student will bob up and down, learning a little, forgetting a little and maintaining a very regrettable status quo.

(Below: The student in the elevator sees the sword clearly but does not grasp it.)

Naturally, they will occasionally step out of the elevator and dip their toe into the adventure and take a whiff. They will look at the Present Tense up there on the hill but they will say “Oooh no that sounds like work… maybe not today.”

Interestingly, the elevator might sometimes move diagonally towards the hills, very slowly. The student might even take their sword out a few inches but will quickly come back to their original location and hop back into the elevator.

This state of affairs can go on for months and in the worst case years. You may witness this for yourself by joining a Facebook group relating to foreign languages or expats and you will encounter many people admitting to learning a language for more than 5 years without results. They will remain in Elevator Mode and make quite sure they never go into battle.

Case 2: Media Mode

Speaking of Facebook, a person might enter a slightly different mode than the Elevator Mode and go into “Media Mode” located a step further back from the Hero’s journey.

(Below: Illustration of Media Mode, further away from the adventure)

Media Mode encompasses several different things but is characterized by an approach to languages that has no specified direction. This includes frequenting Facebook and sharing how hard French is, watching foreign films on Netflix, taking advice from people who have not achieved French but who still like to discuss the different possible approaches to learning. The Media Mode learners might also listen to “some” news in French, enjoy podcasts and use all manner of apps and particularly”drag and drop” websites. The learning of a Media Mode student is intended to be sustained until the irrevocable conclusion is drawn that French is hard.

To conclude

In this article, we have outlined the Hero’s journey on a quest to get to know French. It can best be summarized as “let’s roll up our sleeves.

On one of our Youtube videos entitled “American Lady speaks French in a year and under 200 hours“ you will see the direct result of the program.

The number of 200 came about after I had looked up the number of hours necessary to learn a language according to a specific branch of the US army. That number was close to 400. We looked at each other in surprise and did the maths. We added up all our lessons together and came to 200 hours.

How was this achieved? I will give you a hint. The lady didn’t stay in Elevator Mode, and she didn’t go into Media Mode.
Yes she pulled out her sword.

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