Yes, vocabulary. One of the most important steps we have to face when learning a language. To memorize huge amounts of words. So much that sometimes we get scared.
The French language is not precisely one of the most difficult languages in the world. But, many people resist learning its spelling and pronunciation even though these are some of the most important aspects in building vocabulary.
It is not just memorizing words like a parrot, but also knowing how to spell and pronounce them correctly.
And that is why I am writing this article today, in hope that these 8 tips for building vocabulary in French will be of great help to you.
Here are some basic considerations:
- Buy a dictionary. I know, I know. It is more than obvious. But it does not hurt to remember this one. Hard copy or online, dictionaries are everywhere.
- Learn the alphabet. Let’s repeat: one of the aspects that we find most difficult when learning French is pronunciation. Certainly, just by studying the alphabet and knowing it correctly won’t help you speak French like Jules Verne, but it will surely help you build the foundation.
- If you do not know anything about French, better opt-in for a language course. I am the first to defend languages self-teaching, but the truth is that if you do not know the basic fundamentals of the language, it will be very difficult for you to master it. In such cases I recommend taking a French course (however short) to learn the basics. You will have time later on to learn words and build your vocabulary.
Try Google to search for courses in French so that you can compare and choose the one that best suits you. I personally would recommend Rocket Languages because they offer a test-run of their services for several days just as if you were a premium member.
The Basics of Building a French Vocabulary
The most obvious move is to start with the most basic French words, and go for more specialized subject areas as you progress until you arrive at words like ‘sternocleidomastoid‘ or ‘otorhinolaryngologist‘. Just kidding.
Create Word Lists
There’s no point in learning new words if you forget them the next day. This happens very easy and it happens to all of us. You are learning numerous words every day, so it’s only normal to forget a good deal of them by the next morning.
The best remedy for this is to make a list every day by recording all the new words and phrases you have learned for the day. You can use a notebook, or a computer, or maybe your smartphone to note all the new words down. And remember to spell them properly and to write down their meaning and pronunciation.
Then, you are going to review the lists from time to time. It will be like memorizing without the trouble of actually trying to memorize something. What you are doing is imprinting them in your subconsciousness by reviewing them regularly. You will be surprised how easy the words will pop up in your head when you need them the most.
Label all Objects in Your Home
Another way to learn and easily remember words is to label objects in your house with their French translation. If you opt-in for this method, I encourage you to put both the translation and its gender and pronunciation. It’s important because some French words may have a different gender than the words with the same meaning in your native language.
Make Use of Technology
Maybe in the 19th century you would have had a hard time learning a language for yourself: the internet was scarce, ‘Whatsapp’ was not fashionable and the only mail you got was from the postman. But today there is no excuse for not making use of technology to learn languages.
If you are an Apple fan, for example, you can use iTunes and check out ‘podcasts’ in French. You can also use ‘Youtube’ and look at one of the many French class channels that exist. And if you are a true moviegoer, you will surely go to see some of the best films for learning French.
Check Out the Best Social Language Networks
Not everything in the world is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. There are many social networks for languages, and some of them are very good. These websites usually include many lingo games and exercises to learn vocabulary in other languages (French included); as well as the possibility of speaking with learners from other countries where the language of your choice is spoken. And there is no better way to put into practice what you have learned and improve your pronunciation than by speaking with a real Parisian.
Read books in French
I do not mean boring textbooks, but first quality literature. Reading the works of Jules Verne or Victor Hugo in the original would be of great help in discovering new words. Any term that you do not understand, look it up in the dictionary and write it down in the word lists that I recommended you create.
Build Your Vocabulary With French Music
Studying languages does not necessarily have to be boring. This method is a good example of it.
Try to find videos of French songs with lyrics in them. This way you will not only learn new words, but also how to pronounce them.
Image Association Techniques
Memorizing words like a parrot is the safest way of getting the exact opposite effect: not remembering anything. Not because I say so, but because numerous studies have said so. Our brain works better when associating words with images or ideas. Our brain remembers concepts and data better if we associate these to names, situations or images.
I recommend you do the same with vocabulary learning. For example, you will remember better that ‘petit‘ means ‘little‘ if you associate it with the book ‘Le Petit Prince‘ (The Little Prince).