Parlez-vous français? “Oui” might be the answer that all Canadians should respond with. But outside of Quebec, French fluency is not the case for most in Canada.
Non-francophone Canadians start learning French in school at a young age. Several school programs are offered to Canadians, including French immersion. In 2011, according to Statistics Canada, close to 10 million Canadian reported being able to conduct a conversation in French, compared with 9.6 million in 2006.
Many Canadians want to practice French more often, but are often disappointed with clubs or meetup groups that are supposed to help them gain fluency. Many Diskutoyens learning French ask me the same question over and over: I’m learning French but it’s too hard! Where should I go to practice?
WHAT’S SO HARD ABOUT FRENCH?
French verb conjugation is trickier than in English. There are 17 tenses in French (the same number as Spanish); English only has six! French has several strange nasal sounds close to Brazilian Portuguese that learners have a hard time mastering: pont, saut, vote, un, pain, for example. Also, the final consonants in many words are dropped: chat, oiseaux, dent, nez, genoux, appartement.
Last but not least, the most challenging aspect for a French learner is writing. Because you don’t write what you hear phonetically it can be easy to misspell a French word, and in doing so, change the meaning of the sentence. This can sometimes place you in an awkward situation.
BILINGUALISM IS GOOD FOR YOU
Decades of research and studies have demonstrated the health benefits of regular physical activity to avoid health issues. Recently, a study published in the magazine Neurology demonstrated that being bilingual may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A Canadian psychologist, Ellen Bialystok, also published similar findings in 2007.
FLUENCY TAKES TIME
Learning a language takes time and mastering it even longer. Keeping that in mind, you need to define your goals first. Why do you want to learn French? What level do you want to reach?
Next, find the necessary resources to help you achieve your goals. Would you rather take a French class? Or perhaps use a French tutor? Or are you a self-taught person? The resources you choose will depend on two major aspects: time and money!
I’m dealing with this dilemma as I want to learn Portuguese and travel to Brazil next year. Many people have time to learn a language but they do not have the money. For me, the cheapest solution is to find a language exchange partner. As I meet with friends and Diskutizens, I still meet many people who are unfamiliar with the concept. And as I begin to explain it, they often respond, “Oh I’ve tried that once but it didn’t work out, so I stopped.” It could be that looking for a language exchange partner is similar to searching for the perfect love match.
I’m currently doing a Mandarin/French and a English/French/Spanish language exchange. I’m really satisfied with the people I interact with; not only with the fact that I’m continually training my brain but I also enhancing my knowledge of the language.
If you are still wondering if it’s worth the trouble to learn French, my response to you is, “Oui”, speaking French is sexy! Toronto offers a variety of opportunities to practise French, like our French corners on Thursdays. Have further questions? Leave a comment below.
Bonne apprentissage et à bientôt!