In FrenchForFun.net, I recommend free resources to help you learn French while having fun. However, if you want to learn French from scratch, they will not be sufficient.
What you need to get you started is a good, tested, reliable French Learning method
A method is invaluable. It holds your hand and guides you on your learning journey. Before you ask, there are no free, complete and structured online starter French course (if you know of one, please let me know!). The best way to start learning French is, in my opinion, a good old-fashioned class (local with a good teacher). However, if you cannot commit to a regular weekly time, a French Learning product (software, audio, …) can be a good alternative (you can learn at home in your own time). Or, why not combine both? Let me give you an example:
My husband, Alan, could not speak a word of French when we met (apart from Voulez-vous coucher avec moi! … which he thought meant ‘Would you like to go out with me?’!!!). He thought that, being French, I could just teach him but, for many reasons (mainly lack of commitment on both parts), it quickly failed. So, he searched for a method and bought Michel Thomas Audio course. It was just incredible. He enjoyed it tremendously and it improved not only his French knowledge but his confidence to speak. It gave him enough knowledge and desire to continue learning French and he then enrolled in a French Starter Class for a term at the French Institute in London. The teacher was very good. My husband put a lot of effort into it and progressed very quickly. By the end, he could hold a conversation with my dad, happy days!
Here’s why Michel Thomas worked so well for my husband
Alan had chosen a French Learning product that suited him to a tee:
– in the right format: Audio so he could listen to it during his commute on his mp3 player. My husband also happens to be very auditory and this is how he learns best. The key point in Michel thomas’ method is that you do not have to write anything. You just listen and repeat.
– easy: Michel Thomas is incredibly good at boosting your confidence. In the first few minutes, he establishes how much French is actually similar to English and how many French words you already know without being aware of it. I remember how my husband was immediately so very proud of himself and started telling me all the words he knew!
The advantage of such a format is that you have to pay attention in order to make progress. By paying attention without being distracted you’re more likely to remember what is being said and retain this newly acquired knowledge. The method tries to mimic the way babies and children learn their own language and succeeds very nicely.
I can highly recommend Michel Thomas as an excellent introduction to French.
Another French Learning Product to consider: Assimil
Reasonably priced (and slightly cheaper than Michel Thomas), Assimil is similar to Michel Thomas in that it is an audio method that does not concentrate on grammar but rather on learning the language as an infant would. However, it also contains a book and you can read the daily fun short dialogs as well as listening to them and it does cover key grammar points as notes to each lesson.
It might be a good follow up from Michel Thomas as it goes further in vocabulary, grammar and written French.
As I said earlier, after Michel Thomas (a couple of months) and a term at the French Institute taking lessons, my husband had enough listening and speaking skills to be able to hold a basic French conversation.
He still needed to increase his vocabulary and knowledge of grammar. He did it in an easy, simple and fun way. You can read how he achieved it here.