If you have any experience learning the French language then you’ve likely been forced to learn French grammar. You’ve probably felt how frustrating it can be to have to learn all these intricate and complicated grammar rules that not only didn’t really make sense, but they also didn’t help you to speak French.
Unfortunately, for most of us this is how we are taught French in school, and it can really be a hindrance on our overall French progress. The truth is that in order to become a fluent French speaker you don’t necessarily need to have mastered all of the complicated French grammar rules out there. There is a way that you can learn French grammar without every really having to pick up a grammar book. Let’s see what it involves.
Despite what they might say nobody has ever walked into a French class excited to learn about French grammar. What they did however was walk into class excited to learn how to speak French. Unfortunately the vast majority of classes revolve around grammar which makes the whole process incredibly unenjoyable.
What happens in the majority of French classes is that you walk in, site down, and are bombarded with a bunch of complicated language-related terms that you probably don’t really understand. And the few things that you do understand you soon forget because you didn’t really want to learn them in the first place. As with most things in life it can be incredibly difficult to memorize something that your heart isn’t into.
Another big problem with learning grammar is that in a language like French it isn’t even consistent. Even if you enjoy learning grammar the rules that you learn often don’t apply to a huge number of situations. So having to memorize all the complicated grammar rules AND all of their exceptions can be really strenuous.
The worst part of this is that native-French speakers are often unaware of what the grammar rules are to begin with. They have spoken French for their entire lives and yet they don’t know the crazy rules (and their exceptions) that you are currently trying to learn.
Another big issue with basing your French learning around grammar is that sometimes what you learn isn’t even what native speakers say. There are so many grammar rules out there that, although are technically correct, just aren’t what a native speaker would use on a daily basis.
So much so that they may even correct you because they think that you are wrong. To a native speaker you may sound stiff and unnatural, despite you following exactly what the textbook says.
Now to the part you’ve probably been expecting. Learning grammar rules can be helpful if you simply want to learn about grammar rules. However the truth is there isn’t much of a correlation between having a good knowledge of grammar and speaking a language well.
However, what you can do is develop an internal sense of what is right and wrong. This is exactly what native speakers do when they are unsure if something is correct. They just think about it for a second (and perhaps say it to themselves a few times) and determine if what they are saying or reading would be considered “right”. You can do the exact same thing.
Here’s what to do…
In order for you to develop that natural sense of what is correct and incorrect you need to gain a fair amount of exposure to what is already considered correct. We do this by capturing full and complete sentences that we encounter while studying.
Every time you pick up a book, read a magazine, or even just search something French online you need to find sentences that you understand (or are just a little bit above your level) and write them down or place them somewhere else (such as in a document). Once you have a fairly large amounts of these sentences you can start carefully studying them.
Make sure to read them and repeat them as much as possible. If you’d like, and know how to, you can even create online flashcards with a site like Anki and study your sentences that way. By doing this you don’t have to go through the painful trial and error process of writing, speaking, and having to be corrected by someone else.
You can, over time, gain exposure to what is correct via your sentences. This may sound primitive to some, but trust me it works very well. Over time you can amass a huge amount of sentences on a variety of subjects and grammar points. When you are in a situation where you must speak or write French with a native speaker you’ll be able to naturally pull what you’ve practiced from these sentences.
And the best part of all is that because you know that your sentences are correct (after all they were written by native speakers and not you) you don’t have to remember any complicated grammar rules. The only thing that you really have to do is make sure that you find time to study your sentences every day.
Make it a habit of opening your notebook or using your flashcards and going over your sentences. Also, don’t ever stop finding sentences. The great thing about this method is that there is always some sort of content that you can use and take sentences from no matter your level.
Now this doesn’t mean that learning grammar is always a bad thing. There are little tips and tricks that can help you to easily understand concepts that you may not have picked up on so easily without. The point of all this being that you shouldn’t let your French-language studies revolve around learning grammar.
Yes there are grammar points that can help you out, but for the most part you’ll just get frustrated and unmotivated if you rely too much on them. If you still feel that you would like to learn the ins-and-outs of French through grammar then I would suggest diving into them after you have gotten to the point where you feel fairly comfortable conversing with others.
Should you decide to do this you’ll find that the once complicated and frustrating grammar rules are now a little bit easier to understand. This is because it is easier to learn grammar when it reinforces what you all ready know. For some this may be enjoyable, but for most people it’ll just be a chore.
At the end of the day learning grammar, although it can have its benefits, is really more of an afterthought. Native speakers of any language don’t learn through grammar and neither should you. Take the time to learn naturally through context and I’m positive that your French skills will increase much faster than they would have had you just stuck with the traditional grammar approach.
What do you think? Have you ever tried Learning French with this approach? How did it go? Comment below and tell us about it.