I love France. Yes, I visited Paris when I was 21 years old, and I was so impressed that I fell in love with Paris, France, and its culture.

I also love communication.

I adore speaking in public, communicate ideas, listen to other people, writing… Communication as a whole concept.

Languages are a crucial element, talking about communication.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
— Nelson Mandela

Apart from Mandela’s brilliant quote, I’ve always felt attracted by other languages and cultures.

I’m Spanish, and my second language has always been English.

This article’s goal aims at how to learn french by yourself with no idea at all

I’d have liked to have a guide like this when I decided to learn French because starting a language from scratch is quite tricky. I didn’t know where to start from.

My starting point in French was this. I only knew these 2 words:

So, “basic level” was far away from my starting point.

I started learning French in December 2019, so I will describe all my journey for a whole year.

This article’s structure is based on these 4 points:

  1. Some initial concepts I think they’re essential to learn any language.
  2. Steps I followed. I followed them sequentially because they increase the difficulty little by little, to make the learning process easy to digest.
  3. My daily routine. I will describe my daily routine to keep on learning and improving.
  4. Takeaways. Finally, I’ll leave some comments about my experience that I think can be useful.

Allons-y !

1. INITIAL CONCEPTS

Before starting to learn French, I talked to myself these 6 essential concepts:

1.1 Concept 1: Learning a language is not easy

I always laugh when I see ads saying things like “Learn this language in 1 month”.

A language is something quite difficult.

I’m 44. I’ve been learning, studying, and practicing English for my whole life, and I still consider it’s difficult to keep on improving. Starting a language from scratch is everything but easy.

This thought prepared my mindset to work. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy the journey.

People usually associate work with concepts such as hard, tough, sacrifice, pain… and so forth.

For me, work just means dedicating time to a topic, subject, or thing. As easy as that.

1.2 Concept 2: Why’s

This is kind of cliché, but it’s true.

I need a strong why to make things in life, and learning a language isn’t an exception.

This is so because human beings need to make things based on common sense. If something doesn’t make sense for me, sooner or later, I will leave it.

It’s by having a strong “why” how I get the fuel, the motivation, the reasons I need to dedicate my energy to a thing I want to perform.

In my case, I had a lot of “why’s”. Here I share some of them:

1.3 Concept 3: I was prepared to invest (time and money)

I think learning a language is an investment for my most important asset: myself.

Because of that, I was ready to invest both: time and money.

Investing money is what saves me money.

I do appreciate my time a lot. It’s my main asset because I cannot make up for the lost time.

There’s a lot of free content out there but, in my opinion, nothing’s better than the paid one:

1.4 Concept 4: I was prepared to live the language every day

In my opinion, to really learn a language, I have to be in touch with it every day.

It’s the way my brain never stops thinking in that language.

It’s the way I make an immersion in that language.

Doing so is how I feel much and much comfortable with the language, making it an extension of my mind, body, and myself.

1.5 Concept 5: I was prepared to combine everything: writing, reading, listening, and speaking

The best way to get hooked on a language and really get into it is to interact with it in every possible way: writing, reading, listening, and speaking.

If I do so, I start receiving inputs in such many ways that it is impossible for my brain not to learn the language.

Introducing information and data into the brain through different pathways is what causes concepts to be memorized, learned, and passed on to the “much-loved” long-term memory.

1.6 Concept 6: The main goal: create a solid foundation

The last initial concept for me to understand and assimilate is to have a clear vision of my FIRST BIG GOAL when I begin from scratch.

Having that clear in my mind is what drives me to that 80–20 Pareto Principle, just focusing on the 20% I need to learn because it’s used 80% of the time.

My BIG GOAL was to create a solid foundation from which I could move forward to keep on improving, being able to forget about these more conventional and traditional initial methods, and dedicating time to really enjoy my new language:

2. STEPS I FOLLOWED

Here, I will share the steps I followed and all the sources I took on the Internet.

It’s more or less a sequential process, although, I executed some of them in parallel.

2.1 Step 1: Course “French Uncovered, by I will teach you a language”

This is the first step I took to learn French from scratch.

I have to say I’m a believer in natural learning, talking about languages. I mean, I don’t believe in:

That doesn’t mean not learning basic grammar rules.

As an adult, I have a huge advantage over kids. I have learned and polished my native language. Because of that, I try to use all my “learned rules” to look for similar patterns in my new language. It’s not a sin. It’s just pragmatism.

The perfect combination I found out between natural learning and “the lowest level of traditional learning methods”, taking the best of the two worlds, was Olly Richard’s course “French Uncovered”.

I have to say that was my first big step to start feeling I was doing the right thing.

When I finished that course, I had a minimum level to keep on creating my basic initial solid foundation.

2.2 Step 2: Course “Build a strong core, by Inner French”

My second big step was joining Hugo’s French course “Build a strong core”.

As its name says, Hugo’s right. I was creating a solid foundation, a strong core, and this course gave me a step forward after Olly’s.

When I finished this course, I thought, “Oh, yeah, now I know French!”.

I was stupid: I didn’t at all.

2.3 Step 3: Course “Grammar Hero, by I will teach you a language”

I could have done this course after “French Uncovered”, but something I’ve learned about learning a language is that dynamism is essential.

Changing from one teacher to another, from one user interface to another, from one concept of learning to another, gives me that motivation, that “new sensation” I need to keep maintaining my pace, my “way to success”.

I enjoyed that change from Olly to Hugo. Whenever I came back to Olly again, it was like a “fresh start”.

This course was much more interesting because I learned through different stories (not just one, as it happened with the “French Uncovered” course). That means, again, dynamism, avoiding routine, and getting hooked on the different stories.

The good point about this course is that I was getting into reading and listening to French, just learning a couple of grammar hacks after each story. That made the learning process really easy to digest.

2.4 Step 4: Course “MosaLingua series, by MosaLingua”

MosaLingua is a fantastic software to memorize words and expressions using spaced repetition.

I use it to record all types of words, expressions, and everything I want to learn. It works. Period.

At the same time, MosaLingua has courses, for example, MosaLingua series, recorded stories with transcripts.

I learned a lot with them!

2.5 Step 5: Podcasts

I have to say that I started listening to podcasts from day 1.

Listening, listening, and listening is a key element to learn a language.

There was one day in which I started listening effortlessly, without feeling I was listening to a language that wasn’t my native language.

It was listening and looking for podcasts how I found out most of these courses and language geniuses.

Podcasts are a vital element, not only to learn languages but for my whole life (at least, for mine) because they allow me to learn during my “dead time”. For instance, commutes.

I spend commuting 1 hour each day.

If I just multiply 1 hour by 5 days, by 5 weeks, I get as a result 260 hours listening to French in 1 year (and that only in my commutes!).

Here I share the most interesting (and useful) FREE podcasts I listen to.

Having all these podcasts in my hands keeps giving me that dynamism (escape from routine), changing from one to another to keep the right and continuous pace.

2.6 Step 6: Italki

This is the eternal discussion: when should I start speaking and having a teacher?

From my perspective, starting a language from scratch, I prefer doing a lot of work by myself before trying to speak and hire a teacher.

In my case, I started my first class with a teacher in June, almost 7 months later since I started.

Was it the right timing? Who knows… That also depends on the quality of the teacher.

In Italki, I could find all kinds of teachers, prices, levels, languages, and whatever I may think.

I have to say that when I started trying to speak, it was challenging and tough. I had 30-minute lessons, and they seemed to be 3 hours. My brain was totally collapsed.

2.7 Step 7: Course “Raconte ton histoire, by Inner French”

I had enjoyed so much Hugo’s “Build a strong core” course that I decided to go to the next level.

What happened? Too hard and difficult for me. I failed…

I decided to leave it, to try it later, whenever my level was a little bit better.

As usually happens with these kinds of decisions, I never came back…

2.8 Step 8: L’académie, by Français Authentique

As I said before, when I met Johan, I got impressed by the huge amount of content he’s created.

It’s impressive, and I joined his community.

It’s great because:

I also joined Johan’s pronunciation course. Not bad, but, sincerely, I could have skipped it and better go to the next level: a teacher (especially, a good teacher).

2.9 Step 9: Impolyglot

Once again, I met Lionel through his podcast, and by visiting his website.

This was an inflection point in my learning process.

Why was that?

  1. First, Lionel is a fantastic teacher who prepares each class with a clear goal.
  2. He tries to create a methodology in which I interact with the language in very different ways.
  3. He has a virtual classroom in which I have tons of exercises.
  4. He’s French, but he also speaks and teaches English and Spanish. That’s great for me because I can take many shortcuts to learn, understand, and memorize things using the 3 languages.
  5. He’s pragmatic, like me…

I just spend 1 hour each week, but that’s a lot to keep improving, getting better, and feeling that sense of evolution any pupil needs in his life.

3. MY DAILY ROUTINE

One year later, this is the routine I follow to improve day by day, with no rush, but without stopping.

As I wanted, it’s a routine that doesn’t destroy my schedule.

It’s easy to follow and flexible because everything depends on me except for Lionel’s class. And that’s great.

My agenda is not easy, so I had to find a system compatible with my real life.

4. TAKEAWAYS

Learning a language is not easy, but it’s an amazing journey in which I don’t only learn the language:

I could keep on listing things all day long…

What level am I now?

It will be a wonderful year, and my goal (and Lionel’s) is to be fluent in December. That will mean 2 years working every day on a language.

The point is I don’t care. I’m not in a hurry.

I’ve converted this into a way of living, the point in which a habit should always be.

I can imagine, keeping this pace, how I will express myself in French within 5, 10, or 15 years from now. It motivates me a lot.

Life is not being in a hurry. It’s just enjoying the journey.

A bientôt!

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