Many people have wished to speak another language but aren’t that excited to put in the effort it takes. For most Americans, our first experience to learning another language comes packaged in mandatory high school courses. Hmmm, that certainly doesn’t sound too fun.
French is not considered by some students to be a fun language to learn with its complex grammar at upper levels. However, French can definitely be fun to learn with the right tools, motivation, and especially a fondness for the unique accent only found in this ‘Romance Language’.
I began learning French in high school and continued throughout college, yet I admit I barely remember 100 words now. I also don’t remember learning it being fun at all!
From my years long experience with French, as well as my many years experience as an ESL public school teacher, I’ve learned some things along the way about language learning. Fun is key! Read on to learn what is fun and un-fun about learning French!
- 1 What Makes French Fun
- 2 What Makes French Un-Fun
- 3 How to Make French Fun For You
- 4 The Final Talking Point on Is French Fun to Learn?
What Makes French Fun
When I was given the option in high school of learning Spanish or French, I eagerly chose French. Of the two, I thought French sounded so much better!
I don’t know why my 9th-grade-self felt so strongly towards French over Spanish (my over 40 year-old-self would have chosen the opposite in a hot second!), but I just remember I had an overwhelming gravitation to French versus Spanish and my best friends felt the same way.
Even now, I think for some French sounds smarter, more elegant, and mysterious over Spanish. But I don’t think at any point my friends and I thought learning French would be (or ever was) fun. This I think had more to do with how it was taught to a group of myopic teens in a public school setting than anything to do with the French language itself.
I think, however, there are a few unique aspects to learning French that can actually make it fun, and attract people to it as a second or other language!
Where French is Popular
French language is spoken all across the world! It is spoken by over 300 million people and influenced the most popularly spoken language of the world, English.
French is an official language of the United Nations. Besides being known for sounding good (it’s a Romance language, after all), it is also popular in the international business world.
According to Nations Online, there are at least 29 countries with French as the official language including well-known countries like Switzerland and Belgium, as well as not as well-known places such as Cameroon and Togo.
Just knowing how popular the French language is can make it fun to know for you!
It means you are in the company of many diverse people and depending on your excursions and adventures, you have a high likelihood of meeting someone else who speaks French. They even speak French in Canada!
Fun French Facts
There are a lot of fun French facts that might help raise the French Fun Factor!
Fun Facts about France
Have you noticed that the French flag has the same colors as the flags of both the United States and the United Kingdom? France is the largest country in Europe. Also, the first hair dryer and hot air balloons came from France. France is also responsible for the world’s most famous bike race, the Tour de France.
It’s also illegal (since 2016) to throw out or burn food in France, according to Business Insider. They also produce about a billion tons of cheese yearly!
And last but not least, France has a whopping 12 different time zones to consider when living or traveling there!
Fun French Language Facts
- French is the second major language in Europe.
- The French alphabet is the same as the English alphabet but of course, the letters have differing sounds.
- About 45% of English words come from French
- French is one of the Romance languages, along with Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian.
- Justin Bieber attended a French immersion elementary school where he grew up in Ontario (though he’s still not fluent in French).
- À la carte, À la mode, Au gratin, and Hors d’œuvre are French food related terms that have become so engrossed in American culture that many don’t even recognize their French meanings!
- Putain is arguably the most well-known and oft used French curse word. I won’t directly translate it to English for you, but let’s just say it’s the equivalent to the F dash, dash, dash word that resulted in the little boy in A Christmas Story eating soap for saying!
Famous French People
The whole world owes a debt to Louis Pasteur who is responsible for vaccinations and pasteurization. Most art lovers are certainly thankful for Renoir, Degas, and Monet, all French artists. As of writing, the highest paid French actor and actress are Jean Reno of The Professional (1994) and Marion Cotillard of Inception (2010).
Catholics treasure French Saints Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. As well, the austere, medieval Notre Dame Cathedral is located in Paris. Although it burned tragically in 2019, efforts are ongoing to rebuild. Their most famous pilgrimage site is also there: Lourdes.
Fun French Culture
French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theatre, the visual arts, dance and architecture. That sounds fun just by stating it, right? It’s no wonder the French culture can entice many to try to learn French. But is it really F-U-N?
Well, sure there are plenty of fun parts to French culture!
The accents are probably one of the first things that comes to mind with thinking about the French language. As said before, most people consider French pleasing to the ear. It’s not only one of the Romance languages, but also considered romantic. However, that romantic connection is also what makes it fun or funny-sounding, too.
It’s easy to poke fun at the French accent, making it fun to practice.
This is most hilariously made famous when parodied by Steve Martin (pretending/acting as French) who speaks English with a French accent in The Pink Panther movies. Also, it’s notable to mention that Jean Reno (the highest paid French actor) plays Martin’s sidekick.
One reason many find the French accent funny or fun to joke about is that the French generally drop ‘s’ and ‘h’ sounds.
When learning French, you can have fun exaggerating this during your practice, which can alleviate monotony and boredom effortlessly. (Since much of learning another language is repetition, resulting in boredom, anything that can detract from that is a good thing!)
Visiting Paris (or French Speaking Cities)
France is the world’s top tourist destination and attracts more than 87 million visitors a year. It’s likely that your interest in learning French will spark a trip to a French-speaking city or town, or that a trip is what sparked your interest in the language in the first place!
Traveling to Paris, Montreal, or Luxembourg will certainly be easier if you speak French. Though you’re likely to find English speakers in these areas, it’s fun to be able to speak French to the natives when there.
Instead of ordering a ‘cup of coffee’ you can instead say, “tasse de café, s’il vous plait” when in Paris. Even if the locals speak English, they always, always appreciate visitors who use the common language. It will get you better service, and as most of us are aware, the French are not known for good customer service, so you’ll need all the help you can get!
Acting Like You’re French
How fun is it to bug nosy people? Or to confuse eavesdroppers? The next time you go to Walmart to get some t-shirts or batteries, why not start speaking French to yourself or to the hovering shopper near you in the aisle? By using French while shopping at the neighborhood Walmart, you are bound to get some stares and gapes!
This is even better with a friend or family member that learns the language with you. You can pretend to be tourists and have a load of funny stories to tell about your ‘French outing’.
You can improve your experience by dressing like the French, too! Feel free to don a funky beret or this fun t-shirt from Amazon, Moi? Sarcastique? Jamais on your shopping trip . If you do, I’m pretty sure you’ll have the most fun experience you’ve ever had at a Walmart!
What Makes French Un-Fun
So if French is so fun to learn, why aren’t we all parlez-vousing? Well, we who’ve attempted it and stopped, know that it’s not all fun and games. Unfortunately, the way any second or other language has been taught to many of us hasn’t been very successful.
French is no exception. The way we’ve been taught often is boring, redundant, and even though we’re promised it would be quick, it soon becomes apparent that learning another language takes time.
We were actually taught ABOUT the language of French instead of being lead to learn or acquire its use. Overly stressed grammar rules, vocabulary memorization that never stuck, and useless tests were all used as weapons that attacked motivation and FUN.
So what are some of the things that most makes French un-fun-in comparison to trying to learn a different language?
Grammar and Conjugating Verbs
The French language has some strict grammar rules if perfection is set as the goal. First, unlike English with its single article the, French nouns have a gender. Some words are masculine while others are feminine. The masculine nouns use ‘le’ and the feminine nouns use ‘la’.
Also, these articles, le and la, have a plural form, les, which is used for all nouns, whether masculine or feminine. In addition to this, all forms precede the noun.
Now how do you learn the difference? Basically, you learn which is which by memorization when you learn the noun. So while learning the French words for table, car, hair, and pencil, you’re also learning the article to precede them.
And….that, my friends, just takes time and repetition to commit to memory! And just one of the grammatical reasons learning French is un-fun!
French Just Is Not That Usable In The US
Even though millions of people speak French either as a first or second (or other) language all across the world, here in the good ol’ US of A, not many speak another language and if they do, it’s not normally French.
The most popular language other than English in the US is Spanish. Hence, the reason my 40-year-old-self would choose Spanish today other than French back in my high school experience. This is simply because of location, availability, and usefulness (I still think the accent is ‘gnarly’.).
I’ve lived and taught in 3 states in the US- from one coast to the other and the language I’ve most encountered being asked about during teaching interviews is…you guessed it, Spanish. Not once has anyone asked if I spoke French fluently.
In fact, the second and third most common languages I’ve been asked about in my teaching experience are Arabic and Amharic.
If you become French fluent in the U.S., it doesn’t mean you won’t get to use it or that you can’t brag about it by putting it on your Curriculum Vitae or résumé (a French word by the way!). But except in certain specific business or governmental circumstances, you probably won’t get to use it for a promotion.
Not Having Speaking Partners
Because not many people speak French in the U.S., you won’t find as many opportunities for in-person speaking partners either. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but you’ll have to be creative or willing to pay for French speaking tutors, for example.
When I go to the store, restaurant, or even my parish, I’m likely to encounter someone who knows or speaks fluent Spanish, in addition to our most prevalent language, English. I can’t just pop into one of these places to practice my French.
I can go to Spanish markets or find German festivals but it’s rare to find French localized areas-at least in my experience living in Los Angeles, east Tennessee, and northern Virginia.
How to Make French Fun For You
Now just because there are un-fun aspects to French, it doesn’t mean that learning French can’t be fun for you. There are some things you can do to ensure that the experience is as fun as a French fry dabbing!
Choosing the Right Tools to Learn French
One thing you really must decide on in order for your French learning to be fun is how you learn best and which tools are right for you!
For example, I like to listen and read at the same time. Simply listening or using audio-learning tools won’t work for me. It’ll make the process very frustrating and I won’t stay committed.
As well, I prefer using a special, stylish notebook for my practice- no matter what I am doing. For example, I really like this quality journal pack (Amazon linked) for studying.
I can write some sentences or vocabulary from my target language or use it to journal about my learning experience, or a combination of both. I know that using something really pretty and quality-made rather than a dollar-store spiral notebook that’ll fall apart in a few weeks will be better for me. You have to figure out what works for you, make a plan, and stick to it!
Now there is a plethora of language learning tools and methods available today. From computer programs to college courses to language apps, books, and flashcards, or simply a 1:1 tutor, you can’t go wrong with any IF you choose what works for you!
Finding Your Motivation to Learn French
Finding what motivates you is another way to make learning French fun. And motivation is absolutely paramount to language learning success. A recent study in The Modern Language Journal expounds on the critical influence of motivation in acquiring a second or other language and I’ve written extensively here about how important motivation is, as well.
Figuring out why you want to learn French is part of your motivation. The why is really what keeps you moving forward in the long run (and usually is what prompted you to begin your French learning.) The why is your beginning and end game!
However, you also need motivation along the way.
“It’s good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” -Ernest Hemmingway
You need things along your journey, daily, to keep your motivation going. Whether you are listening to French music, cooking French food, enjoying French cinema, or whatever the case may be, you need to do activities that you like that will also help you in your French language journey. That is fun.
Teachers of second/other languages know that motivation is important and making language learning fun is too! From creating silly songs to adding games to play in the foreign language, teachers take great effort to help their students learn! You have to figure out what will keep you motivated and excited…and make it fun for you too in order to be successful.
One tip my husband uses often when learning languages is to change the language of a video game he likes to play to the target language. Bingo! Fun plus French.
The Final Talking Point on Is French Fun to Learn?
So to recap ‘Is French Fun to Learn’….yes and no. No, it is not known as one of the most fun languages to learn. In fact, the grammar rules can be so complex in later stages as to suck all the fun air out of it for many students.
But yes, it certainly can be fun as long as you don’t take the grammar too seriously and can take into account some of the fun aspects of French culture and figure out what motivates you. Vive la France!