Can You Learn French By Yourself?

The following is a guest post from Lili at

Are you learning French? Whether you are a beginner or an advanced pupil you will probably have been wondering whether you need a teacher to learn French. Why not use a teach-yourself method? It’s simpler, cheaper, and I can organize it the way I want and progress at my own rhythm, can’t I?

We have bad news for you: unfortunately this technique does not always work…

Here are five reasons why you can’t learn without the presence of a human being:

– It’s very hard to choose by oneself the information that one really needs in order to speak French well. For example: you open up your French grammar book and encounter tenses for the first time: passé compose (perfect), imparfait (imperfect), plus-que-parfait (pluperfect), passé simple (preterit)… You start studying and learn them by heart without realizing, for example, that the passé simple is a tense that is never used in oral conversation and even the French don’t always know it by heart…

Then you take your vocabulary book and open it up at idiomatic expressions… how can you know which expressions are really important and in which everyday situation they are used? in a family context? or more formally?

– Teaching oneself is time wasting. You are learning French but you are stuck on a problem? Finding the answer on the internet or in a book usually takes 10 minutes. Asking a teacher directly and receiving an immediate answer with a good explanation takes 2 to 3 minutes. On average you spend five times longer if you are learning on your own…

– There is no one to correct you. You make mistakes in pronunciation, comprehension and spelling, but you don’t even realise it… Little by little these mistakes become automatic and it is very difficult (or even impossible) to lose these bad habits and reflexes.

– There is no one to motivate and evaluate you. When you begin learning French you are full of motivation. But you lose it very easily. Let’s take an example: you are planning to study French this evening but a friend invites you to the cinema. What do you do? If you have reserved a lesson with a teacher you will probably go home so as not to miss the lesson. If it’s only your book that is waiting, you may say “it doesn’t matter, I’ll go to the cinema and then I’ll study my French” (unfortunately one often breaks one’s promise..).

– There is no one to provide feedback. You have decided to sit for a French exam. How can you be sure that you have the appropriate level? If you don’t want to waste time and money you need to ask a teacher for his opinion. He will be able to tell you whether you have the required level to take the exam and how much time and effort you need to get up to speed. If your progress is followed by a teacher your success is guaranteed.

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