Learning French, the language of romance and irregular verbs, requires concentrated study. With a bit of effort, however, you can learn to speak like a Parisian without spending any money on formal instruction. Learning to speak French depends on your willingness to retrain your ear in order to actually "hear" the language. You will also need to abandon any reluctance you may have, for example, to pursing your lips to master new sounds, such as the French "r." Still, with a bit of effort you can be "parlez-vous-ing" with the best of them. Ultimately, immersion is the most effective way to learn a language quickly. With the help of technology, you can create a virtual French classroom for free.
Head for the library and sign out a good French grammar book. Look for one that includes the irregular French verbs you are going to have to memorize. If you aren't sure, ask the librarian to make a recommendation
Draw up a study schedule -- at least an hour a day -- and mark it in your diary. Tick it off every day. Stick to it.
Start a French diary. Download a free translation program -- find one that speaks as well as translates -- and start writing a page in your diary every day. Write a sentence, then listen to the translation voice until you can pronounce the words before proceeding.
Watch French television. News channels are particularly good because you can watch the presenter's mouth. Notice the way she moves her lips and try to imitate them.
Cook French food. It will help keep you motivated and give you insights into practical language application. Download some French recipes and start whipping up "boeuf Bourguignon" and "tarte aux pommes."
Make a French newspaper the homepage on your computer. If you don't like "Le Monde" there are lots of other choices.
Listen to French music. Go to YouTube and download Francis Cabrel and Edith Piaf. Print the lyrics to their songs and sing along.
Talk to yourself in French. It may sound like a strange idea, but it works. Carry on conversations with yourself such as: "Aujourd'huis est lunci. Je vais etudier le francais." You will begin to "hear" yourself speaking French.
Find a French cultural center and attend their free events. Mark Bastille Day -- July 14th -- on your calendar as there is sure to be something happening that day. Mix with native French speakers and practice your oral skills.
Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.