Learning French vocabulary is arguably one of the fastest, easiest ways to improve your command of the language. Reports vary, but most linguists agree that there are about 1,500-2,000 common words necessary to understand and be understood on a superficial level in French, and around 5,000 to 6,000 to participate fully in most non-technical conversations. After that, you can choose specific topics that you might be likely to have conversations about, or would like to be able to discuss on a more proficient level, and then methodically work through themed French vocabulary lists.

Best Ways to Learn French Vocabulary

Different people will have different methods to increase their French vocabulary, ranging from reading practice texts and looking up the words you don’t know, to making vocabulary flashcards, to going down a list and memorizing a word at a time.

  • Many common French words are partial cognates to English words, so you may be able to find the root of a word you understand in English to help you memorize the French version. Other people swear by using mnemonic, or memory association, tricks to remember new vocabulary, but the goal is to know and remember these French words in the same effortless way you remember different English words. People who learn vocabulary using mnemonic devices often seem to learn words at a faster rate, but they are usually forgotten within weeks of not needing to access these words anymore, while the student who spent time “internalizing” each new word can retain much more of the new vocabulary.
  • Another vocabulary memorization technique is to say or write the new word in several logical English sentences, such as, “I need to wear une montre so I won’t lose track of time,” and, “I showed up an hour early because I forgot to reset ma montre for Daylight Savings Time.”

You will get faster at learning French vocabulary the more you learn, because you will have enough proficiency to be able to use context clues to decipher the meaning of words in sentences and paragraphs. Until then, however, use the following French vocabulary lists to increase your vocabulary knowledge. There are many high-quality learn French books you can use as well.

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