Building Blocks of Language Learning

Sometimes you have to go back to the basics.

I have been studying French for the past eight years, and I don’t consider myself fluent. My friend recently asked me to teach him, but I haven’t done much to keep up my skills for a year now. How am I supposed to teach him knowing I would have to look up most words needed to say, “Last night, my friends and I went out for Korean barbecue before going to a play”?

But this is a perfect opportunity to get back into practice. And I’m going to use this experience as a way make a guide on my preferred way to learn French.

First things first, I needed to teach him the French alphabet.


An alphabet is more than the symbols used to write a language. It is also a representation of the phonetic system used for speaking. The French alphabet is the same as the English one except there’s accent marks. If I was in a spelling bee and my word was “ant,” native English speakers wouldn’t have too much trouble understanding me saying, “ah, enn, tay.”


When children are being taught how to read, they learn the alphabet and its sounds to make connections to the words they say. They are then taught common letter combinations like “at,” “st,” “ch,” and “ck” These steps allow children to have the building blocks needed to sound out unfamiliar words. It also works for both reading and writing. Have you ever had to break up a word in syllables to spell it? I just did it writing “syllable.”

Learning a new language later in life should follow the same pattern. When you decide to learn a new language, get familiar with its phonetic alphabet. It will help you as you get further in your studies.

You want to know a language on its own and not through translating. But we will talk about that later.


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