There are plenty of French learning sites around. A quick search will give you plenty of places where you can start to learn to speak French for free, and lots of choices of French language courses to buy. These days you don’t have to struggle with dusty old text books any more… but there are still those dreaded French grammar lessons.

Can you really learn fluent French without getting to grips with the grammar?

What I’m going to say now will probably upset a lot of teachers, but I believe it’s perfectly possible to learn French – to a standard where you can live and work in France – without really having much of an idea of French grammar at all. Why do I say that? Because it’s exactly what I have done.

I have to be honest, I don’t know a definite article from a pronoun or adverb in English, let alone in French! Yet I have lived and worked here for five years. I have French friends who don’t speak a word of English, yet although I wouldn’t claim to be completely fluent, my lack of French grammar lessons doesn’t hold me back.

In fact I have a friend who is a teacher of both French and German who says that we all worry too much about grammatical construction and that the French language should be learned more casually. More time should be spent on learning French words – increasing our vocabulary – and listening to the French language. We pick up grammar and nuance as we go along.

For some people, of course, this is too laid back. Some people learning French need a rigid structure to build the language on. That’s fine, except as with any language, the real French – that spoken by French people every day – uses poor construction, bad grammar and slang.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore French grammar lessons completely. The French say things differently and it’s important to use correct construction. For example, we say a green chair but the French say “une chaise verte” – a chair green. They have masculine and feminine, which we don’t have in English. All of those things might be grammar – but is it really necessary to know whether it’s a noun, adjective, conjunction or whatever? I just want to learn how to speak the French language – I don’t need a university degree in dissecting it.

Learning French phrases ought to be fun!