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Is Memorizing by Heart Helpful for Mastering French?

Decades ago, learning by heart was considered the basis of learning at school. Students learned poems and lessons by rote memorization. Nowadays, this method is not that popular - teachers want learners to study with understanding. When it comes to studying languages, is memorizing by heart still helpful?

If you want to speak French or any other foreign language perfectly, you have to master sentence structures. To actively apply grammar rules, you have to understand them. Therefore, just learning by heart will not make you fluent.

Those who don't learn the basics of grammar will get to the level where they keep repeating identical mistakes... mistakes that they don't recognize as such. It's difficult to stop messing up because they don't even know proper construction. That's where memorization comes in: After studying the rules, take the time to learn them by heart.

How to learn grammar by heart

Learning grammar well requires learning full sentences. If you want to get rid of common mistakes, try this method.

Imagine you always say: Il y a beaucoup des choses qui j'aime faire sur le weekend.

We notice three mistakes (and hope that you noticed them, too!):

  1. Followed by a noun, "beaucoup" always uses only DE, and not DES.

  2. When used as a relative pronoun, "qui" is referring to the subject of the sentence. "Des choses" is a direct object, therefore we'll use "que."

  3. In English, you would say "on weekends," but in French, we don't use the preposition "on" when referring to the weekend. The article before the noun is all we need, as in, "...faire le weekend."

The correct sentence would be: Il y a beaucoup de choses que j'aime faire le weekend.

These rules are not difficult to memorize, especially when the teacher clearly explains them. But due to rules that exist in other languages you speak, you will find yourself copying structures into French. And that happens to everyone - one language is "stronger" than the other you're speaking. That's why the "stronger" language has an impact on other languages you’re practicing.

To avoid repeating mistakes, whenever you or your teacher notice that the same error keeps popping up, try memorizing the rules in context - learn a sentence by heart!

When you memorize a sentence, your brain builds new neural networks to remember the new language structures. Over time, you will automatically apply these rules to all the other sentences, thus reducing the mistakes that you usually made.

Start learning whole sentences by heart. If you make this practice a habit, you will speak more fluently, confidently, and most importantly... correctly!


What do you think about memorizing by heart? How do you correct your mistakes?


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