I have been teaching myself French for a couple of years now, so I can give some advice from experience.
I started with fundamentals:
- noun genders + le, la, les, un, une
- oui – non – peut-être
- pronouns: il, elle, ils, elles, tu, je, vous, nous, difference between tu and vous
- definition of infinitive tense, make sure that basic concept is understood.
- être, avoir, aller
- present tense conjugation of -ER verbs, parler, manger, regarder, aimer.
- basic connecting words: de, à, avec, et, ou
- forming the negative with ne … pas
- S'il vous plaît
- Ça va ? Ça va bien, etc.
- asking questions with Est-ce que…
- titles: Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle
- saying There is… with Il y a…
- saying It is / This is… with C'est… and Il/elle est…
- count to twenty
- words for the most common nouns: car, house, boy, girl, kitchen, street, city, book, man, woman, bedroom, television, table, shirt, pants, shoes, etc.
- saying your name and asking someone else's name: Je m'appelle Jorgi ! Comment tu t'appelles ? Don't bother teaching me/te at this point.
- saying your age.
- saying/asking the time, date, day of the week.
- days of the week, months of the year.
Then I learned more extended fundamentals:
- Interrogatives: qui, que/quoi, quel, où, comment, combien, pourquoi
- more advanced negatives: ne … jamais, ne … plus, ne … que
- if statements with si
- faire. Explain that this verb is not used quite the same way as the English to do or the English to make, although it overlaps with both. Frankly, I consider faire to be a tricky and highly complex verb in its usage. It is a part of so many other expressions like Il fait beau or faire un cadeau that simply explaining it as equivalent to to do is very misleading. Use examples.
- reasoning: car, parce que
- possession: mon, ma, mes, ton, ta, tes, etc.
- This/that/these/those: ce/cette/ces, ça. It is a helpful tip early on to note that French does not differentiate between this and that to nearly the same extent that English does, because that is a major part of the English language and is a linguistic tool we are loathe to give up. Do not teach cela/ceci early on. Unnecessary. Also leave out celui/celle/ceux/celles until later.
- here/there: ici and là. Note that là is often used to mean here. I would avoid anything more than a very basic treatment of y, since it is not an easy word to grasp early on (I still don't know when to use it most of the time), and is more likely to be used wrong than right by the learner in many cases.
- other connecting words: en, dans, comme, sur, etc.
- inversion: Avez-vous une bouteille ?
- contractions: au, aux, du, des
- more basic nouns: trash, airplane, hat, cat, dog, etc. as many basics as you can fit into the learner's head. KEEP USING THE WORDS YOU LEARN. DO NOT teach something and then move on. Subsequent lessons must use past material.
- conjugation of regular -IR verbs. choisir, finir.
- more common regular -ER verbs. donner, visiter, voyager, nager, étudier, garder.
- count to 100
- more common phrases.
- passé composé and using aller to say I'm going to do something. also teach using être for certain verbs in the passé composé.
- basic adjectives and size words: grand, petit, bien, mal, bon, peu, jeune, vieux, beaucoup, etc.
- most common time words: maintenant, puis, plus tard, matin, soir, jour, année, mois, semaine, heure, minute, temps, etc.
I suppose I learned pronunciation as I went along. I learned each new word, and in so doing, I learned the rules that governed pronunciation. For example, “suis” is “swee”, and I learned there how to pronounce the
ui sound as well as that the ending
s is silent. Learn liaisons as you go, as well, and accent marks. Accent marks are easy to remember, really.
Show how all these things go together by teaching sample sentences of increasing complexity. Early on, start with things as simple as Il aime la fille. Later on: Pourquoi est-ce que tu m'as donné un chien ? and so on. Il y avait dix-sept livres au-dessous la table, entre une chaise et la fournaise, et je les ai tous mis au feu.
From there things get more complicated.
- pouvoir, vouloir, devoir, since they conjugate similarly, should be taught together, and are the three next most important irregular verbs after the 4 I named above.
- count to 999,999 (not a very difficult jump after getting to 100...only requires learning mille)
- more irregular verbs: highest priority should be dire, comprendre, and savoir. Then prendre, mettre, voir, venir, tenir, partir, dormir, etc. Show how families of irregular verbs are conjugated similarly. Rendre is good for that, since it has one of the largest (if not the largest) irregular families. See the note at the end for an addendum on this.
- more grammar.
- futur and imparfait. Save the subjunctive til WAY later. It's just not important until the person can communicate in the first place. And don't even think about mentioning passé simple or imparfait du subjonctif. It can be intensely discouraging early on to realize that there are 7 separate conjugation sets plus composed tenses and present participle. Some people will give up. In fact, don't mention the subjunctive either. If the learner discovers these other tenses, smile and tell him to ignore them entirely.
- direct objects, indirect objects, reflexive verbs
- quelqu'un, rien, tout, chaque, other similar helpful words.
- y and en as… what are they, pronouns? Explain basic usage. These are fairly challenging words, comparatively. It is difficult to know when to use them.
Here is the essential thing: it gets easier the longer you do it. At the beginning, the learner will have to force himself to remember so much new vocabulary. Later on, the learner will be forming a sentence and will find himself missing a word and will simply ask Comment dit-on « horse » ? and you will tell him, and he will be able to construct the sentence on his own, and will thereafter remember the word for horse. Your mind picks up momentum the longer it rolls.
That's probably a good starting point. Good luck. I welcome additions to my lists here. I know there are things I'm forgetting.
Note: When I was taught French verbs, I was taught that there are three regular conjugations: -ER, -IR, and -RE verbs like rendre, and everything else is irregular. I do not recommend this whatsoever. Here is a nearly complete list of French irregular verbs, and as you can see, the rendre family (by comparison to the regular -ER family or regular -IR family, each of which include several thousand verbs) is not nearly large enough to be eligible for consideration as its own regular conjugation.
Instead, I recommend this approach. There are two regular conjugations, -IR and -ER, and all other verbs are irregular and must be memorized by family, rendre included. All -RE verbs are irregular. Though the task of learning all the irregular verbs initially seems daunting, the patterns soon become self evident and simple to remember.