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20 in 20 - learning log of the deranged

  Tags: Japanese | German | French
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Spanky
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4353 days ago

1020 posts - 1714 votes 
Studies: French

 
 Message 1 of 138
11 August 2008 at 1:24am | IP Logged 
At the age of 45, having finally gotten a reasonable handle on my first language (English) and having failed miserably to this point in my periodic efforts to learn a second language (French), I am embarking on a long-range plan of learning that is almost certainly doomed to complete and utter failure.   

I intend to spend one year learning as much of a language as possible before moving on in turn to study another language over a year, and to continue this over a twenty year period to my anticipated age of retirement, at which point I hope to have the capacity (both in terms of time and finances) to travel widely.

While I try to bring an attitude of unrealistic optimism to various aspects of my life, I do not harbour any illusions that I will be able to become fluent in any particular language; rather, I am aiming to achieve very basic conversational abilities in a wide range of languages, which I intend to express with atrocious accents, as well as achieving basic reading abilities.

I would, however, like to achieve a slightly higher level of ability in French.   Indeed, it is somewhat absurd that I do not understand French better, given that my daughter has been in French immersion for a number of years, and I live in an officially bilingual country with a considerable amount of French language material available to me (although I live in an essentially unilingual part of the country).   Also, I studied French, as many English-speaking Canadians have done, in elementary school and in high school. Sadly, like most English-speaking Canadians, I have retained very little of my French language education, so while not entirely at a complete beginner level, I am close enough to it that I will be beginning with the very basics.

For French for Year 1, beginning today, I intend to begin with studying concurrently the FSI Phonology course and Michel Thomas Speak French for Beginners, then followed by full-time study of the FSI Basic course, followed in turn by the video immersion French in Action (which I had attempted with little success more than a decade ago). Thereafter, my path is unsettled.   I intend as well to listen to as much French language audio material (radio and TV) as possible on a daily basis. Currently, I understand something less than 5% of what I hear and I hope this will increase to over 90% within a year.

Also during Year 1, in preparation for studying Japanese in Year 2, I intend to spend hopefully no more than say 15 minutes per day learning hiragana (already memorized), katakana and begin studying kanji.

I hope to work fairly intensely at French during Year 1, and in each of Years 2 through 20 to spend perhaps 30 minutes per day on maintenance activities for languages previously learned.

I undertake to post weekly progress reports, just to keep myself honest and motivated, at least to the point where I lose interest entirely in this highly unrealistic project. My best guess is that I do not last a month.

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ExtraLean
Triglot
Senior Member
France
languagelearners.myf
Joined 4391 days ago

897 posts - 880 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish
Studies: German

 
 Message 2 of 138
12 August 2008 at 3:49am | IP Logged 
Dear Spanky,

'My best guess is that I do not last a month.'

Well then, I will just prod you along. French comes along easy enough, if you put the effort in. And really, a month is a rather short period of time, I have been living in Paris for four of them, and they have absolutely flown by. Also, HOW CAN YOU LOSE INTEREST IN LANGUAGES? If French gets on your nerves, try something else, but never give in. Never, ever, ever.

I have come to believe that while it is great to have a massive, impressive, and seemingly unattainable long term goal. It is also rather helpful to set smaller attainable goals. Having that little bit of regular joy that is associated with winning is a good motivator.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask me, or the forum, as there are many more proficient french students, speakers, and linguists than I who are here, and there is heaps of information around too.

I hope to see many more posts from you, FRANGLOPHONES FORWARD.

Thom.
1 person has voted this message useful



Spanky
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4353 days ago

1020 posts - 1714 votes 
Studies: French

 
 Message 3 of 138
12 August 2008 at 11:46am | IP Logged 
Thanks ExtraLean, much appreciated.

I am mostly poking fun at my own lazy self in some of my comments. It is my way of trying to motivate myself. I completely agree with your comments about the value of smaller attainable goals. Currently, I am taking the approach of setting and hopefully meeting mini-goals of completing a particular resource (Michel Thomas, FSI Phonology currently), with no particular time deadline, and then setting subsequent projects. As I historically begin very many more projects than I actually complete, I expect I will be well-pleased with myself if I get through whatever smaller projects I may set from time to time.

A medium term goal is to zoom out to Quebec or New Brunswick early next spring and to be able to order a coffee, ask directions AND understand the responses.   In the past, my pronunciation of pre-arranged sentences was appparently good enough that I would get a response in French rather than English, but my aural understanding was poor enough to invariably trigger me into what my wife calls a jaw-dropping blank look of incomprehension and panic. It would be very cool to lose that.




Edited by Spanky on 12 August 2008 at 1:59pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Spanky
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4353 days ago

1020 posts - 1714 votes 
Studies: French

 
 Message 4 of 138
18 August 2008 at 12:39am | IP Logged 
Progress Report #1 – August 17, 2008

French

I spent far too much time this week poking around on this extremely interesting and addictive site. Also, I spent a fair bit of time getting my learning materials ready – files loaded onto my mp3 player, figuring out which online dictionary I will be using, tracking down French language materials I had collected in the past, figuring out how to access a French keyboard on my computer, etc.

Accordingly, while already 2% into my French language acquisition year, I have not made 2% progress toward my goal. Will work harder next week.

I worked through Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the FSI Phonology course (http://www.fsi-language-courses.com/French.aspx). I have been working extremely slowly and repetitively, as I am keen on getting my pronunciation as good as possible. My mp3 player has a microphone record feature, which I am using to record my speaking of the various dialogues and key sentences in the materials for comparison to the recorded material. I do not mind the repetitive nature and slow pace of these materials as speaking and listening skills are my weakest and accordingly I would like to work the hardest at these.

I figure that currently, on a scale of 1 to 10, my reading comprehension is about a 4 or 5, my writing ability is perhaps a 3, my speaking is possibly a 2 and my aural listening comprehension is likely only a 1, so lots of room for improvement.

I worked through discs 1, 2 and most of 3 of Michel Thomas Speak French for Beginners (10 disc set).   I have moved more slowly and repetitively than was probably necessary (particularly as little of the content was actually new for me), in an attempt to really internalize the early lessons.   

I also learned and practiced proper pronunciation of the French alphabet. I spent lots of time spelling out loud in French new words as I came across them – helping to internalize French pronunciation of the alphabet and helping as well drive the new vocabulary into memory.

Also, while I learned French numerals many years ago and can readily write or say aloud any numeral in French (putting aside what I understand may be Swiss and Belgian variants concerning seventy, eighty and ninety), my capacity to follow a French speaker orally in listing numbers (like phone numbers or similar) is very weak.   Found a link to aural comprehension practice - http://french.about.com/library/begin/bl-numbers.htm
which I find quite hard to do as soon as the speed or the numbers of numbers increases. Will keep working at that until an appropriate comfort level is reached.

I have also started, in a separate thread, a translation project, working through some brief texts that are a little above my pay grade in terms of difficulty at present and involve a fair bit of use of a dictionary and a verb primer, and then working through corrections that may be provided. My goal is to be able to accurately translate short blurbs pretty much on sight without resort to reference materials within about a year.

Background French media listening: not as much as I had hoped – some days none at all. Watched the Olympics in French for a total of only about 6 hours over the past week.   Followed Canada’s medal count in French as a way to practice my numbers (up until yesterday, this meant a lot of practice of “zéro” regrettably – oh well, we will kick some serious butt during the 2010 Winter Olympics).

Japanese

Only spent about 15 minutes this week reviewing hiragana characters – long enough to recognize that characters that I thought had been memorized have proven elusive.   

Will spend 15 minutes/day next week reviewing hiragana characters (I have flash cards that I made up previously) and will continue with hiragana until I have the syllabary comfortably memorized, before moving on to learn the katakana.


Edited by Spanky on 18 August 2008 at 12:43am

1 person has voted this message useful



Spanky
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4353 days ago

1020 posts - 1714 votes 
Studies: French

 
 Message 5 of 138
24 August 2008 at 10:09pm | IP Logged 
Progress Report #2 - August 24, 2008

French

Worked through FSI Phonology chapters 4 and 5 only, listening and working through each chapter twice.

Worked slowly through the balance of disc 3 and all of discs 4, 5 and 6 of Michel Thomas. Hope to finish this course this coming week, then onto to FSI Basic.

Continued practising alphabetic spelling of random French words - think I have that down pretty solid now.   Still practising, and still struggling with, aural comprehension of French numbers when spoken fast or when there are a lot of numbers (prices and telephone numbers).

Also have started with some of my daughter's old very basic (Grade 1 or 2) readers: I am following the adventures of JoJo Lapin, a bunny who appears to have gotten himself in some sort of race (JoJo Lapin et le grand concours), and who may or may not get eaten by a wolf in JoJo Lapin a des problèmes (I am indifferent really as to whether this happens or not). Hope to move onto more advanced stuff in the near future, and I can see by the cover of a couple of grade 2 books waiting for me that I will be following the exploits of a rat or something similar as soon as I am finished with JoJo, but after that I may soon have a ghost or monster story en francais. Le Petit Prince is not terribly far off in terms of my reading list, but I am looking for audio to go with it however before starting it.

Japanese

Working with home-made hiragana flashcards - actual index cards, not computer based, so that I can practice with the cards during various stolen moments during the day, such as while in the elevator, bus or at lunch, as I have heard suggested by others. Very approximately, I have about a 60% immediate character recognition rate (both hiragana to English and English to hiragana), with about an 85% delayed character recognition rate.

Am also memorizing words written in hiragana, mostly to reinforce memorization of hiragana characters, but with the beneficial additional effect of pre-learning some vocabulary (though not the kanji form yet) before I start actually studying Japanese next year.   Will try to memorize three to five words each day, focussing on a new letter each day in sequence through the syllabary, starting with "a"


Edited by Spanky on 24 August 2008 at 11:26pm

1 person has voted this message useful



zenmonkey
Bilingual Tetraglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4949 days ago

803 posts - 1119 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: EnglishC2*, Spanish*, French, German
Studies: Italian, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 6 of 138
25 August 2008 at 12:55am | IP Logged 
Spanky,

I started with FSI German and found it out of date and moved to Michel Thomas and found that ok, once completed, I then discovered both Asimil and Pimsleur, which I find much better programs.

If you find FSI not effective or too "old" don't give up, you'll find a program to suit you.

Best of luck!

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Spanky
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4353 days ago

1020 posts - 1714 votes 
Studies: French

 
 Message 7 of 138
25 August 2008 at 9:44am | IP Logged 
zenmonkey,

thanks for the tip and the well wishes. I had heard of Pimsleur previously, and had not heard of Assimil until stumbling across this site, but I have not yet used either program.   I expect I will use both at some point, perhaps for some other language, but for French I have access to sufficient other learning materials at this point.   I have not yet started the FSI French Basic course, only the Phonology course, and while it is mind-numbingly repetitive, I don't mind so much so far.


Edited by Spanky on 25 August 2008 at 9:46am

1 person has voted this message useful



Spanky
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4353 days ago

1020 posts - 1714 votes 
Studies: French

 
 Message 8 of 138
01 September 2008 at 1:57am | IP Logged 
Progress Report #3 - August 31, 2008

General

I have decided to use the end of May of each year as my new language change-over point.   This will work better for me for personal reasons. As I started this project on August 10th of this year, that will result in my having only 42 weeks instead of 52 weeks for learning French, but this is supportable given my previous exposure to French in school many years ago and periodic short-lived attempts since then to learn French on my own.    

French (français)

Work obligations and family end-of-summer stuff limited my available time for study, so little actual studying this week, though my motivation is if anything increasing. Will work harder next week.   Finished Michel Thomas CDs (discs 7 through 10). Worked a bit at FSI Phonology - still having problems getting my French “r”s right. Finished reading JoJo Lapin et la grand concours - my daughter corrected my very awful pronunciation on some of the tougher words.     Came across an audio recording of Le petit prince, and accordingly I will be turning to that directly rather than finding out who between JoJo Lapin and les loups has the greater problèmes in the other reader that I was planning to read.

Japanese (nihongo)

Have the hiragana down pretty well now, still continuing with memorizing words written out in hiragana, just to keep in practice and for pre-learning some vocabulary.   Will start learning katakana tomorrow - as I did with the hiragana, I will work on these slowly as I am looking not just for character recognition but also to be able to recreate by hand (rather than on the computer) a passable character.


Edited by Spanky on 01 September 2008 at 2:02am



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