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Tarvos - TAC 2015 Pushkin/Scan

 Language Learning Forum : Language Learning Log Post Reply
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Straya
Diglot
Groupie
Australia
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57 posts - 73 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchA2
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 1329 of 1511
14 January 2015 at 10:52am | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:


I hope you find this post informative and that it inspires future learners of Russian
on team Pushkin.


Without quoting your post again, although it should be due to the quality, your appraisal
is insightful as when i began learning french i knew no-one and have scarely made
inperson french friends.

Good luck with all your studies
1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2812 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1330 of 1511
14 January 2015 at 11:14am | IP Logged 
@Straya: thanks for the commentary!

That's one thing I want to demonstrate with this log; both input and output have their
upsides, and it's never either/or. The only time you have to choose is in concrete
situations to solve concrete problems, but eventually you can't get around either.

French would also be a good language for me to do a retrospective on, actually. It's the
only other language in which I have loads of experience and tons of formal education
behind me (~5 years + private tutoring)

Edited by tarvos on 14 January 2015 at 11:14am

1 person has voted this message useful



Straya
Diglot
Groupie
Australia
Joined 1722 days ago

57 posts - 73 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchA2
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 1331 of 1511
14 January 2015 at 11:22am | IP Logged 
I very much hope you do, I will be early waiting for it
1 person has voted this message useful



garyb
Triglot
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ScotlandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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1468 posts - 2411 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 1332 of 1511
14 January 2015 at 11:35am | IP Logged 
I enjoyed your Russian account, it seems like you're doing things in a very sensible and practical way and it's nice to see that the approach worked for a language that is a much more difficult beast than the ones I'm studying.

I agree with the point about speaking earlier rather than later: going out and trying to speak is the best motivation! I'd also add that conversation can very quickly reveal your weaknesses and make it clear what you need to focus on. You might suddenly become aware that your listening needs work, or that people struggle to understand your pronunciation, or that you lack vocabulary for a topic that comes up frequently. You can't really replicate that sort of feedback loop just from study.
1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2812 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1333 of 1511
14 January 2015 at 8:04pm | IP Logged 
You can design a car, but you won't know if it drives properly until you test it on a
proper road under regular and irregular traffic conditions.
2 persons have voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2812 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1334 of 1511
17 January 2015 at 9:49am | IP Logged 
Ett hjärta mitt i vattnen

Some short poetry based on the Millenium film, in Swedish.

Edited by tarvos on 18 January 2015 at 2:59pm

1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2812 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1335 of 1511
18 January 2015 at 3:52pm | IP Logged 
A French Retrospective and Open Letter To All Those People at Advanced Stages
How motivation affects language learning

Considering I wrote a retrospective about Russian earlier, I'll do one for the other
language I've majorly struggled with in the past and that's French. (I could write a
similar article about English but it's much less interesting given my developmental
curve in English is almost equal to that of a native speaker, so I encountered many
problems that were not related to my grammatical or vocabulary knowledge but simply to
my personality, and considering I was a world apart from most students I don't think
my case would be very representative). Any other languages I've always found easy to
learn (Swedish, Romanian) or simply play minor roles in my life (German). Other
languages I don't speak fluently, so the problems I've come across are mostly related
to beginner or intermediate stages, and those are more commonly discussed elsewhere -
I want to provide an insight into how you can achieve a high and functioning level in
a language, but still feel that you are moderately incompetent or have problems.

So why is French interesting in my case? There are several reasons, actually:

1. French is a language I came in contact with much earlier in my life than any of the
languages I have studied lately. Therefore its development curve is hugely different
and affected by more general factors (the Dutch educational system, for example).
2. When I studied French I never intended to be a polyglot - I actually only revived
my French because there was an active need for it in my personal life, and I was
studying engineering at the time. So in this case, I am much more comparable to other
human beings - it's not fun reciting stories of how I studied Chinese because everyone
will say "but you speak x languages already, so it's not fair!". It's true, it's not
fair. French is a very fair comparison because I started much more at par with
everybody else around me (though not entirely - I had a leg up because of having a
serious English level already).
3. French is a case where motivation, other factors than linguistics and social
environments play a much bigger role in explaining my success. Most of this
retrospective simply does not deal with grammar at all because grammar was never the
hardest part. What you can learn from this retrospective is understand how your
environment influences your motivation.
4. It shows that years of work don't count - the things you do consciously to improve
your language skills do. I have years of formal education behind in me in French, I've
attended AF classes and I've been a good student at school. Despite all of that I
failed at speaking French when I had to.

Modest and Humble Beginnings

My French journey starts in my early childhood. I'm Dutch, but as I've mentioned I did
not spend my entire childhood in the Netherlands. Instead, 3,5 years were spent in
Canada, and this is where I also started English (because I lived in Calgary).
However, I learned my first words of French as a small child, I learned to count, I
learned the colours, and nursery rhymes in French. I remembered them for a long time
afterwards. Despite that, of course, I did not speak French. Later, my parents used to
take us (me and my brother) camping in France often and once I was a bit older (8 or 9
or so) my dad instructed me to go to the local bakery to buy bread. He taught me the
words I had to say and I would have to buy the correct items (my parents learned
French at school and knew this basic stuff). I did this, but when I had to play with
other people in French, I never managed. My French was basically non-existent apart
from these words until age 11 in my first year of high school.

The Dutch Educational System Failure of the 2000s

The Dutch have a very contradictory approach to language learning. On the one hand,
the population is bombarded with it from an early age and children from the ages of
12-15 are routinely instructed in three or four languages (the latter variant is the
most common). Not all languages are always continued. I entered high school a year
early, so for me personally, I was 11 when French was a required subject. I
immediately was really good at French classes (I almost always got high/perfect
scores) and it was also noticeable for everyone else. I loved French and absorbed it
like a sponge. It was classical education, but I quickly worked through my French,
learned the verb tenses fast, and learned a lot of vocabulary. Basically my French was
never a problem at school, but there was one issue: we never did any speaking. I could
read a fair amount of French, but my production and listening skills were incredibly
weak because that was never a focus.

This was compounded by the fact that when I was at school, people didn't have the
option of choosing either German or French in order to graduate, but you had to take
reading comprehension classes in both (and you only chose either if you were taking a
language-based curriculum - I had opted for sciences). After four years of French, I
was capable of reading a fair amount but I didn't speak much (although I could make
basic things understood and everyone deferred to me because of laziness). However my
active skills were weak and this is what came to break me later. Keep in mind that I
could conjugate every single tense except for the subjunctive, recognise a passé
simple, and so on. My theoretical background in French exceeded most people's except
those who studied French seriously at school (few). But I couldn't speak. I couldn't
speak or understand French people. And when I stopped doing French to focus on
sciences every active skill I ever had went down the drain. I only spoke French once
or twice between my 14th and 19th year, a broken conversation in an aeroplane. The
people were chuffed I spoke my old rusty French on a plane from Italy, but I was
horrible at it. But I did my best.

And then. Blank.

The Expat Bubble

When I was 19 I started dating a girl who lived in Brussels and spent most of her days
in the francophone community of Brussels as well as the English-speaking expat bubble
(she was a polyglot by upbringing). We always spoke English together, but I often
ended up in situations where I had to speak French and could not deal with the
situation. I attended galas where I would need my ex to be present to translate
(because I didn't speak enough French). I got lost in conversations. I attended a
Jewish dinner where everyone spoke French around me and I was entirely lost. I got
caught sleeping in a dormitory, got chewed out in French and didn't understand a word
of what the man was saying. For two years, I did my best - I managed in shops with the
basic rusty French I had, but that was it. I didn't improve. My friends there spoke
English. I was frustrated. I had tried to get my girlfriend to speak French with me
but she refused (even though I once wrote a romantic letter in my most terrible
French). I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it. So many things used to happen, and I
would miss out because of the language barrier.

Then, after two years of struggle, I got an internship position in Brussels (Flemish
on the job), but my housing situation was with French people. And that's when
everything changed.

Why Speaking is Important if you are an Expat

I will never tire of repeating this: speaking is important. And not because it's a
holy grail, but because if you don't understand and you never practice listening to
actual human beings, your social network gets killed. This is less important if you're
living in your own country, but I was not! I was travelling! Expats or people who
leave for greener pastures abroad have a very different set of problems, and for them
the language barrier is something else. And if this doesn't matter to you because you
read and sit in a dusty attic with your books, this paragraph is not for you. This is
the thing that I realised on my own (before the Irish polyglot came along and
popularised the idea outside of my social circle).

I had to speak. On my first meeting with my French flatmates, I asked them to only
speak French to me (not that they had much English). The first time I met them my ex
translated. Such happened. I only spent two months in Brussels, but after three weeks,
my French was a lot more confident and fluent! Everything came flooding back to me.
I'd struggled all this time and suddenly everything was working out. I was making
friends. And then terror struck - after a two-year relationship my ex broke up with
me. And I was now alone in a foreign country with no social safety net. Try explaining
that in French! The most gruelling conversation I've ever had in French. But I
managed. I managed to survive a leaky bathroom. I managed on my own in French and
finally I could speak more French. And all it had taken was a change of scenery. And
one resolution to open my mouth and speak French.

This for me was a revelation. I spoke French now, and even though I was terrible at
it, I was communicating with other human beings in a language I had never properly had
to communicate in. Victory was mine.

The Polishing: why accuracy matters

I left Brussels, completely disillusioned. Dreams quashed I went home and back to the
Netherlands. I started learning Russian almost as a retaliation. "If I can do French,
I can do it in another language". But after a year I decided that enough was enough.
And I went back to my good old friend French, which I wanted to polish up and speak
properly. And I enrolled at the AF, and when I took the placement test... it was
terrible. I spoke well but my grammar was horrible, so I had to start at B1. It was a
nightmare all over again. I did written exercises and everything would come back with
red pen! "I'm still shit", I thought, even though I did well on active participation
and got good grades. So I did all of the homework, practiced on my own, and read. My
speaking had got me thus far, and it was noticeable (I was much more comfortable
socially speaking French, for example). But I was not accurate. I was lazy about my
grammar. And AF teachers punish you for being lazy.

After 8 months my French had hugely improved on these matters too. I was now a
confident speaker. I could handle most things; novels; newspapers; listening; social
conversation; I took a monolingual trip to Britanny (which I should have done
differently - I should have stayed in a hostel, not a hotel. Or gone Couchsurfing).
But I was comfortable and I could navigate, so I passed that test at least.

And then I wanted to take it a step further and enlisted the help of a great tutor,
whom I've spent about 20-30 hours with tutoring me. I've had to do insanely
complicated exercises. I had to take an English article about ponytail hairs with
extremely detailed equations and explain it in common French. I rewrote Molière in
modern speech. I had to recite, word-for-word, slang dialogues from French movies and
discussion programmes with Swiss French accents and even foreign ones (with grammar I
recognised as being German). But still, I'm not accurate enough. I still have to pay
attention to grammar, to gender agreements, and le/la. I can understand 99% of what
you throw at me in French, at the polyglot gathering in Berlin I had to give an
impromptu speech for five minutes in French even and pulled it off.

But French is French. And what I've noticed is that my social involvement with the
Francophonie is minimal and that I really have to put effort into socially networking
in French for my French to improve and get the last bits of cultural information that
will push my French to the next level.

The Aftermath

This is my open letter to you: I'm a good French speaker. I can be very proud of my
level, I can be creative, and I am expected to function very well. (My teacher expects
me to deal with complex material routinely, or at least did so - I haven't done
tutoring recently). I've struggled, but I've improved my listening comprehension. I
need to improve and I need to start doing mock exams at very high levels to improve my
French. But my motivation for that doesn't exist, because my French social network is
minimal at this point in time.

If you have a problem, then you need to solve it. I've tried, but my social interest
in French isn't working right now and it's that which I need to revive. Maybe it's a
bad experience. Maybe I need to see Wallonia from the other side. Maybe I need to
spend 3 months in Quebec learning Quebecois. Or Swiss French, or even African French.
The point is, I'm stuck at a point where I can walk, and I can run pretty well. I'm a
good athlete in French, but I'm not a top runner. I know how it works, I know how to
get decent results, even good ones, but not excellent ones. And I know that to do that
I need another approach.

This is my open request to HTLAL to offer me advice in this area.

I hope you found this post informative!
8 persons have voted this message useful



yuhakko
Tetraglot
Senior Member
FranceRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2737 days ago

414 posts - 582 votes 
Speaks: French*, EnglishB2, EnglishC2, Spanish, Japanese
Studies: Korean, Norwegian, Mandarin

 
 Message 1336 of 1511
18 January 2015 at 10:58pm | IP Logged 
Another inspiring post Tarvos!

I don't know if I'll be of any "real" help, but here are my two cents on the topic.
I've read your French texts (all impressive btw) and to the French eye, most of the errors you are currently doing may seem like typos or masculine/feminine
form mistakes (the latter being more frequent).
For instance, in your text about Charlie Hebdo you said "des autres choses..." while it should have been "d'autres", or said "la dimanche" while it should
have been "le dimanche".
To be honest, your French writing is much better than quite a few French people I know. But as you said yourself, there's always room for improvement.

In any case, in my opinion, the most practical solution would probably be reading a lot. I understand that you've already done a lot, but that's probably the
best for the gender errors. (I guess you're already aware of small hints that can give you the gender like most words ending with "~lle" are feminine and
such).

The important thing now is to care about details. If you wish, I could point out the mistakes in your article and maybe give tips for the errors I could find.
"Learning" other "versions" of French, like Quebecois, Swiss French, etc. will probably not be of much help for your "problem", but if you're interested in
it, I'd say go for it. Just be careful though: don't mix them afterwards, grammar or expressions can be very different with standard French.

Cela dit, ton Français est impressionnant et je rêve d'atteindre un jour ce niveau dans ne serait-ce qu'une seule de mes langues (autre que l'Anglais bien
sûr)!

EDIT: Oh just thought about it, but for the gender mistakes (and also grammar, but it's less useful for that as context is not really taken into account), you
can use
this website.

Edited by yuhakko on 18 January 2015 at 11:01pm



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