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United States
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2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 1177 of 1317
11 February 2015 at 5:50pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for your encouragement, everybody! I'm still fighting to clear my Spanish and Egyptian backlog. More on this later.

Zola's Germinal is pretty interesting, but my lexical coverage is lower than usual—too much specialized industrial and mining technology from 19th century France, and it's written in an elevated literary style. But it's an interesting book, especially thanks to a detailed introduction in my edition explaining the historical context and Zola's goals. I don't know whether I will finish it soon—it's a thick book and heavy going. Maybe I'll find a Kindle version so I can use the popup dictionary. (Actually, one of Krashen's studies makes a strong case that looking up words massively speeds vocabulary acquisition, especially if you can do so efficiently.)

Last night, I made it back to my favorite "advanced French Meetup". Around the table were two French teachers, two women visiting from Quebec, and a few people in the A2–high B1 range who were a bit challenging to include in the conversation. Oh, and somebody minoring in French at his university.

As a general rule, I can easily keep up with the non-native French teachers I meet, though I make more minor errors than they do. With natives, I can mostly do OK—when I'm warmed up, I can discuss standard B1 topics (daily life, travel, etc.) quite comfortably and naturally. But if the conversation turns to books, or politics, or other subjects I don't discuss every day, I have to work a bit harder and rely on sneaky workarounds.

At this point, it's less a matter of learning more French, and a more a matter of activating what I have, or even keeping it activated. Several months of studying French more intensely, followed by a month of light use, would probably do me less good than a week of socializing full time in French, followed by no break. Does that make any sense? Maybe someday I'll be able to explain it better.

Anyway, my French is clearly still improving from year to year—the French teachers at this Meetup used to be noticeably better than me, but these days, I keep up without problems. Weirdly, I don't feel any different. I still have uneven results with professional conversations, with saying interesting things about books, and so on.

So while I enjoy finding interesting things to do with my French, I'm not currently interested in investing a huge amount of effort into improving my French. I don't need to be better unless I spend a lot of time fully immersed, doing complicated stuff, and if that happens, I would expect to get better pretty rapidly.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
rdearman.orgRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3923 days ago

881 posts - 1812 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Italian, French, Mandarin

 Message 1178 of 1317
11 February 2015 at 8:48pm | IP Logged 
Welcome back! We missed you.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3220 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 1179 of 1317
05 May 2015 at 7:05pm | IP Logged 
I'm still missing you! I hope everything is OK.
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Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 3949 days ago

2224 posts - 6708 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 Message 1180 of 1317
05 May 2015 at 11:43pm | IP Logged 
Emk, you have been greatly missed. Hope you'll come back soon.

Edited by iguanamon on 06 May 2015 at 1:09am

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Winner TAC 2010 & 2012
Senior Member
United States
teango.wordpress.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4243 days ago

2210 posts - 3734 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Russian
Studies: Hawaiian, French, Toki Pona

 Message 1181 of 1317
06 May 2015 at 12:26am | IP Logged 
Missing your posts too, emk! I hope you're well, and that those work projects aren't eating up too much of your time.

On a slightly irreverent side note, I wonder if "knock, knock" jokes would hold much appeal for Ancient Egyptians? ;)
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United States
Joined 4219 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 Message 1182 of 1317
31 May 2015 at 12:57am | IP Logged 
I'm still alive! I've just been very busy helping out at a startup.

My French is still doing fine, but I had to put my Spanish aside for a while. Since I was still under 100 hours when I put it down, it will be interesting to see how much I retain. But I found out today that I can still follow most of the Spanish expressions in Handy Manny, a kids show from Disney where most of the characters code switch into Spanish. So maybe those subs2srs earworms stick better than most sub-A1 skills?

(And if you have any aspiring 5-year-old polyglots at home, try Handy Manny. They say simple things like greetings in Spanish, and they say many other useful expressions in both languages. It's not going to get kids anywhere near fluency, but it may teach them a lot of useful phrases, and it models heritage bilingualism pretty well.)

Egyptian is getting dusty while I'm doing startup stuff, but my card intervals are all out at 1+ years at this point, so I can maintain it.

French continues to go well, of course. I actually had a number of long, technical conversations with a programmer from France. This was enormously heartening—I can more-or-less do the technical half of my job in French, and I'm certain that I could fill in any remaining vocabulary holes quickly. However, I doubt that I'm ready to apply my consulting skills in French. That involves a lot of communication and some persuasion, and it's something that took me a while to become comfortable with even in English. Still, I'm pretty confident that I could actually work professionally in France at this point with only a short ramp-up, while I learned all those little expressions like "testes unitaires" and "testes d'acceptation" and "programmation en binôme." Technical jargon can get pretty dense.

Which brings me to another observation, one which seems even truer to me today than it did three years ago: Language is fundamentally about emulating other people. There are people who claim that "You are the average of your 5 closest friends". I don't know if this is true in general, but I would be comfortable saying, "Linguistically, you are the average of the 5 people you talk to the most often." I think the reason that immersion methods like AJATT work so well up through B2 or so is that they provide artificial role models.

Once you understand a bit of a language, and you're surrounded by peers who speak it, you'll get better quickly. But at the same time, it would be extremely hard for me to learn the finer details of technical French unless I was surrounded by people who used it constantly.
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 2694 days ago

291 posts - 444 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: French

 Message 1183 of 1317
31 May 2015 at 1:32am | IP Logged 
emk -

You have been missed. I am very glad to see you posting again on the forum and to know all is well with you.
Welcome back!
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
CanadaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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979 posts - 1686 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Dutch, French, Esperanto, German, Spanish

 Message 1184 of 1317
31 May 2015 at 5:38am | IP Logged 
emk! Great to have you back, alive and obviously well! This place definitely wasn't the same
without you. Now we can all relax and be happy again!

1 person has voted this message useful

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