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emk
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 Message 289 of 1317
10 November 2012 at 3:57pm | IP Logged 
After two weeks of meh, I had a another flicker of speaking competence this morning. I had more speed and nuance than usual.

Let's see what I did this week:

Monday through Wednesday: Watched 3 or so episodes of Buffy with my wife.
Tuesday: Did a language exchange with an old partner from way back when.
Thursday: Left French cable TV running in the background all day, and actively watched some in the evening, and read 30+ pages of L'Étranger.
Friday: More TV in the background, plus about 25 minutes of French conversation on Verbling.

The big change here is the sudden jump in "background" French, and a couple of short language exchanges (which were pretty short in comparison to all the conversations I have with my wife). The last time I had these flickers of speaking competence, I was listening to lots of movie audio in the background.

The common factor here is lots of background exposure. I guess this is more evidence in support of AJATT-style obsessive listening.



Edited by emk on 10 November 2012 at 9:05pm

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sctroyenne
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 Message 290 of 1317
10 November 2012 at 6:59pm | IP Logged 
Getting TV5 Monde and leaving it running non-stop for a month is what unlocked my spoken
French after a hiatus. I find that getting the exposure plus doing reps is what makes the
big difference in how well I speak.
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emk
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 Message 291 of 1317
10 November 2012 at 10:01pm | IP Logged 
Random things that happen in my brain:

- When speaking French, I frequently have a hard time remembering proper names in English. I have the most trouble with the names of organizations and rarely-seen friends.

- When I was immersed in French this spring, and I went days at a time with very minimal English use, I would actually lose the ability to understand heavily-accented English. It felt as if I could understand that English, but only if I made a deliberate effort, and risked partially deactivating my French.

- Using a French word or proper name in a English sentence will usually result in an involuntary switch to French, unless I've been in a heavily monolingual environment for a while.

- When moving from a monolingual French environment to a monolingual English environment, it may take me as much as 5 to 10 minutes to stop translating from French to English.

- If I write something in French, and translate to English, my English will often sound unnatural. An interesting question: Is this effect stronger or weaker if I translate somebody else's French?

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sctroyenne
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Speaks: English*, French
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 Message 292 of 1317
10 November 2012 at 11:12pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Random things that happen in my brain:

- When speaking French, I frequently have a hard time remembering proper names
in English. I have the most trouble with the names of organizations and rarely-seen
friends.

...

- If I write something in French, and translate to English, my English will often sound
unnatural. An interesting question: Is this effect stronger or weaker if I translate
somebody else's French?


I would have SO much trouble remembering the names of very well-known people. It took
me hours to finally come up with Johnny Depp once. And it was very hard for me to think
of Jacques Chirac and I had to ensure my conversation partner that I indeed knew his
name I was just having a senior moment. Which makes it tough for me to do pop culture
quizzes in French even when the questions are about American pop culture.

And yes, translation/interpretation is really a seperate skill. It's hard to appreciate
just how hard it is to distance yourself from the source text and express what it's
saying how a native would. Especially once you're really used to being around French
people with all their "franglais" tendencies. I found if I made a couple more passes
through a text, though, that I could finally look at the English text itself and say to
myself, "Duh, this is what we'd say here."
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emk
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 Message 293 of 1317
15 November 2012 at 1:47pm | IP Logged 
This past Tuesday evening I attended a French-speaking dinner organized through Meetup.com. Most of the people there were non-native speakers with levels ranging from B2–C2. Many of them had lived or studied in France, had married French speakers, and many taught French.

As usual at such events, my French was completely activated (more so than when I use it at home). I spoke more rapidly and idiomatically than I did during the DELF B2 exam this spring, and I had access to a larger vocabulary. I recall saying things like, "Oui, être travailleur independent, faut avoir un bon baratin publicitaire !" Under normal circumstances, I actually need to work to say something like that, but this Tuesday it was rolling off my tongue with relative ease.

Sadly, this level of fluency is rarely available when I'm speaking to my wife. I spend more of my time trapped near B2, where I can say pretty much anything I want to say, but it often feels like an uphill slog when we get beyond the conversational basics. Frankly, I'm getting rather sick of it, and I want more nuance and speed.

Still, there's hope. When I'm "on", when I'm feeling a bit manic and extroverted, then the skills I desire are all there. But it's proving obnoxiously difficult to break though to that level of speech on a day-to-day basis.

As for listening comprehension, I occasionally manage to push up to 90% on Buffy, but as soon as a I spend a few days away from TV or hit a hard episode, I drop back to 70% or so. Cavesa has suggested that I try to make it through an entire season of television in under two weeks, in blocks of 5-6 episodes at a time. Could it really be so easy to upgrade my listening skills?
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Swift
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Ireland
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 Message 294 of 1317
15 November 2012 at 7:55pm | IP Logged 
I'm not in much of a position to talk because I'm at a B2 level also, but I think being
annoyed that you haven't 'advanced' yet is possibly detrimental to your learning. Each
level on the European languages thingy takes more time than the last, and B2 to C1 must
be very long considering it is the second to last rung on the ladder. So it's harder to
notice the progress you make.

You probably know all that but I think that just learning and keeping at it and enjoying
it without thinking about where you are is the best way to go. It might feel like you're
not getting very far with all the work you're doing, but if you keep at a language every
day improving is only a matter of time! I think worrying about advancing at a higher
level can be just as bad as at a beginner's level, and I say that from experience.
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emk
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 Message 295 of 1317
16 November 2012 at 3:34am | IP Logged 
Swift wrote:
You probably know all that but I think that just learning and keeping at it and enjoying it without thinking about where you are is the best way to go.


This is, of course, an excellent point.

My occasional frustrations are driven by the fact that I use my French heavily for stuff that really matters to me. For the last 9 months, the vast majority of my adult interaction outside of work has been in French. This has helped me to make fairly rapid progress. But it comes at a price: I can't always say what I want to say, or if I can, it's not always worth the effort.

So it's not my progress which frustrates me, but my social limitations. It's not enough to be able to express myself; I want to do so more easily and more naturally. And I can do that, but only sporadically at the moment.

Of course, there's lots of great moments. French is a ton of fun. But I try to record both the frustrations and the triumphs here, in hopes of encouraging somebody else who's facing the same challenges.
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sctroyenne
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Speaks: English*, French
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 Message 296 of 1317
16 November 2012 at 7:34am | IP Logged 
At this level it's important to define specifically what your language goals are
because they may not coincide with what they look for on the DALF C1 and C2 tests.
Since C1, especially, is used to qualify people for university admission, jobs, and
immigration (or at least give maximum points for language proficiency for immigration)
they're obviously focused on very "official" language. If your goal is to pass those
tests then you should be focusing a lot on news, academic texts, literature, and the
sort of content on Canal Académie.

But at C1/C2 you may be more interested in just being able to speak like a native
speaker and watch their television without missing anything. There's some overlap
between that and satisfying the what is laid out in the framework for the exams but
this "personal" C1/C2 level requires a lot more focus on lower-register language. Every
once in a while I feel torn in my study - do I want to focus on slang, idioms, and
informal grammar to be more conversational or do I want to focus on my writing,
mastering the tougher aspects of grammar and connectors and all the "journalist"
idioms?

B2 to C1 will for the most part simply take time and you won't realize that you're
moving through the levels. The fact that you have TV now is great - stepping up your
listening comprehension game and varying it will go a long way. From news to series to
kids programs to reality shows it's the best option to expand your general
comprehension.

Educational materials such as vocabulary and grammar books can help - sometimes I learn
something from them and then I'll re-watch something and think, "How did I miss that?"
They won't do the job for you, of course, but they can give a boost.

And something I've been trying - try switching over to English for a bit and thinking
of what you think to yourself, say, write, etc so you can start to identify what's
missing in your French. Try translating some Buffy episodes or something from English,
see where it's different and find out why (there are often multiple possible
translations but sometimes some are "more right" than others which a native will
identify for you). Just watching TV can do wonders but I definitely feel like my
progress has halted if I rely too much on it.


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