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Quique
Diglot
Senior Member
Spain
cronopios.net/Registered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2727 days ago

183 posts - 313 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, English
Studies: French, German

 
 Message 361 of 1317
28 December 2012 at 8:54am | IP Logged 
Yey! Nice to see I'm not the only one using bandes dessinées as a learning resource :-)

How does Moi René Tardi, prisonnier de guerre au Stalag IIB compare to Maus?
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3577 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 362 of 1317
28 December 2012 at 5:24pm | IP Logged 
Quique wrote:
How does Moi René Tardi, prisonnier de guerre au Stalag IIB compare to Maus?

It's been about 15 years since I read Maus, so I don't remember much. But I imagine that Stalag IIB was heavily inspired by Maus. They're both tales of World War II camps told as a conversation between father and son. I'd say that Stalag IIB is perhaps more realistic. If you're glad that you read Maus, and you're interested in how World War II affected France, it's definitely worth reading Stalag IIB. It's definitely a bit more difficult to read than Tintin, but it should be accessible to anyone with solid B1 reading skills and a dictionary.

Something from Schoenhof's

I just ordered a copy of Assimil's L'Espagnol from Schoenhof's after-Christmas sale. I have no particular plans to study it any time soon, but for $12, it was hard to pass up. My only real connection to Spanish is that I live in the US, and it might be nice to develop some A2ish passive skills at some point. I get the impression that my prior knowledge of English and French would make Assimil especially effective.

Speaking French over the holidays

I've been speaking a lot of French over the holidays. This has been by turns both frustrating and marvelous. On the frustration side, I've been sick and exhausted, and my French has shut down hard a couple of times. I was stammering and hunting for words. Not fun.

But a couple of days later, after all the anglophones had gone home for the evening, I sat down with my wife and one of her family. We ate a yummy raclette, drank some wine, and had a nice, lazy conversation in French. Nobody had to adjust for my presence, or make a major effort to include me in the conversation.

This is one of the reasons I've learned French. Most of my in-laws speak English. They've made a real effort over the years to include me in conversations, to struggle with English when necessary, and to be welcoming. But I hate to see such one-sided hospitality. Why should they do all the work? It feels, well, polite to assume the linguistic disadvantage and to allow other people to kick back and take it easy sometimes.
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3577 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 363 of 1317
29 December 2012 at 4:52pm | IP Logged 
Of late, I've been trying to figure out why my spoken French keeps giving me headaches. One day, I will be able to speak fast and fluently, and use lots of fun little idioms. A week latter, I'll be stammering and hunting for words. I have some theories about what's going on:

1. My DELF B2 French was something of a well-rehearsed party trick. I could absolutely debate the merits of single-sex schools or congestion tolls in downtown Paris. But at the time, I was discussing several such topics per week. I had an excellent grasp on what vocabulary I could trust. I knew how to work around my linguistic limitations, mostly by supporting my arguments with anecdotes from everyday life. But these skills depended on an intimate knowledge of what I could and couldn't do in French, and my French was always fully activated when I needed to use them.

2. My passive (and semi-active) French has gotten much bigger since. I've been reading hundreds of pages of French per month, and watching tons of television. I've learned all kinds of idioms and vocabulary. Using the CEFRL self-assessment checklist, I would judge that my reading is now C1 (or close to it), and that my listening is finally a solid B2 (and not the really iffy B2 it was when I took the DELF exam). When I speak, much of this new knowledge is partially available to me, but it isn't completely active and rehearsed. So it's easy for me to misjudge whether I can remember some idiom fast enough to complete a sentence. And so I stammer and pause.

3. I've been spending a lot of time sick and exhausted lately. This is one of the consequences of parenting small children. As they start to interact more and more with their peers, they tend to catch various illnesses. My wife an I appear to have gone through 3 bad colds in the last month. Constant headaches, hacking coughs, the whole lot. We're constantly exhausted. Other parents tell me things will get better soon.

4. Parenting and intellectual conversations are a tough combination. My parenting French is pretty much battle-tested at this point. 2am? Sick? No problem. But there's not much chance to talk about other things while the kids are awake, and once the kids are in bed, we just want to collapse. So if anything, my ability to discuss the news has gone downhill a bit since the DELF. My raw French may be a lot better, but neither my wife nor I want to spend 3 evenings a week discussing the news.

5. My goals are a whole lot more ambitious. I know a Francophone who uses roughly C1 English at work. 9 months ago, I would have said she was a lot more at ease in English than I was in French. But when I look at my goals for French conversation today, they're at a whole different level—I want to speak quickly and idiomatically, even when it's difficult to slip a word in edgewise. I want to be able to explain what was good and what was bad about The Hobbit with quite a bit of nuance. I want to hold my own without relying on the patience and help of others.

So what happens if I get enough sleep, immerse myself in French for a day or two, and otherwise try to stack the deck in my favor? Things can go gloriously well. But if the deck is stacked against me on a given day, things can be pretty frustrating.

If I were younger and had no responsibilities, I'd take my DELF B2 certificate in hand and go apply to an easy university program in France. I would love regular interaction with a community of French speakers, and the obligation to write and say intelligent things in French. I would love to shut my English down for days at a time. But I'm taking another road, one with less focus but with some tremendous benefits of its own.

And I think, in the short term, if I want my speaking skills to even out, that I'll actually need to focus on activating a lot of C1-level passive vocabulary. I can't bear to endlessly recycle all the things I used on my B2 exam, or my day-to-day parenting French. But that means taking those things that I can currently do on my best days, and turning them into the new baseline. Now, to find the time…
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tastyonions
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
goo.gl/UIdChYRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2710 days ago

1044 posts - 1823 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish
Studies: Italian

 
 Message 364 of 1317
29 December 2012 at 6:14pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for that checklist link! It's a lot more thorough than the descriptions I have found on websites and stuff.
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Kerrie
Senior Member
United States
justpaste.it/Kerrie2
Joined 3440 days ago

1232 posts - 1740 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 365 of 1317
29 December 2012 at 10:23pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
3. I've been spending a lot of time sick and exhausted lately.


I totally feel your pain. I hope everyone feels better soon. At your house and at mine. :)

Edited by Kerrie on 29 December 2012 at 10:24pm

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geoffw
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
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1134 posts - 1865 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Yiddish
Studies: Modern Hebrew, French, Dutch, Italian, Russian

 
 Message 366 of 1317
29 December 2012 at 11:34pm | IP Logged 
As a further update, it looks like the site
here lets you "borrow" the BDs for 10
days for even less (2 Euros for Aldebaran vol. 1, e.g.)
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sfuqua
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
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581 posts - 977 votes 
Speaks: English*, Hawaiian, Tagalog
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 Message 367 of 1317
29 December 2012 at 11:38pm | IP Logged 
emk, your description of your B2 test as a "party trick" reminds me of the FSI 4 I got after 2 years in Samoa. I "gamed" the test every way I could, I pushed the test in directions I wanted to go; I distracted the tester when I was hitting a rough patch. After 6 years in Samoa, when I had scored 4+, when I would occasionally fake people out that I was some sort of native speaker, when I had written language textbooks in Samoan, when I had actually *edited* some writing done by native speakers, I still had solid areas of weakness. Drinking beer with the gang after work, when the voices, and my mind would get slurred, I could be completely lost sometimes in a conversation. I often could not get the point of Samoan comedians, and wouldn't even know when to laugh. Song lyrics could miss me completely. In no way was my Samoan as good as the English of many of the Samoans I knew, who had attended university in English.

I think what you describe, where your passive skills have passed up your active skills, probably can happen at any level of second language learning. It is interesting to think that you are having this problem at your advanced level. It is strange to think that learning more can make you feel like you speak less well, but what you say makes perfect sense.
steve
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3577 days ago

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

 
 Message 368 of 1317
30 December 2012 at 1:56am | IP Logged 
tastyonions: Glad to be of help! I like that particular checklist, because it seems to take a certain amount of optimistic self-evaluation into account. :-)

Kerrie: Thank you for the kind thoughts, and also for warning everybody about Schoenhof's mail order system. I'm disappointed that their excellent in-store service falls apart so horribly online, and I'm glad to know that.

geoffw wrote:
As a further update, it looks like the site here lets you "borrow" the BDs for 10 days for even less (2 Euros for Aldebaran vol. 1, e.g.)

Great find! They don't allow you to download the ebooks, but you can read them online with Flash. It looks like it might work in the US, too. As for the downloadable FNAC ebooks that folks mentioned earlier, they appear to restricted to people who live in France. So frustrating!

sfuqua wrote:
I think what you describe, where your passive skills have passed up your active skills, probably can happen at any level of second language learning. It is interesting to think that you are having this problem at your advanced level. It is strange to think that learning more can make you feel like you speak less well, but what you say makes perfect sense.

I really love hearing about your FSI 4 and 4+ in Samoan, and what that meant in the real world. So few people have written about what advanced levels feel like, which means that everyone is sort of blundering around in the dark the first time they learn a language.

Anyway, I have this half-baked theory about memory speed. Let's assume that it normally takes 300 milliseconds to remember the expression en finir avec ___, "get ___ over with". That's too slow to be completely automatic, but fast enough that you could remember it and conjugate it without being too obvious.

But if we take 300ms as our base, we need to adjust it for circumstances:

Quote:
Totally pumped to be speaking French: multiply by 0.5
Pounding headache and no sleep: multiply by 2.5
In a confrontational situation, afraid of offending: multiply by 3
Ditto, but righteously annoyed: multiply by 0.75 instead
Heard somebody else say this today: multiply by 0.75
Spent the last 30 minutes thinking about this subject, in French: multiply by 0.5


…and so on. As you can see, it might take anywhere from 100ms to 1500ms to remember this expression, depending on circumstances. The former lets you speak at near-native speed and think at the same time. The latter is an obvious gap in your speech. Other expressions would have different base times. For example, d'autant moins que might take 5000ms to remember, whereas ça va is retrieved almost instantly.

So to pass an oral exam, you can do two things: (1) arrange to tilt as many of these multiplicative factors in your favor as possible, and (2) build a deep, automatic knowledge of what vocabulary you can access quickly, and what's going to take too long.

But in real life, I don't necessarily control (1). And as I keep learning, I lose track of (2). Now, if I go to a Meetup to speak French, I do control (1), and I can spend the hour drive attempting to shadow MC Solaar rap songs as a warm up. So my Meetup French is often a strong B2. But when all those factors tilt against me, each sentence becomes a trust fall, and I'm hoping that my vocabulary will stick out its hands and catch me before I hit the ground.

The long-term prognosis is fine, in any case. These are undoubtedly just growing pains.

Edited by emk on 30 December 2012 at 2:06am



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