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garyb
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Speaks: English*, Italian, French
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 Message 41 of 1317
23 March 2012 at 11:25am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Wow, sometimes I can speak French, and sometimes I can't. When I'm tired, and I've been
working in English for several hours, I stammer, I hesitate, and I have the syntax and
vocabulary of a young child.

But if I sit down, put on some headphones, and listen to streaming talk radio for half
an hour, a whole new world opens up. I can suddenly string together subclauses and find
the right words with only a little stammering.

Basically, if I don't warm up my spoken French a bit, I lose most of the gains of the
past two months.


This sounds very familiar - I have days where I can barely string a sentence together, and days where I speak almost fluently with little effort. There seem to be a lot of variables involved, but a lot seems to come down to being "warmed up" as you describe it. Listening to a bit of radio or TV certainly helps, especially comedy, as I tend to keep thinking about the jokes afterwards which keeps me thinking in French. Also, simply being surrounded by French makes a big difference - if I'm with a group of people who all speak French then the words come much more easily than when I'm with, say, a group of beginners who keep switching back to English. Of course this isn't ideal as I'd like to be able to just speak the language well without having to "prepare", but I like to think that's improving with practice.
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emk
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 Message 42 of 1317
24 March 2012 at 1:29am | IP Logged 
Recently, I've been speaking slowly and carefully, and I've only been hitting full speed
when warmed up. I think this was caused by writing so much in French, and by trying to
break up a few weird, fossilized patterns that I picked up on my two-year plateau.

This evening, I tried just winging it, and accepting the risk of French word salad or
even Franglais. The speedup was dramatic, and my grammar wasn't horrible.

I wonder if I can keep this up? Maybe it's time to embrace the errors, at least for a
while.
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emk
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 Message 43 of 1317
26 March 2012 at 1:55pm | IP Logged 
Just "winging it" helped a little, but it wasn't any kind of general solution. Still,
I'll remember to try it when my French is feeling cumbersome and unwieldy.

However, I've noticed that my spoken French is much better on the weekends, where I use
it non-stop for large blocks of time. Weekdays are more difficult, because I only get
in 3 or 4 hours of conversation on a good day, and often less.

This weekend, I read a large number of articles from Le Figaro and Cosmopolitan.fr.
I've noticed that I'm still translating certain expressions into English: "dont", "afin
que", "ainsi que", "alors que" and so on. Usually I read the rest of the sentence
directly in French, unless the grammar is especially weird, and I fall back to a mental
translation.

I'm not sure what I should do about these small fragmen bits of translation when I'm
reading. I'd like to internalize all those tricky French connectors. Maybe I should try
a adding a lot of pure-French cloze cards to my Anki deck? How have other people broken
the habit of translating tricky bits and pieces?

And is it my imagination, or are the DELF B1 and B2 exams easier than the equivalent
DELE and German exams?
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geoffw
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Studies: Modern Hebrew, French, Dutch, Italian, Russian

 
 Message 44 of 1317
26 March 2012 at 2:10pm | IP Logged 
I thought I'd read some people here saying they thought the French exams were harder, but I haven't tried to
compare myself.
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emk
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 Message 45 of 1317
26 March 2012 at 2:41pm | IP Logged 
The French DELF exams seem easier to me for several reasons:

1. You need a minimum score of 10% on each section, and 50% overall. Many of the other
national exams appear to require a minimum of 50% on each section. This means you could
have (for example) weak listening skills, and make it up elsewhere.

2. There are only 4 sections: listening, reading, writing, speaking. There's no
separate grammar section.

3. For the DELF B2 exam, you have an hour to write ~250 words. I think that the DELE B2
exam requires something more like 750.

I can't speak for the relative difficulty of the recordings or the texts, and I don't
know anything about how the various exams are graded.
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emk
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 Message 46 of 1317
28 March 2012 at 1:57pm | IP Logged 
I'm spending a huge amount of time on French, every day. I read Le Figaro and
Cosmopolitan.fr. I stream RFI and Europe 1. I speak almost exclusively in French
with my wife. I write ~100 words/day on Lang-8. I use the Larousse dictionary, which is
entirely in French.

Some things are going well this morning: I turned up the volume on RFI, and I
understood quite a lot of the regular news (and not just "français facile") without
playing it more than once, including several rapid-fire correspondents(!). Oddly, I
think I'm better at the news than anything else now, because I enjoy it, and because I
can spend 10 minutes and get a dense little chunk of French.

I think I need to work on movies soon. I've got a copy of OSS 117: Nid
d'espions
, and maybe I should try to watch it with no subtitles and my finger on
the rewind button. This will probably drive my wife nuts. :-/

Another weird thing: I had been speaking a lot of French with my wife this Sunday, and
I temporary lost the ability to understand heavily-accented English. It's almost as if
I needed that part of my brain for French, and I didn't want to switch it over to
handle accents. And I often catch myself thinking in French and translating to English.

Progress is slow and steady. I would love to have a sudden epiphany and understand
almost everything, but it hasn't worked like that for me yet.
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geoffw
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Speaks: English*, German, Yiddish
Studies: Modern Hebrew, French, Dutch, Italian, Russian

 
 Message 47 of 1317
28 March 2012 at 2:07pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
I'm spending a huge amount of time on French, every day. ...

Oddly, I
think I'm better at the news than anything else now, because I enjoy it, and because I
can spend 10 minutes and get a dense little chunk of French.


Awesome. Keep putting the time in, and you'll keep improving, though it might not always be obvious.

I found the same thing with German--I first got really good with the news, because it was so widely available, always new, something to chat about, and written at a reasonably high level, but with a realatively narrow vocabulary compared with even easy literature.
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emk
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 Message 48 of 1317
28 March 2012 at 8:57pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for the encouragement!

I tried listening to the sample audio clips for the DELF B1 and DELF B2 exams this
afternoon. The audio for B1 was easy: I listened once, and I could understand virtually
every word without any particular effort. My goal for June 13th was to pass the B1
exam, so I think I'm in decent shape.

The audio for B2 was definitely harder. If I listened to it twice, reading the
questions in between, then I'd have a decent chance at answering 50% of the questions
correctly. It's not easy, but it's not hugely out of reach, either.

With 76 days left before the exams, and at least 2 hours of study every day, I'm
tempted to try for the B2 exam.



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