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emk
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Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 57 of 1317
10 April 2012 at 2:53am | IP Logged 
Sunja wrote:
To prepare for writing there are a few things that make good writing
topics on exams: l'environnement (préservation), technologie, santé, relations entre
les femmes et les hommes, conditions de l'éducation ou travail, to name a few.


Oh, thank you for the list! I doubt that the B2 exam will be a "cinch" for me, unless I
make a big breakthrough between now and then. But I might have at outside shot at
passing it if I keep studying.

This will be a slow week for French: I have too much work stuff to do, and I need to
finish up my taxes. Today, for example, I only studied a little bit when I woke up, and
I didn't listen to Europe 1 during the day.

When my wife came home this evening, I figured that my French would have cooled off.
But it booted back up in under a minute, and I've had no trouble all evening long.
Happy news.

Anyway, next week I'll have almost four full days of almost continuous immersion, with
multiple native speakers.

Right now, my two strongest areas are home life and current events. On any reasonably
good day, I have no trouble understanding a cooperative native speaker. If I don't know
a key piece of vocabulary, I just ask—and I expect to understand the explanation. Of
course, I'm relying on the native speaker to speak clearly and use a simple vocabulary.
Output is a bit more hit or miss: I can discuss familiar, simple subjects without great
difficulty, but if I have to produce (a) entirely new output on (b) an abstract subject
without (c) enough time precompose each sentence, I can get into serious trouble.

The news and talk shows on Europe 1 and RFI are a different beast: An extremely high-
speed, half-comprehensible firehose of native input. Sometimes it blows right by me;
other times I can follow it for a while before losing the thread. And it always
feels like a physical weight on my head. It's not N+1 input, but it's definitely
helping.

Movies, sadly, are still almost completely opaque, except occasionally when a senior
police officer or government official shows up and speaks in clear, official French.
Apparently B2 requires me to understand "the majority of films in standard dialect." At
least in French, this seems massively harder than understanding current affairs on TV
(one of the other listening requirements).

Anyway, the Engrenages box set arrived tonight. Let's see how long I can watch
before my brain goes into meltdown and hits the SCRAM switch. I watched Les Rivières
Pourpres
last night without subtitles, understood about 5%, and crashed hard after
15 minutes.
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emk
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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 58 of 1317
10 April 2012 at 4:04am | IP Logged 
Oh, wow, Engrenages is good stuff. The audio quality is good, there's tons of
dialog, and seasons 2 and 3 appear to have French subtitles. Most of it is still over
my head, but not impossibly so—I could follow almost 50% of one or two scenes,
especially where the vocabulary overlapped heavily with current events. Other scenes
were harder, of course. If you're anywhere near B2, and you like police procedurals,
check it out.

I think I'll be able to work with this: Rip some subtitles, feed them to LingQ, make
Anki cards for the vocabulary, and watch a couple a couple of episodes over and over.

...

On an unrelated note, I'm working through French: Key words and expressions with
Anki, and I'm hearing expressions from the book at least 5 times per day. Here's my new
favorite card format:

Quote:
Je vais prendre une veste, au cas [...].
Il faut être là, au cas [...] il arriverait ce soir.

Ou « à tout hasard ».

...

Je vais prendre une veste, au cas où.
Il faut être là, au cas où il arriverait ce soir.


Basically, the front of the card has 1-3 examples of a multi-word expression, and a
definition or hint in French. So far, I'm happiest if I add multiple cards for each
expression, with a different cloze each time. (This is, of course, khatzumoto's MCD
format, adapted for French connectors.)

These cards are time-consuming to make (even with the Anki plugins I'm writing), and
they're hard work to learn. But connectors are just brutal, and this is working
massively better than my old English<->French cards for similar expressions.

Also, I know I mentioned this just an hour ago, but: Yay! Four days immersion! Soon!

Edited by emk on 10 April 2012 at 4:04am

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sctroyenne
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739 posts - 1312 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Spanish, Irish

 
 Message 59 of 1317
11 April 2012 at 9:04pm | IP Logged 
And don't forget to note that au cas où takes conditional (except when it's thrown in at
the end of a sentence like the jacket example). Learning the connectors makes a big
difference though, your comprehension in general should get much better, as well as your
writing once you start to incorporate them. The "fun" ones are the ones that take
subjunctive (though it's not so hard - anything with "que" that expresses an intention
rather than a result/consequence takes subjunctive. Plus the opposition ones).
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emk
Diglot
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United States
Joined 3695 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 60 of 1317
12 April 2012 at 7:23pm | IP Logged 
sctroyenne wrote:
And don't forget to note that au cas où takes conditional (except
when it's thrown in at the end of a sentence like the jacket example).


Ah, thank you for pointing that out!

This morning, I discovered de Tocqueville's De la Démocratie en Amérique, which
is absolutely amazing—the style is clear and elegant, the vocabulary is accessible, and
every paragraph is crammed full of parallel clauses, which provide very strong context.
It's actually much easier to follow than a modern thriller like Cristal Défense.

I've scheduled my first lesson with a professional French tutor this afternoon. We'll
see how it goes.

Recently, I spent a day hacking on a prototype of an Android app for reading French.
Right now, I can load a single document (compiled directly into the program, alas),
touch a word, and pop up a dictionary panel at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately,
I don't have a good dictionary yet. Wiktionnaire has the raw data under an appropriate
license, but nobody has parsed it yet, and the best parsing tools require elaborate
configuration and some bug fixes (in Scala!) before they'll work. If I had a spare
week, I could build a decent reading tool. *sigh*
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emk
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United States
Joined 3695 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
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 Message 61 of 1317
13 April 2012 at 8:25pm | IP Logged 
The French tutor was OK, but I had trouble with his mild African accent. This forced
him to speak slowly, which in turn hurt my rate of speech. I might do a couple more
lessons with him just for the accent practice.

I had much better luck with SharedTalk, where I found a wonderful—and very dedicated—
French speaker who chatted with me for an hour and 40 minutes. I think that's a bit
long, and we were both fried by the end, but we were having fun. He mentioned that
Scotch accents were really difficult, and I quoted him a couple lines of Robert Burns'
poetry in Lowland Scotts. This first time, we made a weird choice for the format: we
switched randomly between English and French. This was an interesting challenge in code
switching, but next time, I think it would be better to split the time 50/50.

I'm going to speak to another tutor next week (she specializes in helping students
prepare for exams), and try to set up a semi-regular exchange or two. I plan to
seriously increase my study time over the next few weeks. Oh, and if anybody around
here wants to set up an English/French exchange, I am, of course, more than happy to do
so.
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3695 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 62 of 1317
14 April 2012 at 12:41am | IP Logged 
A quick note on CEFRL B2: It's a much higher level than it looks. The short description
says:

Quote:
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract
topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can
interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with
native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear,
detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue
giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.


But if you go
here
and drill down into the semi-official self-assessment checklist, the listening skills
get a bit hairy:

Quote:
- I can understand in detail what is said to me in standard spoken language even
in a noisy environment.
- I can follow a lecture or talk within my own field, provided the subject matter is
familiar and the presentation straightforward and clearly structured.
- I can understand most radio documentaries delivered in standard language and can
identify the speaker’s mood, tone etc.
- I can understand TV documentaries, live interviews, talk shows, plays and the
majority of films in standard dialect.
- I can understand the main ideas of complex speech on both concrete and abstract
topics delivered in a standard dialect, including technical discussions in my field of
specialisation.


That's actually a pretty high standard: I would need to understand lectures, live
interviews, plays and most films. This makes a sort of sense, because B2 is used for
admitting FLE students to college in France, and they need to understand classes. But
honestly, I suspect that it's possible to score 50% on the DELF B2 listening
comprehension section without being able to do all those things.

I'm really not sure if I can cover that checklist in two months of intensive study,
even if I take off extra time off, turn it into a death march, and force-feed my brain
like I'm making foie gras. On the other hand, I'm pretty confident that I meet the
corresponding criteria for B1.

I'm going to speak with a DELF specialist at the Alliance Française sometime in the
near future, and get some professional advice about preparing for the exam. But if
anybody around here has any insights into B2 listening skills, I'm all ears.
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3695 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 63 of 1317
17 April 2012 at 1:40pm | IP Logged 
I just spent 3 days in Montréal!

As usual, when people speak to me in standard French, I can understand most of it, and
successfully ask them to clarify the unfamiliar bits. But, as expected, I quickly get
lost when two Francophones chat amongst themselves.

The Québécois accent is still pretty challenging, but I'm slowly getting used to those
"metalic"-sounding nasal vowels, and the hard /z/ sounds where I expect /s/. If it's
spoken especially slowly or clearly, I'll actually understand something. :-)

Some highlights:

- I watched two documentaries on the new Explora channel in Québec, which is basically
the Discovery Channel in standard French. I probably understood at least 80% of each,
thanks to the professional dubbing and strong context. After two documentaries, though,
I was completely fried. I'd love to get a bunch of DVDs of this stuff.

- I had much more trouble with Intouchables in the theater. I was definitely
well below 50% comprehension here. But I had more luck with interviews and
advertisements before the film, even though most of them had a strong Québecois accent.

- My brain is finally starting to produce en spontaneously in sentences
like "J'en ai mangé deux." The process is it bit uneven—I often feel like "en" is
hovering over the sentence, trying to wedge itself it.

- My speech production is all over the map. When I'm warmed up—but not fried—I can
discuss familiar subjects without any particular difficulties for me or my listeners. I
even have enough spare cycles to use a decent intonation. But once I get outside of
those parameters, well, sometimes I can speak acceptably, and sometimes I fall over my
tongue. Still, I've won a very respectable beachhead here. My overall speech still
shows a vast number of B1 features, but I can do better under controlled circumstances.

- Endurance matters.

- I've read 24% of the first volume of Tocqueville (out of the 4 volumes in this
particular arrangement). This is gorgeous French, and it's more accessible than some
modern fiction.

- I'm slowly finding some interesting Skype partners. This is great, because my wife
and I have pretty much reached a linguistic accommodation, and it's easier for me to
get truly challenging input from strangers.

I have 58 days to go before the DELF exam. It looks like I can take either the B1 or
the B2, but not both. So my plan is to pour on the study hours, and decide as late as
possible to take one or the other.

I'm going to have some free time in my consulting schedule soon. I think it's almost
time to tackle season 2 of Engrenages with the rewind button, subtitles, and a ton of
Anki work. (And maybe the French version of Buffy?) And if I can get some of those
lovely dubbed Explora programs, I'll be very happy indeed.
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sctroyenne
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Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3554 days ago

739 posts - 1312 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Spanish, Irish

 
 Message 64 of 1317
17 April 2012 at 3:46pm | IP Logged 
I still have trouble when French people talk amongst themselves quite often - when I have no idea what
they're talking about and/or when they use a lot of informal language I don't know yet.

Buffy was one of my first dubbed series :) There are transcripts for many of the episodes on
hypnoweb.fr


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