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French: Fresh, fun & effortless media

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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

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

 
 Message 1 of 1317
19 February 2012 at 9:47pm | IP Logged 
For two years, I studied French using Assimil New French with Ease, native books, newspapers, podcasts, and a Mnemosyne deck with about 1000 words. I started with a 30-day trial, and never skipped a day. At the end of 2 years, I could carry on a conversation and read some books, but I didn't have much luck with movies or news podcasts.

Unfortunately, the next two years were busy, and I had to put French on hold. I read a few paragraphs from Le Monde every day, and listened to my wife speak French with the kids, but that was about it. My French improved slightly.

Here are my goals for the first half of 2012:

1. I want to pass a DELF B1 exam in June, preferably with room to spare.
2. I want to understand full-speed news radio.
3. I want to read more books in French.
4. I want to speak full-time French with my wife much more often.

It's time to get off this plateau and take my French to the next level. Wish me luck!

French: Taking it to the next level (A2–B2+)

(Old log)
(DELF B2 report!)
(Passed the DELF B2!)
(L'Moyen égyptien commence ici)
(30 Restrospective of Middle Egyptian with Assimil)
(Listening comprehension with subs2srs)
(Reviews and samples of bandes desinnées, a.k.a. French comic books)

French: Wandering towards C1

Halfway through the Super Challenge, and goals for 2013
I take on Peter Rabbit in hieroglyphs, and survive a page
Buying books in Montreal (map and guide)
Good days and bad days: What I can do

French: Fresh, fun & effortless media

Renaming my log

My Team

Is.t n(y).t r n(y) km.t (Team Egyptian)

Want lots of cool links and media in French?

My French resources post
My "Immersion française" Twitter list, with lots of addictive stuff
Media I like on SensCritique
Favorite song playlist on YouTube (notes)

Other useful posts

30 days: How to improve self-discipline
My "Cheating & Consolidating" Method



Learning Ancient Egyptian in an Hour per Week with Beeminder



How to Learn to Write (using lang-8)
Adults versus children: A more realistic comparison

My other log

Spanish: A little subs2srs experiment

Enjoy!

Edited by emk on 22 June 2015 at 6:40pm

9 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

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

 
 Message 2 of 1317
19 February 2012 at 10:16pm | IP Logged 
My listening skills have really been improving rapidly this week. This morning, I was
surprised to understand 80+% of RFI Français Facile, which is a major breakthrough for
me. After listening to the regular RFI news podcasts, Français Facile sounds
surprisingly slow!

I've also started reading Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours using the
Android Kindle app. The Kindle app has a nice built-in dictionary, which makes it easy
to look up some of the old-fashioned vocabulary. The older French verb tenses are a bit
challenging, and I'm looking up a couple of words per paragraph, but the story has a
wonderfully retro science fiction feel, and I can't wait to find out what happens.
After this, I've got a great kids' book to read.

I'm also using the Android Anki app to learn 5 cards per day from Anki's Intermediate
French deck. This is mostly idioms and specialized vocabulary, and I'm not being nearly
so religious about it as about my earlier Mnemosyne deck. Anki has a great "drop
leeches" feature, so I don't keep recycling the same 50 evil cards all the time. I do
use my old and new SRS vocabularly on a regular basis, but man, SRS will eat my life
given half a chance, and it's less fun than reading.

Speaking French with my wife is doable when we're both rested and alert. I find that I
need to push fairly hard to use French all the time, and not just for the easiest 80%
of phrases that I already know. Even though we've done several 95%+ French days in the
last week, we need to keep working on this.

Also, my subjunctive is a mess. So I spent some time reading up on the French
subjunctive on About.com, and I'm starting to recognize it in books and use it in
conversation. My French grammar has pretty much always been intuitive, thanks to
Assimil, and I still have big gaps.

I also flipped through a sample DELF B1 exam. I could probably pass this today if they
let me listen to the audio clips a few extra times and didn't enforce the time limit
too strictly. So if I study hard, I should do fine at the June test date.

It's really beginning to sink in just how much work lies between B1 and C1. Yikes.
4 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

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

 
 Message 3 of 1317
20 February 2012 at 11:04pm | IP Logged 
My wife is awesome; she speaks French with me. :-) It's relatively easy for us to speak
about day-to-day life, because I've spent so much time listening to her speak with the
kids. It's more challenging if we want discuss a play, or an abstract idea, and she
often has to supply me with vocabulary.

RFI Français Facile was more challenging today, and I didn't understand as much the
first time through. But after the 3rd listen, I got a lot of it. There was a
ridiculously fast report on the soccer championship between Montpelier and
Saint-Germain. The demonstrations in Spain are growing, the demonstrations in Athens
are shrinking, and Germany has a new president, a pastor and human rights advocate from
East Germany. Oh, and Iran has decided to stop selling oil to the UK and France, but
neither country cares, because they don't buy that much Iranian oil, and because the
cold wave has receded. Greece, however, gets 30% of their oil from Iran. In a few
sections of the news report, I could understand plenty of half-sentence fragments but
couldn't tie them together. (It's amazing how some days are so much easier than
others.)

There was also a long discussion of "la damme de fer" and other uses of "de fer", such
as "santé de fer" ("iron constitution"). This would have been more interesting if the
idioms didn't have near-identical counterparts in English.

Tonight, I plan to curl up with Le Tour du Monde again. I'm at the 12% mark
after several days of casual reading. Gotta love that Kindle dictionary.

Oh, and I ordered 3 DELF B1 prep books last night. They should arrive in a week or two,
and I'll try to post some reviews at some point.

Edited by emk on 20 February 2012 at 11:06pm

1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

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

 
 Message 4 of 1317
22 February 2012 at 9:24pm | IP Logged 
[Written yesterday on the 21st.]

I alternate between euphoria and frustration.

First, the euphoria: French is remarkably, surprisingly fun. I've now read
28% of Le Tour du Monde on the Kindle, and I'm enjoying every moment. I
also peeked at the first page of Voltaire's Candide, and thought, "This
is going to be a great book." Suddenly there's a whole new world of awesome
classic books that I need to read. (Sadly, it's hard to get modern French
novels on an American Kindle. But the classics are free, and I have a
secret fondness for the prose of late 19th century.)

I listened to RFI Français Facile again, getting most of the easy parts on
the first pass, and several of the harder correspondents on the second
pass. I spent another 10 minutes listening to other native French
podcasts, including an amusing annecdote about Sarkozy's «france forte»
website on RFI Nouvelles Technologies (he has a nice photo of the Greek
ocean) and water-heater problems on "One thing in a French day." About
half the native podcasts made sense tonight.

My wife and I spoke extensively in French this evening, which was a blast.
The words came easily and smoothly, and when I accidentally spoke to the
kids in French, it took me several moments to translate back into English.
As I said to my wife, "You've created a monster. Now I speak endlessly in
two languages, and you can't shut me up in either." The biggest
challenge, as always, was trying to express precise ideas about a play, or
an abstract topic.

Which brings me to the frustration. There's still just so much that I
don't know. So many conversations where I look like a total idiot. So
many podcasts where I understand lots of little pieces, but can't fit them
together into sentences. So many clever turns of phrase that baffle me
upon close inspection.

Assimil's «Où est le Metro? Le metro est là-bas.» was so long ago. I've
come so far, and I see my path behind me, winding through the valley
below. But C1 still lies far ahead, and it looks like the Matterhorn.

Edited by emk on 22 February 2012 at 9:26pm

10 persons have voted this message useful



geoffw
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2848 days ago

1134 posts - 1865 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Yiddish
Studies: Modern Hebrew, French, Dutch, Italian, Russian

 
 Message 5 of 1317
22 February 2012 at 10:41pm | IP Logged 
IIRC, didn't you list "Intermediate" French until recently (now "Basic Fluency")? Sounds accurate to me, and like you've worked really hard to get to it!

"But C1 still lies far ahead, and it looks like the Matterhorn."

Based on these posts, it sounds like you've reached a tipping point where it should be a lot easier to keep improving because you can do all these great things like actually talking, reading, and listening in real-life, interesting situations. The better you get, the easier it is to get better--but it seems harder because the improvement is small compared to what you've already accomplished.

As long as you're continuing to learn something new all the time, and try not to worry too much about what you haven't learned YET, I suspect you'll do fine.
2 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

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

 
 Message 6 of 1317
22 February 2012 at 11:42pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for your encouragement! I'm definitely going to keep working.

Right now, I'm making rapid progress. I can feel a noticeable improvement from week to
week, perhaps because I'm activating some passive French that I picked up from
listening to my wife's conversations with the kids. And I'm spoiled by literally hours
of conversations per day with my wife.

None of this keeps me from oscillating between euphoria and despair. It's crazy the way
that RFI will feel easy one minute, and hopelessly impenetrable the next. Or a native
speaker will suddenly plunge ahead at full speed, and everything will turn back in
gibberish. I don't get too discouraged by this, because I've long since learned that
the next conversation will be better.

Oh, and the list of languages in your profile makes me clap my hands with glee. :-)
What a great study program!
1 person has voted this message useful



geoffw
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2848 days ago

1134 posts - 1865 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Yiddish
Studies: Modern Hebrew, French, Dutch, Italian, Russian

 
 Message 7 of 1317
23 February 2012 at 12:07am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
None of this keeps me from oscillating between euphoria and despair. It's crazy the way
that RFI will feel easy one minute, and hopelessly impenetrable the next. Or a native
speaker will suddenly plunge ahead at full speed, and everything will turn back in
gibberish. I don't get too discouraged by this, because I've long since learned that
the next conversation will be better.

Oh, and the list of languages in your profile makes me clap my hands with glee. :-)
What a great study program!


Yep, I know the feeling. One day, I can listen to an hour-long debate in the German Parliament about the Greek bailout and understand pretty much every word, and the next day I can get tripped up by a children's cartoon. Ups and downs, but a steady upward drift.

My wife probably thinks my study program is more crazy than anything else, but at least sees it as a constructive obsession as opposed to a destructive one. FWIW, I've been strongly considering going into maintenance mode on the German in a couple months and taking on a long-term French study program this summer, as part of my Quixotic quest to conquer Western Literature. Reading about your experience is encouraging!
1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

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

 
 Message 8 of 1317
23 February 2012 at 8:43pm | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
IIRC, didn't you list "Intermediate" French until recently (now "Basic
Fluency")?


Yes. I switched it because I can finally live my personal life in French, and because I
can read real books for pleasure. That seemed to fit the official definition of "Basic
fluency" on HTLAL. But I often feel like a fraud!

I've now read 52% of Le Tour du Monde. It's actually getting harder—I'm running
into sentences that don't make sense, even after I look up all the words. Perhaps 60%
of the text is clear, another 30% makes sense if I think about it or look up some
words, and 10% is very difficult to understand. Whenever Verne starts talking about
steamboats or tropical plants, I start skimming.

I felt like the first 40% was easier. But I still want to find out what happens to
Passepartout!

And now it's time for the embarrassing part: Verb tenses. I only use a few tenses
fluently when speaking:

* Passé composé.
* Imparfait, but only of être and avoir.
* Présent.
* Futur proche (aller + infinitive).

If I take a moment to think, I can often use a few more:

* Conditionnel (infinitive stem or special stem + -ais/-ais/-ait/-ions/-iez/-aient).
* Subjonctif, if I can conjugate it.
* Imparfait (first personal plural w/o "-ons", or ét- + condtionnel endings).
* Futur (same stem as conditionnel + present tense of avoir w.o "av-").

I only get irregular correct forms correct if they're common, or if they're really
distinctive. I've never bothered to memorize them.

For now, I'm going to focus on two goals:

* Use the latter 4 tenses in conversation more often.
* Distinguish between the imparfait and the passé simple when reading,
with the goal of transferring that knowledge to the imparfait and the passé
composé
in speech.

A little bit of studying and practice now will give my brain sufficient hooks to learn
these by osmosis. :-)


3 persons have voted this message useful



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