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French: Fresh, fun & effortless media

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emk
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 Message 473 of 1317
26 February 2013 at 6:51pm | IP Logged 
Super Challenge: Numbers and recommendations

Yay! Whew. Check it out:

Books: 50%
Films: 100%
Graphs and lists

Since the start of the month, I've read over 1137 pages and actively listened to almost 47 hours of TV and podcasts. Or to put it another way, I did over 21% of my Super Challenge in the last 26 days.

Some highlights of the last month include:

- Les années lumière, an awesome science podcast recommended by Arrekusu. Medium difficulty.

- La Révolution tranquille, a 3.5 hour documentary of the birth of modern Quebec. Spoilers: Not so tranquil, actually, with riots, bombs, kidnappings and martial law. Medium difficulty.

- The Quebec dub of Planète terre, one of the easiest and most pleasant sources of French audio I've found. 15 hours, each with 50 minutes of standard French and 10 minutes Quebec French.

- La Sélection Comics, an easy 2-minute podcast about superhero comics (mostly imports from the US). If you know the stories of Batman, Superman and the other famous characters, you'll have lots of context.

Super Challenge: Results

My listening comprehension has definitely gone up a notch. If I'm fresh and paying attention, I can understand 90+% of many podcasts and TV shows. With the right recording and a bit of luck, I can get closer to 98% on my best days. The harder French films and series like Engranages are still pretty hit-or-miss, and I'm happy if I get enough of the plot to follow the twists and turns in the story. I get my best results after 5 minutes warmup and before the 1-hour mark, though I have the stamina for about 4 hours of active listening in a day.

So I'm really happy, but I still envy those people who can watch a season of a TV show in two weeks and then understand virtually everything they hear. It's quite clear that I'm not going to get any sudden epiphanies. Instead, I'm going to have to keep on chipping away, one little bit a time. But I can't complain. After all, I'm learning French by watching TV and listening to podcasts. :-)

The long-term plan: Wandering towards C1

Last year, I passed the DELF B2 exam after 4 months of intensive study starting from A2. Since then, I've maintained and consolidated my rapid gains, and worked hard on my receptive skills. My speech is much more complex and idiomatic, but somewhat less fluid, due to no longer having constant practice talking about politics and society. I've paid virtually no attention to writing, but I know I can reactivate it quickly when I need it.

This year, the Boston chapter of the Alliance Française will offer DALF C1 exams in June and December. If I really wanted to spend half my life studying French, I could probably sit the June exam. But I'm in no rush, and I have a weird but ambitious goal: I want to comfortably pass the DALF C1 this coming December, relying as much as possible on my "organic" French.

I've also signed up for Une introduction à la théorie et au calcul des probabilités, which is being offered this coming fall by an École Polytechnique professor on Cousera. I already have some prior knowledge of the subject, but I need a refresher course, and the École Polytechnique is a first-rate engineering school.

So here's to a year of fun French media and lots of conversations—and to getting my French to the point where I can use it comfortably in professional contexts.
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Expugnator
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 Message 474 of 1317
26 February 2013 at 7:12pm | IP Logged 
So, we have a thread title change! Congratulations!

Good luck on trying to hit C1. I'm sure you'll achieve your goals. Supposedly the gap is higher but now you have more resources to practice, that is, you can use virtually any materials produced in French.

I've started with the TV series thing, doing one episode a day, still panicking about looking up subtitles just to ensure things. I'm also doing an advanced Anki deck which shouldn't been neglected, I often have to translate the English answers again into Portuguese because I still don't know the English name (and sometimes it just so happens that within a very obscure word Portuguese and French are cognates and English is the odd one out...how lovely are Romance languages and their spread into English).

I'm still unsure about my level. I don't know if I could already apply for a B2 certificate because I haven't been nittpicky enough about the most important French test entrapments, but maybe in the second semester I could try contacting the local Alliance Française to see how the game is like. I just want to get more used to the repertoire of daily conversation and start anticipating what people are likely to say, just like we do in our native languages. And I want to read a lot! I don't have much time for French and the series alone takes me 40 min only for playing the video, and there's still looking up a pair of words, but I do have to make my way into reading again.
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tastyonions
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 Message 475 of 1317
26 February 2013 at 9:05pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Les années lumière, an awesome science podcast recommended by Arrekusu. Medium difficulty.

Yeah, this is good. I've been listening to it as well.

Good luck on that C1 target. I think you'll make it!

Edited by tastyonions on 26 February 2013 at 9:06pm

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emk
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 Message 476 of 1317
26 February 2013 at 10:25pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
Good luck on trying to hit C1. I'm sure you'll achieve your goals. Supposedly the gap is higher but now you have more resources to practice, that is, you can use virtually any materials produced in French.


Yeah, I'm always amazed at just how far apart the CEFR levels really are. C1 is a big jump up from B2, certainly. But at the same time, your ability to work with native media just explodes, as your reading speeds up dramatically and you start hearing spoken language much more precisely.

Expugnator wrote:
I'm still unsure about my level. I don't know if I could already apply for a B2 certificate because I haven't been nittpicky enough about the most important French test entrapments, but maybe in the second semester I could try contacting the local Alliance Française to see how the game is like.


The DELF and DALF exams don't really have "entrapments". Mostly you just need to read, listen, speak and write. They're never going to ask tricky questions about when you use être descendu and avoir descendu. Instead, they're going to look at your writing and speech, and see if you can use an appropriate range of grammatical structures, and whether or not you make a lot of errors. These exams are all about practical, real-world skills.

That said, I do recommend preparing for the exam. Each level requires specific skills (say, writing a letter to the editor), and it really helps to be familiar with how the oral presentations work. You don't want to figure all this out on exam day. Even two practice exams with a knowledgeable tutor could make a big difference.

My tutor was absolutely amazing, BTW. She used to teach for the Alliance Française, she's very familiar with the various exams, and she's enormously good at what she does. I'm happy to share her email via PM. If anybody's future plans for university, employment or citizenship require passing a DELF or DALF exam, she's worth every penny.

tastyonions wrote:
emk wrote:
Les années lumière, an awesome science podcast recommended by Arrekusu. Medium difficulty.

Yeah, this is good. I've been listening to it as well.

Good luck on that C1 target. I think you'll make it!


Thanks! It's just amazingly helpful to find interesting books and podcasts. If I have boring audio, I can listen for 10 minutes before my mind starts wandering. But if I have a great audio, I can focus on every word, listen repeatedly, and even stick clips in Anki. Believe, at the end of 5 hours of active listening in one day, fascinating audio is essential.

Fortunately, France and Quebec have enormous industries of people who create fascinating and addictive content for every taste. :-) And if you spend enough time reading and watching stuff in French, you'll eventually feel an overwhelming urge to go find other people who love the same stuff.

Edited by emk on 26 February 2013 at 10:30pm

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garyb
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 Message 477 of 1317
27 February 2013 at 12:27pm | IP Logged 
Some interesting ideas on listening comprehension here! It's something that I seem to have picked up somewhat naturally, and I feel like I've been at the point of understanding "almost everything" for a long time, but getting that last 5-10% really is the difficult part. Understanding "out of the blue" with no context, like when someone comes up to you on the street and asks you something, is also always a challenge.

It makes me think that perhaps I've settled into a comfort zone with my "almost everything" comprehension, and I'm not doing enough active listening and the active listening that I do isn't, well, active enough. I listen to a lot of radio and so on, but it's often while working or at the gym so I'm not paying anywhere near 100% attention, and even when I watch a film I often get distracted and do other things at the same time since I still pick up enough of it to understand what's going on. I should probably do more of the very focused listening that you're talking about, trying to pick up every last detail. Listening comprehension is the sort of thing that's can never really be "good enough".
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emk
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 Message 478 of 1317
27 February 2013 at 1:46pm | IP Logged 
garyb wrote:
I listen to a lot of radio and so on, but it's often while working or at the gym so I'm not paying anywhere near 100% attention, and even when I watch a film I often get distracted and do other things at the same time since I still pick up enough of it to understand what's going on. I should probably do more of the very focused listening that you're talking about, trying to pick up every last detail.


To be honest, I don't actually try to get every last detail. The only time I ever attempt that is when I have subs2srs and the kind of movie where almost every line is worth quoting. If I don't have the media in Anki, I'm absolutely willing to let stuff slide by. I know from prior experience that Anki is a devastatingly effective tool for this sort of comprehension work, especially if I delete 80–95% of the subs2srs cards.

You know Krashen talks about "n+1" input, where it's just a little bit beyond our current level? When I'm watching TV or listening to podcasts, I mostly try to understand a lot of n+1 and n+2 input. And to do this, I mostly rely on "cheating": I use either the images on TV or prior knowledge of the context to temporarily boost my comprehension. If I don't understand a line of Angel, I might rewind two or three times, or ask my wife to repeat it. The goal is to stretch just a little bit and try to consolidate those gains. When I hit a chunk of n+5 input, I just skip over it.

I also know that some extensive reading programs emphasize vast quantities of n-1 or n-2 input—stuff that's so easy you can understand it without even trying. And I see some real value in that. But I think it's good to have a range of difficulty.

So as you can see, my approach is fundamentally lazy: I try to pay attention and get just a little bit extra, and most of that is thanks to clever cheating. This might not be the most efficient approach, but it offers a pleasant balance between enjoying myself and making progress. And I really do see results: I can sometimes tune into a radio broadcast in mid-sentence, and "synchronize" before the thought is done.
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fireballtrouble
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Turkey
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 Message 479 of 1317
27 February 2013 at 2:04pm | IP Logged 
Voilà un autre membre visant au niveau C1 pour la fin de l'année comme vous, je trouve
votre programme et vos tâches d'études très bien fondés et productifs.
Je vais suivre vos messages sur ce sujet-là,, bon courage!


Edited by fireballtrouble on 27 February 2013 at 2:06pm

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garyb
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 Message 480 of 1317
27 February 2013 at 4:24pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

To be honest, I don't actually try to get every last detail. The only time I ever attempt that is when I have subs2srs and the kind of movie where almost every line is worth quoting. If I don't have the media in Anki, I'm absolutely willing to let stuff slide by. I know from prior experience that Anki is a devastatingly effective tool for this sort of comprehension work, especially if I delete 80–95% of the subs2srs cards.

...


Thanks for the clarification; I suppose I got the wrong idea from reading your stuff about feeling tired out after a certain amount of listening work, and assumed that it was full-on, extremely focused work. Of course, for difficult material, even trying to understand the majority can be a pretty full-on task. Good point about the n+1 etc., there's sometimes lines in films that I just don't get after a few rewinds and I don't stress out over them too much; subtitles would be useful for these instances but as we all know they can be quite rare.

Anyway, good luck with the C1 goal! I guess I'm also aiming for that sort of level by the end of the year; I also said that last year but that turned out to be completely unrealistic, and I'm not sure if it's any more realistic this year but I might as well try. Not sure if I actually plan to sit the exam, but it would certainly be nice.


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