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Senior Member
United States
Joined 3799 days ago

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

 Message 89 of 344
17 November 2012 at 12:03am | IP Logged 
ayrrom wrote:
I have found if I try to review all the preceding lessons each day it is all starting to finally stick.

I have made it a habit with all my Assimil courses to listen to the previous day's lesson before starting a new lesson for the day. Then on the review lessons, I listen to all six from the week. I think it helps a lot in retention.

ayrrom wrote:
I find breaking down the individual sounds of each word and making a visual picture of each is helping speed things up.

I've been using Audacity to hone in on phrases I have trouble with. If you have your audio file open with Audacity, you can highlight a particular section (word, phrase, whatever), and listen to it over and over again. It helps a lot with Croatian for me, since sometimes they say phrases so fast that I don't hear all the sounds.
5 persons have voted this message useful

Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Joined 3111 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 Message 90 of 344
17 November 2012 at 11:10pm | IP Logged 
Le Breton sans peine (until lesson 16)

Doing part of the update in English, also to describe a few more Assimil-related things
pertaining to the course as opposed to some grammar notes (which will follow later, for
all of those people who have been waiting for hours in the Northern European cold for
hours just hitting the refresh button for my update). Concerning Assimil the first two
weeks really were all about introducing the learner gently into the language, for the
most part discussing topics that are inherently related to any discussion about
Brittany - the sea, pancakes, fish, tourism, and for some reason feeding the cat (they
did mention the amount of houses bought by English and Dutch people in the area - which
seems to be corroborated by my local bookstore owner who has clearly been to Brittany
and has described it to me as "time having stood still" - which in many cases is not
far off the mark, when I take into account my own travels to Landerneau and Le Conquêt.

They have also gently eased us into some of the more outlandish things concerning
Breton: its tendency to mutate (and switch voiceless/voiced consonants around seemingly
at will), its interesting word order (emphasis first) and its tendency to conjugate a
lot of verbs using modal auxiliaries rather than just tacking on a number/person
suffix. You can actually do that in other circumstances, but it depends on how you are
phrasing the sentence, and often the verb is most important - in which case you're
using the infinitive + auxiliary with "to do". And furthermore there's the vocabulary,
which can be either entirely outlandish: kousket for "to sleep", but sometimes
astonishingly familiar: levr for "book" (think French livre).

However, one thing that is conspicuously lacking from the earlier lessons is most of
the humour that Assimil typically comes up with (no, the joke about the milk being for
the cat is not funny), and only in lesson 16 have we got our first zinger ("But what
does he paint?" "Oh, you know, just the sea and boats... the usual".) This is a bummer,
but perhaps it's also because Breton really is outlandish for a while, and I don't feel
like I have yet internalised many of the grammatical quirks and nuances that have been
thrown my way. I suppose the active wave will have to consolidate that for me, and my
understanding upon reading is not bad - and my listening is a skill that's getting
fairly honed, but the active wave seems to be really necessary to retain any sort of

Why Breton Grammar Is Not Hard - And Why You Should Not Be Scared of the Celts

Now I have to say that Breton grammar is not as scary as it looks. There are a fair few
verb conjugations, and you do have to know them - but most verbs in the present tense
just require you to conjugate "ober" + infinitive (and know the particle you have to
use, which is a with to do and o with to be). These verb conjugations are scary in
number but not in conjugation, because thankfully Breton is really regular and only has
five irregular verbs - of which one verb is completely regular apart from having a stem
differing from the infinitive. Only two verbs really cause problems in this regard.

Furthermore there are no cases, funky agreements with adjectives only apply to
mutations (which are regular and can be learned - they're not different from knowing
masc/feminine in, say, French) and the one thing that can be particularly hard to get
used to is that prepositions often contract, not just with the article (er = e + ar)
but also conjugate for person/number. An example is warni, meaning "on-her". War is a
preposition which always means on - on the chair, on the sea, on the lake, on the roof,
etc. but it matters if you want to refer to something without naming it directly, so
you thunk the "elle" onto the preposition. In the same way we have ac'hanoc'h, which is
a conjugation of "a" (de in French, approximately) for the plural you (or polite you),
the vous-form basically.

In other words, there are a fair amount of reasons why Breton is not super-hard. Most
verbs are refreshingly regular, vocabulary construction is fairly logical with a few
loans, words do not concatenate endlessly, prepositions are always used very logically,
the orthography is quite regular (and at least much more predictable than English or
French), and the stress is pretty much always on the penultimate syllable.

Even though Breton does retain a few quirks that are quite "different" from how we
express them in Standard Average European, and these quirks take time to getting used
to - which is why you can't rush through Breton as quickly as you could while learning
Italian, Swedish, or Dutch - there is no reason to make it any more scary than it is.

The only problem you might have is to encounter native speakers of Breton (who, while
rare, do exist). And the materials that you will want to access are in French, mostly
(what else), and that is what I am using (to keep up my French as well), but for those
who speak no French you might want to try Colloquial Breton instead (it exists!) and I
believe there is even a course for Welsh speakers, although I do not speak any Welsh.

Come in, dive in, the water's cold but refreshing.
4 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3570 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 Message 91 of 344
19 November 2012 at 4:11pm | IP Logged 
Il nuovo russo senza sforzo

Lately the exercises that are recorded consist mostly of drills of third or more sentences. Therefore, I'm not writing them down, only trying to think of the translation myself then listening to them (I always do source to target instead of target to source).
1 person has voted this message useful

New Zealand
Joined 3262 days ago

37 posts - 78 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: French, Yiddish, Latin, German, Italian

 Message 92 of 344
20 November 2012 at 5:16am | IP Logged 
Day: 46
Course: El Nuevo Francés Sin Esfuerzo
Lessons 36-42

I´ve added a second study session to each day (one in the morning before work, one in the evening) in anticipation for the active
phase. I've also added in to my schedule listening to the assimil recordings in the car to work (leaving the return trip to Spanish
listening practice) I feel like I´m making my way through Assimil like a well oiled machine. There is still the odd lesson where I
struggle but so far it's been largely painless. Overall French so far has been subjectively easier than Spanish, and gramatically
overall so far it is easier. I said subjectively, there are obviously a lot of factors here such as them being related languages and me
being more experienced in the learning process.

Other Sources
I've started comparing some of the lessons to the English version and there are often different notes in the two versions which is
annoying. For example in the revision lesson 42 the English version explains past tenses, while the french version doesn't but goes
into more detail into ne....pas/jamas/plus/etc constructions.

I had a French speaking couchsurfer from Quebec come stay with me for several days, and I got to try speaking French for the first time
since I started this project My speech was quite the opposite of smooth and flowing but I managed to construct many sentences and be
understood. I really struggled to understand her though, even when she used vocabulary and constructions I know, this is probably a
combination of my inexperience and her accent. She complemented me on my accent which made me feel like my phonetically focused
training is paying off. Interestingly I only made one error confusing Spanish and french during her stay when I said muy bien isntead
of tres bien in a sentence, I was very happy with this.

I haven't done any French without Toil or FSI french pronunciation since the last update.

Edited by jeronz on 20 November 2012 at 5:23am

2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4286 days ago

635 posts - 816 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Esperanto, French, EnglishC2, Spanish, German, Italian
Studies: Catalan, Mandarin

 Message 93 of 344
21 November 2012 at 1:10am | IP Logged 
El Catalán sin esfuerzo - Day 6 - Lessons 1 to 7

Today, I've decided to do lesson 7 after completing lesson 6. It means that the first group of lessons is over. I'll keep my posts here this way, each one after a complete group of lessons.

Total time required for this group = 2.1 hours.

Main observations:

* Catalan, of course, resembles Spanish and French many times. However, it is different enough from both, because I have no problem at all to understand them almost always, but even simple texts slowly spoken in Catalan are not that easy.

* Reading Catalan is easier, but it is also clear that, at this point, I won't yet be able to read more complex texts without extra help.

* The grammar won't be hard to understand. I've bought the book "Catalan: A Comprehensive Grammar", by Wheeler, Yates and Dols, but will refrain from reading it until the beginning of the active phase.

* I'm listening to the lessons during commute, hoping that this will help me to memorize the words, especially those that to not have similarities to the other Romance ones that I already know. I have no time to repeat more than 10 lessons each day, however.

* So far, my preferred words are cal and avinguts.

I'll keep more detailed and frequent reports on my log.

Edited by Flarioca on 22 November 2012 at 1:23pm

1 person has voted this message useful

Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
russoparabrasileirosRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3119 days ago

989 posts - 1454 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, EnglishB2, Italian, Spanish, Russian, French
Studies: Dutch, German, Japanese

 Message 94 of 344
21 November 2012 at 12:44pm | IP Logged 
O Novo Francês Sem Esforço - Leçons 8-14:

Now I think I'm much more used to that construction "Est-ce que...", it's really easy after all.
The first time I listen to the audio I usually get about 60-70% of what's being said, and after repeating it some times I can get easily to 80-90% (depending on the lesson). That means my previous knowledge of Portuguese and especially Italian helps a lot indeed, but there's still much room for improvement and new words to acquire. Lessons are fun as always, and I feel Assimil is doing a great job.

Another thing I'm doing is retaking the last 1-2 lessons very quickly before going to a new one. That helps me a lot with retaining the new vocabulary. I'm not doing Anki lists for now, but I feel that it's a good idea, since each new lesson seems to have more new words (in quantity) than the last one.
Btw, last review lesson (14) was very good, explaining all the possessive pronouns, the regular verb conjugation (which I'd figured out already, but still) and time expressions.

A word I'm getting used to is "ça". They seem to put it anywhere, and most of the time it doesn't have a specific translation.

Aside from Assimil, I'm still taking my "Quick French Course" at university, which will probably end next week. I get a loooot of vocabulary, exercises and even some oral production out of it, so I'm sure it's helping me a lot.
I'm also trying to speak with some people on Livemocha in French, and so far I could maintain 30 minutes conversations without problems!! \o/\o/\o/ Of course I use a lot of Google Translate (mostly to know some verb or conjugate it, since my reading comprehension is quite good so far), but I'm still proud! =)

À bientôt, mes amis! =)
1 person has voted this message useful

Bilingual Diglot
Joined 3314 days ago

24 posts - 41 votes
Speaks: Russian*, Latvian*
Studies: German

 Message 95 of 344
21 November 2012 at 10:10pm | IP Logged 
French with Ease

Lesson 21 completed.

So three weeks have passed, and my French is still non-existent.

I'm now listening during my morning commute to work (~20 minutes) last 7 lessons to train my ear, because I have noticed that when I just hear new lesson for the first time I usually don't understand much, but if I'm simultaneously listening AND reading my comprehension is much higher (but still very low).

I'm still not using any additional sources. Its hard, but the main goal of this experiment is to discover what level can one reach with Assimil only.
(except today I watched one youtube clip - "counting in French from 1 to 100", pronunciation is still killing me :).

Ok, let's see what the next week will bring.
1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 3652 days ago

25 posts - 56 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, French, Dutch

 Message 96 of 344
22 November 2012 at 7:01am | IP Logged 

Dutch With Ease Update

I completed lesson 21 today. They say time flies when you're having fun, and it's hard to believe that I've been at this for three weeks, so I guess I'm still having fun with this course! I do find myself staring blankly at the page when the notes say that there is no English equivalent for the way certain words are used in Dutch sentences, but I assume these types of phrases will be repeated often enough for me to absorb the meanings through "osmosis". If not, I'll just fake it. :-)

I've been around the block twice before with Assimil. I did Spanish With Ease and New French With Ease, but didn't finish either course. I became bored with the passive wave, and I also got frustrated with the active wave, as it didn't seem to work "as advertised". Not wanting to stay in what seemed to be a losing game, I dropped Assimil and moved on to other courses.

Still, I liked a lot of things about Assimil and wanted to try it again. So when the Assimil Experiment was announced, I couldn't resist and signed up to try to learn Dutch using Dutch With Ease.

One inaccurate, but humorous definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If I were to do Dutch With Ease the same way I did the two other courses, I'd probably end up getting the same results that I got before. So I knew I needed to make some changes this time around.

One change I've made is to follow a suggestion from the Cortina Method--to take dictation from the audio. I had thought about doing that with Assimil French, but decided not to do it during the passive wave because I was under the impression that writing the lessons down during that phase of the course is a no-no.

By the time I got to the active wave, I became stressed out by having to do the more difficult lessons of the passive wave, while at the same time trying to master the active wave lessons, so I soon gave up on taking the time to type the lessons and then correct my many spelling mistakes. I regret that decision, as the end result is that I can read just about anything in French, but can't write it without making a gazillion mistakes in spelling.

That's why this time I'm taking dictation from the audio during the passive wave of the course.

I've found that typing the dialogs and exercises transfers the language into my consciousness in a way that reading and listening don't. It reminds me of something I discovered in my teenage years when I first learned how to type. I found that after typing my hand-written notes, I had a much greater retention of the material. I aced my tests, not by studying, but by typing! That was my first experience in working smarter, not harder.

Also, when I begin the active wave of translating the English translations back to Dutch (this time I'm going to do this both orally and in writing), it will be so nice not to be bogged down by having to fix a ton of spelling mistakes!

Last but not least, I get bored by just reading, listening and repeating aloud for so many weeks, so taking dictation helps to keep the passive wave from feeling too passive.    

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