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French, 22 years later - TAC 2013 PaX

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Speaks: Spanish*, English
Studies: French, German

 Message 1 of 70
29 November 2012 at 2:12pm | IP Logged 
I had French classes at school and High school.

The CEFR didn't exist at the time, but I'd estimate I got a solid B1 level... 22 years
ago! I didn't study any French since then, and used the language just a few times
when having holidays in francophone countries such as France, Morocco, Belgium
and Switzerland.

I remember enough to get by in train stations, restaurants and so on, but I'm nowhere
near to be able to hold a meaningful conversation. I can read French with a little
effort, but have problems to understand what people says, and, of course, to talk.

So now I decided to relearn French!!! My passive vocabulary seems to be quite large
and I believe I can quickly make it active again. I might be too optimistic, but I
hope to get back to B1 in 3-4 months, and then I'd like to go on to reach B2.

Prof. Argüelles divided learners into 3
: analytical minds, learn by doing type, and observational learners. I
think I am in the latter group.

Luke and kanewai collected ProfArguelles' recommendations for each category in
these threads.

Observational learners should:
1. Start with one (or two) Assimil courses, plus Linguaphone.
2. Do a comprehensive grammar / translation manual
3. Finish with a full pattern / drill course, such as FSI

So I started yesterday Assimil and Linguaphone! That should keep me busy for a few
months. Hopefully I'll stick to them without getting interested on something else and

What program would you suggest for #2? Living Language? Teach YourSelf?

Merci bien!

Edited by Quique on 17 December 2012 at 6:41pm

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 Message 2 of 70
30 November 2012 at 2:43pm | IP Logged 
  • El nuevo francés sin esfuerzo: Spanish based version of New French With Ease. 99 lessons in 4 CD's. The book is 421 pages long.

  • French without Toil: Old (1940) Assimil method. It has 140 lessons, so at a lesson a day, it should take about 7 months to finish (including the second wave). The book is 504 pages long.

  • Linguaphone: Divided in 30 lessons with 8 (+1) audio CD's. It has a 231 pages long coursebook which transcribes the recordings, and a 340 pp. handbook with the translation to English and many (too many!!) explanatory notes.

    I for one prefere the Assimil layout, I find much more practical having the original text, the translation and the notes readily available in two opposing pages instead of having to hop amongst books and pages.

  • French in Action: See a few comments below.



Movies and TV series:



Edited by Quique on 28 January 2013 at 10:29pm

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 Message 3 of 70
30 November 2012 at 2:54pm | IP Logged 
Assimil: Done lessons 1-7 in three days.
I could understand virtually everything (just missed hirondelle) with no problem
whatsoever, and knew all the grammar. There was actually nothing new to assimilate, so
I see no reason not to go a bit faster.
Of course I don't expect to keep this pace for long.

I listened the recordings several times and transcribed the texts. I was surprised by
Frère Jacques in FwT.

Linguaphone: Done lesson 1. This was harder than Assimil.
I could understand most of the recording right away, but there were a few words (such
as le Hall) I didn't recognize till the 3rd or 4th listening, and a few others
(un quart, un instant) I didn't catch at all, even though I do know them
There were also a couple of new words (flacon, microsillon).

It seems that, at this first stage, the most difficult part will be listening
comprehension. I'll do my best to train my ear.
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Senior Member
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 Message 4 of 70
01 December 2012 at 3:05pm | IP Logged 
I've watched the 1st chapter of French in Action,
a language course developed by Professor Pierre Capretz of Yale University based on the
work of Jean Boorsch. It was produced in 1987. This method promises a heck of a lot
(total immersion); I hope it will deliver. There are a couple of
fan sites
around, so I'm confident it will.

I've noticed in this forum that there seems to be
some confusion about the
French in Action components, and how to use them.
Let me get this straight from FiA itself.

Components of the French in Action course, and how to use them

French in Action is
intended to provide the equivalent of two years of instruction (elementary and
intermediate French) at the college and university level, whether the course is taught
over four semesters or condensed into two intensive semesters. The textbooks, the
workbooks, the video programs, and the audiocassettes are elements of an integrated
system, and should be used together.

The video component of the course contains 52 programs, each about 30 minutes long.
These video programs are the basis for the 52 lessons of the course. The first video
program, corresponding to lesson 1, is very different from the other 51 programs. For
one thing, it is narrated in English. It is an introduction to the course. The 51
video programs that follow are the ones that actually teach. Each program contains an
episode of a continuous story structured to permit progressive assimilation of the
French language. In lessons 2 through 8, you will meet the characters and become
familiar with the basic situation out of which this long saga will emerge. The tale of
Mireille and Robert will become your story, and you will participate in it.

We strongly urge you to watch the installment of the video program for each lesson
--as it is broadcast on television or from a videocassette-- before you read the
text of that lesson or work with any other component of the course. Seeing the story
will help you to follow the plot and to understand what is going on in each situation.
Each video program in this series also includes a section designed to help you figure
out the meaning of key words in the story. You should view this section before
beginning the corresponding lesson in the audio program, the workbook, and the

You will improve and retain more of each video program if you can view it more than
once. If you are using the course via broadcast at home and have access to a
videocassette recorder, take the lesson off air. If the video programs are available
in a language lab or media center, review them there, unless you can obtain a copy of
your own.

Remember that the purpose of the video program is to expose you in a preliminary way
to the material of the lesson and to help develop your feel for communication in
French. You will not need to take notes, or refer to the textbook or workbook while
watching the video programs. You should not worry if you don't understand everything
you hear and see. Your objective is to get the gist of what is going on. You
won't be expected to learn any word or structure in depth from the video program alone.
More extensive practice in understanding and using French will come later, as you work
with the audio program, the workbook, and finally the textbook.

The next step after working with the video of a lesson, will be to work with the first
part of the audio program for that lesson (Mise en oeuvre, Text work-up). This
will give you another opportunity to hear the dialog as it is spoken on the soundtrack
of the video by the characters in the story, recorded on location. You will also hear
the same language recorded by other voices, under the controlled conditions of the
sound studio.

You should listen, then when you hear a short musical signal, repeat what you just
heard. When you hear a question followed by a longer signal, you should answer. Note
that the question can be generally answered using the very words you have just been
repeating. After the pause, you will hear the correct response for confirmation.

In working with this part of the audio program, and with the remainder of the audio as
well, you should make every effort to understand what you hear. It will help if, as
you listen, you try to recall what you saw and heard on the video. Then you should
make sure than when you repeat or answer you respond aloud. This is a very important
part of learning to communicate in French. Resist the natural temptation to respond
mentally, or to answer under your breath, or to mumble. Get into the habit of saying
everything distinctly, in a strong voice, as if you were talking back to a telephone
answering machine, or speaking to someone halfway across the room.

If it helps, try mimicking the voices you hear, as though you were making fun out of
them. Students are experts at making fun of their teachers, so here it's your
opportunity. Try to immitate what you hear as closely as possible, matching both the
intonation --the general melody of the phrase or sentence--, and the individual sounds,
as well as the rhythm and the pace at which it is said by the French speaker. You will
probably think that the French speakers speak fast, try to speak just as fast as they

In most cases you will find enough time to respond within the pauses left on the
recording. If by chance you don't, and you are working individually, use the pause
button on your playback machine to give yourself more time.

The audio program for this course, which is available on audiocassettes, is designed to
be used as you work with the textbooks and workbooks, either at home or in a language
laboratory. The majority of activities in the workbooks require use of the audio

Complete the remaining sections of the workbook, using the audio program when
indicated. The headphone symbol that accompanies some sections indicates either that
the material for a section is repeated on the audio program or that the audio segment
must be used to complete a segment.

In this course, the basic material of each lesson is called the text. The texts occur
in two forms: a dramatized version in the video and audio programs and a written
version in the textbook. Try not to read the text of the lesson until after you
have completed the text work-up. Pay close attention to the illustrations that
accompany the text; the combination of words and pictures will further your
understanding of important concepts.

After you have studied the text and pictures, read through the questions that follow
the text. These questions will be familiar to you from the assimilation section of the
audio program, and you should be able to answer them without difficulty.

A study guide, in English, is also available to help you through each lesson.
It provides step-by-step directions for the effective use of all the components of this
course, a statement of the main objectives of each lesson, a summary of each episode of
the story, cultural notes, and additional assistance with the various tasks presented
in the workbooks. It is indispensable for students taking the course as a telecourse,
and optional for on-campus students.

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 Message 5 of 70
01 December 2012 at 3:55pm | IP Logged 
Welcome! I've been enjoying your new log, and thought I'd say hello.

I'm especially interested to hear about your experiences with French in Action. I hadn't heard about it back when I was doing New French with Ease, but it has an excellent reputation, and the website looks promising. I'd love to be able to recommend it to people.

For cleaning up my grammar after Assimil, I actually used a slightly non-traditional strategy. I bought copy of Essential French Grammar (which is delightfully inexpensive and which covers all the core grammar of French succinctly, with examples). Then I spent 30 days writing on lang-8, and getting lots of corrections. This allowed me to find out where my model of French was horribly wrong, and I could look up explanations on (which is really excellent), and elsewhere using Google. The real-world output practice and the feedback were enormously effective.

It sounds like you're off to a great start, and your French is coming back quickly. Good luck with your studies and thank you for an interesting log!
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 Message 6 of 70
03 December 2012 at 2:16pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for your kind words and your suggestions. I appreciate.

What have I done in the last three days?

Assimil: Done lessons 8-14.
I understood almost everything (sometimes at the 5th or 6th listening, but most of it
at the first one).
It's a bit irritating to find out that something I didn't get is actually a word I'm
perfectly familiar with (such as `bus' or `clown'), but I guess it's something to be
expected, and that in future lessons, when the speakers speed up, I will happen more
There were also a few new/forgotten words, such as `avoir tort'.

The difference between different generation Assimil actors is funny. As Prof. Arguelles
mentioned, in the intonations the old version are
absurdly exaggerated. I guess they were stage actors used to speak that way for people
people sitting in the last row of the theater, who could not really see their face
expressions. In the new version the voices are way more natural.

I also found funny the song included in lesson 13th. I hope there will be a popular
song before every revision lesson. They make me smile :)

Linguaphone: Done lesson 2.
I actually found it easier than lesson 1. I skimmed through the explanatory notes, but
didn't bother to read them in detail: they are just too many. They tend to comment
every word in every single sentence, so many of them are rather trivial
to me (at least at this stage). I guess real beginners might find them useful.

I like that Linguaphone uses a continuous story instead of the short (sometimes non-
sensical) dialogs of Assimil. Lesson 2 taught me the difference between Canadian and
French breakfasts (English-like vs continental). I hope the lessons will keep
introducing cultural information. On the negative side, they don't seem to have the
sense of humor peculiar to Assimil.

French in Action: Done lesson 2
This is the first actual lesson after the introductory lesson 1. Wow! It took
considerably longer time than a Linguaphone lesson (and of course than an Assimil one),
but it was pretty cool. The video was nearly 30 min long, and I watched it twice. Of
course I didn't understand everything, but being an immersion program, that is not the
goal. I did get all the points without any problem.

I then went on with the 35 exercices in the workbook. The audio recordings were almost
1 hour long. First we listen again to the soundtrack of the video (this time without
the visual cues), and then we go through it in small parts doing pronunciation
exercises à la Pimsleur/AllTalk (but not so boring, thanks to the larger variety in
voices and sentences).
After this `text work-up' there are different kind of exercises: aural comprehension,
oral production, observation, writing, etc

Overall I liked it a lot, and I think I'll enjoy following this method. I wonder how
well it works with real beginners. I guess that at first they might find this episode
overwhelming, but watching it a few times they should get its main points (they must
take it easy and remember that they are in no way expected to understand everything -
check the instructions for French in Action that I posted here a couple of days ago).

I am at the first steps of my French comeback adventure, but I'm rather happy about how
it's going so far. French is coming in easily, so maybe my first goal (B1 in 3/4
months) is actually feasible. I just hope I won't be sidetracked.
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 Message 7 of 70
12 December 2012 at 5:50pm | IP Logged 
Quick update:

Assimil: Done lessons 15-21.
Linguaphone: Done lesson 3.
French in Action: I watched lesson 3, but didn't do yet the exercises.

As you can see, I haven't been so disciplined in my French studies since my last update
(9 days ago). :-(

I have signed in the TAC 2013 Romance Team, and I hope
that will help me not only to learn better and faster, but mainly to stay motivated and
not to give up.

Yesterday I chatted through Skype with a fellow TAC member, for about one hour. His
French was better than mine, so I could ask him for help when I didn't know how to say
something. Of course I could not always understand what he was saying, so I had to ask
to repeat, but it actually went better that I expected.
I think the main problem was that I ofted lacked the words I needed. Despite that, he
said I might already be at B1. I've read again the B1 description, and while not quite
there, maybe I'm not that far as I thought: what I need the most is to activate some of
my passive vocabulary.

I'm afraid I don't have the patience and regularity to use an SRS. Learning French
should be fun, and not a chore.
I believe that repeated exposition to words I already know will help me to remember
them when need arises, so I bought Tout Tintin
(L'intégrale des aventures de Tintin) to read on my spare time.

It is HUGE, almost 1700 pages long, and the price is quite good (way cheaper
than buying every album!). I intend to buy bandes dessinées for an adult
audience later on.

The small book you see behind is Arrugas, a very
nice graphic novel by Paco Roca. I bought it in Spanish, but it's also available in
French (Rides).
Beware that this is not a comic for children, so probably you should be at least
intermediate to read it.

Edited by Quique on 15 December 2012 at 2:26pm

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Senior Member
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Studies: French, German

 Message 8 of 70
15 December 2012 at 2:25pm | IP Logged 
I've read the first three Tintin books: Tintin au Pays des Soviets (1930),
Tintin au Congo (1931) and Tintin en Amérique (1932). The first two are
pretty bad (unimaginative, lots of non-sequiturs, ill-documented, plenty of
stereotypes...). I would only recommend them to Tintin fans.

The third one is better, but still not good. Tintin would not have become what it
currently is if this was all what Hergé (b. 1907) was capable of.

The next books are Les cigares du pharaon (1934) and Le Lotus Bleu
the latter being the first great one.

Edited by Quique on 15 December 2012 at 7:20pm

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