A multi-pronged approach to learning French

March 7, 2014
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I have a confession to make. I am bored with my classes at Alliance Francaise.

Not only bored, but also a little disappointed. I am not satisfied with the fact that I still cannot express myself orally using simple sentences. You only get a maximum of 2 lessons (2 chapters of the book) for every module you take. The emphasis of the lessons is on grammar. Don’t get me wrong, I do not discount the importance of grammar. I know it is vital for any serious language learner. But too much focus on grammar rules and not much on practical usage is counter productive. The reason why I took classes is so that I can practice with other learners. Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of speaking practice in school.

For nearly P5000 per module, I feel shortchanged, given the kind of result I see.

Also, the direct method isn’t going well with me. I have far better success in the traditional method in earlier levels, as evidenced by my skill levels in Japanese and German. Despite quitting German many years ago, I still remember more of the lessons I had with Herr Ang than with my French or Spanish lessons. I didn’t even finish the first Spanish module at Instituto Cervantes. I felt like we were just being spoon-fed and we were not allowed to explore the language on our own. Or I was afraid to explore because I didn’t fully understand what the teacher was saying. In the direct method, the teacher will just speak in the target language, never explaining in English or Filipino. It can be problematic for someone who is a complete beginner, especially with confidence.

To address my own issues, I looked for other materials to supplement my classes. The most superior resource I have so far is Assimil New French with Ease. As early as the 2nd lesson, I am already able to use expressions like “est-ce que”. The things I have picked up from Assimil like “J’ai oublie”, I was already able to properly use in my AF classes. The audio lessons start really slowly and then becomes faster until the learner is used to the normal speaking speed. Each lesson is presented as a daily life situation — like ordering at a restaurant or asking for directions. I love that the expressions used in the course are practical — those that I can use right away.

Unfortunately, Assimil courses are not available locally. You can order via Amazon, or place a special order with National Bookstore (like I did). You only need to wait about a month for you to get your books/CDs at no extra charge.

Another resource is Coffee Break French, a free podcast by Radio Lingua. Each podcast is only about 20 minutes long, just as long as a normal coffee break. So you can fit in a bit of studying while you enjoy your favourite cuppa. The podcast is free but you can purchase the premium version to get access to additional materials like transcripts and bonus audio tracks. I will probably avail of these when I get into the more difficult levels.

I am also a big fan of the FSI course. I know that it can be repetitious sometimes, but I like it. It helps reinforces the patterns into my head. Sometimes, my stubborn head needs hammering too. The lessons are well organized. I do not have problems with the audio being in normal speaking speed as I can use VLC media player to slow it down a bit.

I am a member of How to Learn Any Language and the people there are so helpful, always ready to dispense advice and tips.

When I make enough headway into French (hopefully, by midyear), I can reactivate my stagnant lang-8 account. I used that when I was studying for the JLPT and it is certainly helpful to have native Japanese speakers correct my mistakes. A few became my email pals, albeit for a short time only. One of them even had a Filipina mother so we had lots more to talk about.

Hopefully, by June, I can already write cohesive paragraphs that sound natural. Hopefully too that by yearend, I would have reached my target B level.

I know it is a tall order and nothing in language learning is just-add-hot-water, but I swear I will do this! So help me, God ;)

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6 Responses to A multi-pronged approach to learning French

  1. December 9, 2014 at 21:47

    Haaaaay… How I wish I read this much sooner. In order to save up for the tuition, I started “collecting” bills with insignia and told myself “this is for French school.” I did a little bit of research and convinced myself I made the intelligent investment with Alliance. WRONG. The first hour for the first day was just spent on “je’ mappell” all over the room. I made more progress with Pimsleur as my vocabulary expanded and I can recognise and respond to simple phrases.

  2. December 9, 2014 at 11:15

    Haaaaay… How I wish I read this much sooner. In order to save up for the tuition, I started “collecting” bills with insignia and told myself “this is for French school.” I did a little bit of research and convinced myself I made the intelligent investment with Alliance. WRONG. The first hour for the first day was just spent on “je’ mappell” all over the room. I made more progress with Pimsleur as my vocabulary expanded and I can recognise and respond to simple phrases.

  3. December 9, 2014 at 10:50

    Haaaaay… How I wish I read this much sooner. In order to save up for the tuition, I started “collecting” bills with insignia and told myself “this is for French school.” I did a little bit of research and convinced myself I made the intelligent investment with Alliance. WRONG. The first hour for the first day was just spent on “je’ mappell” all over the room. I made more progress with Pimsleur as my vocabulary expanded and I can recognise and respond to simple phrases.

  4. December 9, 2014 at 10:42

    Haaaaay… How I wish I read this much sooner. In order to save up for the tuition, I started “collecting” bills with insignia and told myself “this is for French school.” I did a little bit of research and convinced myself I made the intelligent investment with Alliance. WRONG. The first hour for the first day was just spent on “je’ mappell” all over the room. I made more progress with Pimsleur as my vocabulary expanded and I can recognise and respond to simple phrases.

  5. December 9, 2014 at 10:40

    Haaaaay… How I wish I read this much sooner. In order to save up for the tuition, I started “collecting” bills with insignia and told myself “this is for French school.” I did a little bit of research and convinced myself I made the intelligent investment with Alliance. WRONG. The first hour for the first day was just spent on “je’ mappell” all over the room. I made more progress with Pimsleur as my vocabulary expanded and I can recognise and respond to simple phrases.

  6. November 29, 2014 at 14:42

    Haaaaay… How I wish I read this much sooner. In order to save up for the tuition, I started “collecting” bills with insignia and told myself “this is for French school.” I did a little bit of research and convinced myself I made the intelligent investment with Alliance. WRONG. The first hour for the first day was just spent on “je’ mappell” all over the room. I made more progress with Pimsleur as my vocabulary expanded and I can recognise and respond to simple phrases.

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