Take charge of your French learning

Sup doods? Among other things I'm learning French.

Let's cut to the chase. As well as the free resources on Surface languages, soon to include French sentences, I also recommend and use various courses and books.

If you are learning a language, it helps to use different resources - free and paid, and whatever your approach, you need to take charge of your learning to use them effectively.

Assuming you are not studying for a formal qualification, when you have to follow and know the course syllabus, you can pick and choose what you want to learn. I'm learning French and I have two definite aims in mind, the first of which is to be able to have conversations in French over a range of subjects over skype. The second is to improve my comprehension significantly. There is of course an overlap between conversation and comprehension, although it is perfectly possible to have good skype conversations and not understand the radio or 'wireless'. Wireless? Yep. Wireless. The English language has a large number of borderline archaic words, some of which should be revived.

It is much easier to understand a one-on-once conversation than the radio. You will know this if you've ever spoken in other languages. If you haven't, trust me for now. Or don't. Your experience may differ from mine. We are different ...

which is why ...

... no book or language course is exactly suitable for you or me, or will be. Ever. You are an individual, and perfectly formed and beautiful as you are, your language learning needs will be different from mine, or your bezzie mate or even that dude reading Alice au pays des merveilles.

If you are marketing an online course, your marketing blurb won't emphasise that not only is this course an incomplete set of resources to help you learn French, and that you should pick what is relevant to you. The marketing will instead focus on the efficiency of the course, how you will become fluent using it and so on. Once we remove the marketing fluff, a course will be revealed as but one of many tools to help you on your journey.

There are courses such as FrenchPod101 which are excellent, but even these are only part of the jigsaw. They are useful tools and need to be treated as such.

The tools, or language learning courses that you will need depend on your current level, learning style and aims.

Active learning

I have taken charge of my French learning, and this is what I'm doing. I learnt French at school, which due to the nature of the education system at the time, means that I can read French quite well, but struggle to say more then 'two coffees please'. Keeping that in mind, and only having thirty minutes a day, I am for the next few months doing the following.

I alternate between listening to podcasts and grammar study.

I've found some very good free podcasts at podclub.ch. My level of comprehension is intermediate, and these are perfect for me.

The next day, I spend thirty minutes working through AQA French A2 Grammar Workbook. Grammar! People knock it, but I'm trying to construct grammatically correct sentences, not sound like a numpty, and at the same time reinforce some basic vocabulary.

You might wonder why I haven't arranged a regular conversation exchange, as clearly I'm lacking in the speaking department. People have different opinions as to whether it is advantageous to speak from the first day or not. I've tried this and it is definitely motivating. The positive is that it makes you focus on the spoken language, and to become good at speaking you have to speak a lot.

But speaking early doesn't particularly help with comprehension, and I'm as interested in reading and listening to French as in speaking. I'm not convinced that over the longer term it makes much difference as to when you start chatting, as before long you arrive at a point where your biggest issue is lack of vocabulary and comprehension.

There is also the question of efficiency and time. I'm fairly convinced that for the moment, my most efficient approach is the one I'm following.

This is what I've decided to do, at this particular moment, with my particular level of French. I've dated this missive, as at some point I need to change my approach and use different resources and find a language exchange.

Passive learning

Passive learning is key. I walk my dog every day. This is a mixed blessing as the weather in the west country is, it must be said, patchy, but I normally walk and learn - that is I exercise my mind and body in one fell swoop.

I tend to listen to podcasts almost at random. There are a lot of free French resources if you can spare the time to look.

Remember. It's a long road that has no turning.


Moonface. March. 2016