Wednesday, November 7, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 7: Parlez-vous francais?

When I was in middle school, I had the choice of French and Spanish as two possible electives.  I signed up for Spanish class, and loved making fun of my friends that had chosen to study French.  "But Spanish is so much more useful here," little naive Rebe said, "How could you use French in the states?"  My older brother and sister had also chosen Spanish as their language of study when they first had the option, so that definitely played a role in my 13-year-old self's decision-making process.  My pro-Spanish thoughts were also influenced by teachers and fellow students, as I've perviously mentioned in my Canada post.

So I went with Spanish.  I took it though middle school, high school, and eventually in college.  I never would have guessed during my middle or high school years, but during and post-college I spent two years living in Madrid, Spain.

During spring break of my first year in Madrid, some friends and I took a 10-day trip to Morocco.  Not many speak Spanish in Morocco!  The two main languages are Arabic and French.  One of our friends knew a decent amount of French, which helped us get around.  I could barely order water, and spent minutes one afternoon practicing to ask for the bill.  (I got scared when the waiter finally came back, so one of my friends asked instead)

Those ten days in Morocco sparked my interest in learning French.  Now, nine years after that initial choice between French and Spanish, I had a personal reason to learn the other language: French.  Later that spring when I registered for my fall semester of my senior year, I enrolled in French 101.  I loved it!  Knowing both English and Spanish cognates in French, I was definitely at an advantage over people who didn't know any other foreign languages.  Since they're both romance languages, Spanish and French really aren't too different structurally.

Wanting to learn more, I signed up for French 102 in the spring.  Yes, I spent lots of time studying, but I really enjoyed my French class that semester as well.  I got to a great level for only having studied the language for two semesters of my life.  I would check out French movies from the library just to hear that gorgeous language being spoken.  I wanted to keep learning French and building up on the base I had formed that year.

But then I moved back to Spain.  I tried to keep practicing French while in Madrid, but I found it quite difficult to do.  Here's how I practiced:

1) Books from the library
At the Madrid public library closest to my apartment, I did find a section of foreign language books.  There were novels and books of varying levels in French, but I also found some French books in the linguistics section that were more about learning French as a foreign language.  These short books came with an audio CD, and were illustrated chapter books with reading comprehension questions.  Each chapter was only 2 - 4 pages long, and certain vocabulary words were bolded in the books.  After the reading comprehension questions (with answers in the back of the book), there would sometimes be a brief grammar explanation with examples.  I loved being able to listen to a native French speaker reading the story while I read along with my eyes.  The hardest thing for me about French is that the words do not sound how they look, so this is why I appreciated the audio.  Also, the story in each book was entertaining and a bit suspenseful.

I bet there is a wider selection here at my local library in Wisconsin, but I haven't checked it out yet!  I've been too busy reading my way through the Game of Thrones series (currently in book 2) and studying for the GRE.

2. Duolingo
After seeing a TED Talk about this new Duolingo project back in 2010 or early 2011, I signed up on the site to be notified when I could start using and testing out the new language-learning site.  Duolingo allows you to learn a second language while simultaneously translating the internet.  Watch the TED Talk I linked to above; this site is so great.  So I forgot having ever signed up, then late fall 2011, I received an email telling me I could sign up for the test version (beta?) of the site.  I started with French, but also later added Spanish so I could practice translating advanced texts.  Later in Spring 2012 I started learning a little bit of German as well, in order to prepare for my trip to Germany in August.  I like that Duolingo visually keeps track of your daily progress, so you know how often you're practicing.  I also like that the exercises include both written and listening activities, as well as exercises that have you thinking from English to the second language, and the second language to English.

3. My French Word Coach (DS)
In order to play Brain Age and My Word Coach, I bought a used DS back during my freshman year of college.  Later on when I was starting to study French in 2010, I purchased My French Word Coach.  This was a great buy because again, the game has multiple games that vary between testing your listening skills and reading skills.  It goes in units (levels) of different topics with vocabulary lists and grammar topics, so I like the organization of the learning.  And the fact that it's a game, that you need to "unlock" the higher levels before you can open them, also makes it fun.  I need to start playing this game more frequently, as well.

4.  French Grammar: Practice Makes Perfect
At some point later in high school, I bought two "Practice Makes Perfect" Spanish workbooks.  One was Spanish Grammar, and one was Spanish Verbs.  I started doing pages over a summer, but the books became a great resource throughout the rest of my Spanish-studying days.  If I ever needed to brush up on a particular verb form or gramatical topic, I would flip to that section, read up, and then do some exercises.  So when I started to learn French my senior year of college, one of my first purchases was a "Practice Makes Perfect: French Grammar" workbook.  I brought it with me to Spain last year, and would work on pages from time to time.

So those have been my three main French-practice outlets since my French 102 class ended in spring of 2011.  It would be even better to have a French talking buddy, and best case scenario would be to just live in France for a year...

But for now I'll have to set aside some weekly French time come December, after I finish the GRE.  I haven't logged on Duolingo since Spain, nor cracked open my French grammar workbook.  If I could find an affordable French class nearby, that would also be an ideal next step.

I've got French on the brain tonight because a new friend that I met at my weekly "Mesa de conversación" brought me a French-learning program on a flashdrive today.  I just finished copying it onto my computer, and am listening to the first track.  It's lots of audio tracks with listening and repeating, which is great for speaking.  The program is called "Pimsleur," which in real life you have to pay for.  I'll be able to review their program after I've used it for a couple of weeks.

The title of this post was inspired by the following music video (which was shown to me by Hannah)

Post Word Count: 1,277
Word Count of Tweets: 52
DigiWriMo Total Word Count: 4,760
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