mardi 28 février 2012

Learning French: Starting over again (Part 2)

In Learning French: Starting over again (Part 1) I discussed the beginning of my second attempt at learning French. I didn't know when I started again that journey would be still going some 12 years later. The difference is that it is even more fun now than before.

Upon returning from France it was back to my classes at the Alliance. Teachers would ask the class if they had learnt the subjunctive before and there would be a collective sigh. I embarrassedly would admit yes, many times, and equally as many, had forgotten it. 
Dámasa - studying

As my thirst for learning French grew, I realised that I needed to put in more effort. If you are young, you may be able to just turn up for your weekly lesson with no practice or study between but I found that this did not work for me. Perhaps it doesn't work for young people either. On the other hand age is no excuse for failing to learn a new language according to a report in New Scientist.

I look back now and realise what a scattergun approach I had taken to learning the language. I have tried everything that I can. I sought out opportunities to immerse myself in the French language in spite of living in an English speaking country.

In addition to classes at the Alliance and later at University of the Third Age there are a number of things that I have tried. Some of these I will cover in more detail in future posts:
  • Buying extra grammar books to help understand grammatical principles and for additional practice. I found that you have to also open and use them to have any chance of effectiveness. 
  • Private lessons with 1 or 2 others as well as a regular coffee and chat with friends in French (including one who is French).
  • Participating in online French chats and forums: These have since been replaced as technology changes, my confidence and skills improve and I develop friendships with people whom I have met through the internet. I tend to use Skype more often now. 
  • Changing my PC and smartphone to operate in French and setting the keyboard to French. Wherever possible the language in all applications, software and social media is set to French. Amazingly, I don't even notice anymore that it is in French. I have no hesitation in choosing the 'Enregistrer', 'Supprimer' or 'Envoyer' buttons or 'J'aime' on Facebook. Coming across terminology in French frequently has implanted it into my sub-conscious so that I am no longer aware that the word is in another language. They are no different to other  words in my vocabulary; they just happen to be in French. 
  • Subscribed to French magazines: I took out a 6 month discounted subscription for 'L'Express'. I paid only 1 € per magazine but the postage was quite high.  
  • Online resources: Online French lessons, exercises, magazines, radio, podcasts, videos, films - the options are almost infinite. I will detail more information in future posts.
  • French language Meetup group: Meetup is an online facility to help groups of people with shared interests plan meetups and form offline clubs in local communities around the world. There are French language meetup groups internationally. If there is not one near you, you could start up one.
  • Seek out French speakers socially and in my work environment whether they be colleagues or customers.
  • Telling stories and chatting in French to my grandchildren in spite of them not knowing any French. Pets could easily be substituted for children. I have also talked aloud to myself in French when driving. Even if no-one responds it is good practice for articulating words in French and gaining confidence. I found it helped my tongue and mouth get around words where I would otherwise falter.
  • French immersion stay: I have done 5 linguistic stays with various Alliance françaises in France and one with CREIPAC in New Caledonia (Learning French: New Caledonia - August 2012). I will discuss this in more detail in a future post and will also include how to make the most of it.
  • Studying French by distance at an Australian university.
  • Volunteering: I volunteered with the Alliance française de Rouen for more than 3 years. I 'worked' for them both when I was in France and remotely from home in Australia. 
  • Books with spoken CDs: There are some wonderful spoken CDs available in French. I particularly enjoyed Philippe Delerm's La Première Gorgée de Bière. It is a collection of magical short descriptions which are full of vivid imagery. I found the length ideal for being able to replay over and over. The vocabulary is quite rich so sometimes can be challenging but I enjoyed the change from the simplistic storylines in the Mills and Boon type books I was reading.  The stories can also be followed in the book if required. (Note: Not suitable for beginners. I would suggest at least intermediate level of French required.)

  • Novels in French: I initially found it easier to read books that tend to use repetitive vocabulary  and familiar story lines such as Mills and Boon type novels and those by Agatha Christie. I quickly got the gist of fluttering eyelids and pounding hearts without stopping to look words up in dictionaries. 
  • Frequenting French cafés, patisseries, boulangeries and restaurants in Australia and ordering and making small talk in French.
  • Participate in social events run by my local Alliance française. As well as the Alliance française French Film Festival they offer a wide variety of social events including regular lunchtime gatherings, plays, social evenings, wine tastings etc. My Alliance even has regular bridge evenings for francophones.  If only I knew how to play bridge!
  • French satellite television at home. An annual subscription was my gift to myself when I changed from working full-time to part-time. Not only are there benefits linguistically but culturally as well.  
I am eager to do a visit to Melbourne with a free tour in French through the Melbourne Greeter service.  The possibilities are almost endless.  It takes some effort to find the opportunities and also to make the most of them.

The listing above contains things that I have used to supplement formal classes. For a comparison of the benefits and drawbacks of some of the different learning methods I thoroughly recommend Judy MacMahon's article 'Continuing to Learn French'. In it Camille Chevalier-Karfis of French Today provides her advice.  What was effective for me may not be effective for others. Hopefully this list provides a prompt to consider alternatives when learning French.

My 'secret' if you like for 'perservering' with learning French has been my group of francophile and francophone friends. I have no idea how many coffees have been drunk in my pursuit to learn French. They have been there to support and encourage me throughout the journey. Un grand merci à toutes et à tous!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d share it with your friends by email, Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!

Further reading with Femme Francophile:

1 commentaire:

  1. Bonjour!
    Mon nom est Shirley et je suis une doublure d'artiste à Sydney. J'utilise un traducteur pour mon français… mais utiliserais plutôt mon cerveau. Je suivrai votre conseil : IE. ouvrez les livres et utilisez-les ! ! LOL.


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