With our date of departure quickly approaching, I’ve been trying to set aside more time for studying French. I have to admit that the language is getting easier and more interesting as things move along. Just 14 months ago, I knew only ‘bonjour’ and a bit of the usual ramblings someone makes when imitating the French language. Funny thing, I think all of that fake French imitating I did actually paid off in improving my accent. Who knows. Anyhow, since a few of my friends are more interested in my taking on French as opposed to the ‘whole wine thing’ I’ve decided to share a few of the things I did to improve my French. The first thing to remember is to not excuse your French along the way!
I started with Pimsleur audio cds which I rented from the library. I also bought a few French text books. While I knew almost nothing of the lessons which accompanied them, it was interesting to see what someone else would see while sitting in an actual room, taking a proper course of study. Next, I went to livemocha.com. This site is excellent! There is a strong community of people around the world that are both learning as you are, and a good many that are generous enough to offer free help in their native language…the one you are learning. I found that there course outline of word/picture association was quite similar to Rosetta Stone. I didn’t wish to spend for RS so LiveMocha was a big help.
At this time, I noticed that I could hear a pattern in French, a rhythm if you will. When you notice this for yourself, it is easier to keep up with the sounds which are forming words when someone is speaking. Also, if you practice this rhythm yourself, native speakers will be able to understand you better. I have found that when a non-native speaker is speaking French it isn’t just accent which can through off communication. If your rhythm is off, it can be quite difficult for the other person to understand you. With this in mind, I subscribed to TV5 Monde, a French Cable station through Comcast Cable. Seeing the body language and specific gesturing which went into French was endlessly helpful. After this, I bought a few more French books, French for Dummies, etc. Also, I bought an Instant Immersion book and set of audio cds which allowed me to learn by reading while having something to listen to as well.
After this, I subscribed to Netflix to watch a bunch of French movies. I would toggle the subtitles off/on to see how much I could pick up without the subtitles on, rewinding and having the subtitles on to check to see if I was simply full of it. Most of the time, yup, I was full of it, and completely wrong. But, who was to know? I just found out Why I was wrong and went about getting better. Hearing all of these different voices in French allowed me to be able to understand a good many styles of speaking French as well as affording me the ability to be able to switch gears when someone spoke differently than myself. Shortly after, I bought a bunch of old French wine books so I could speak ‘wine French’. Tools, methods, observations, etc are easier to speak about when you are using the specific words for that context.
Finally, Rosetta Stone. Worth the money? Sure. But, I would suggest that this software is best used along with some of the other material to make sure you have a solid foundation for spelling, grammar, etc. Throughout learning, I was never shy about using 110% of the French I knew. Meaning, I would guess at some words I would assume would follow the pattern. In a lot of situations, it worked wonderfully. Others…not so much. But, people were always very friendly helping me along with a smile and the proper way to get my words out in the right order. Many times, the person I was speaking with would ask me how to say something in English (asking in French) and the word was written exactly the same and only pronounced just a bit differently than we would say it in English.
All in all, it is amazing at times when it occurs to me just how much French is in English and indeed how much English is in French.
Alright then, back to studying for me.