Toute l’année

It’s been nearly a year since my last post, and that one being about my plans to learn French. Here’s a quick update.

In the past year I’ve succeeded in “touching” French for at least 15 minutes everyday. There were times when I’d climbed into bed and be nearly asleep, only to sit upright, reach for my tablet, and go through flash cards for a few minutes, just so I didn’t break the chain.

Over the last year, my list of tools that I’ve used is slightly different from the list of tools I had gathered before setting off on this quest. I’ve continued with Rosetta Stone, although I recently put that on hold to focus on cementing what I’ve learned. I don’t feel as if my foundation is as good as it should be. If, after this long, I’m still confusing the verbs avoir, aller, and être, well, that’s a problem. So instead of adding new, for the next little while at least, I’m going to focus on reinforcing what I’ve already learned.

The way I’m planning on doing that is to focus on three things:
* Listening
* Reading and speaking
* Writing

Evernote was used extensively early on to capture the new vocabulary that I was encountering. But from there, I moved much of that data to an OpenOffice spreadsheet, keeping all of it in one place and allowing me to upload those files into Brainscape, a flash card app/website. I’m using that as my flashcard system instead of Study Blue for a couple of reasons. They offered sets of French vocab and sentence builder flashcards (for cost) and I’m using those to supplement my learning. My girlfriend has also installed Brainscape and we can share the flashcards I’ve created. Flashcards are one of the primary ways I’m trying to reinforce what I have already learned or encountered. I’ll go to the Flashcards several times a week. From the start I have listened to the podcast Coffee Break French. It often, wholly coincidentally, reinforced whatever lesson Rosetta Stone was giving me.

And now (again, coincidentally) it is focusing on portraying conversations in French that are then broken down and explained. So that fits in as part of my efforts to improve my listening comprehension skills. Early on, I listened to a radio play for new learners from RFI called L’affaire du Coffre, but that was about the only thing I’ve done with RFI. Once that was finished, I listened to One Thing in a French Day and have now been using a podcast/app called News in Slow French which is, well, news read by French speakers nice and slowly and then they discuss what they had presented. Their app is very good (for cost) and provides a full transcript of what they are reading, along with links to definitions of many of the words and phrases they used. One can use the podcast,which is an abbreviated version, for free. I have the newsletter for One Thing in a French Day, which provides the transcript, but I’m more likely to listen to News in Slow French. Not sure why. The events in One Thing are often entertaining and enlightening, but it’s just less convenient than the app.

For reading, I have purchased a subscription and some back issues of French Accent Magazine. This is intended for non-native speakers and learners of the language. There are sections that cover various language-learning issues, provide dialogs in both French and English, and for the bulk of the articles (which are still a reach for me to read) the more obscure words and phrases have definitions described in a side bar. I work with my tutor in reading out loud to both practice pronunciation as well as reading comprehension. Alas, it usually takes my time with the tutor before I understand most of what I’m reading. I’m also beginning to spend more time in conversation with my tutor. I haven’t gone to the French Speaking Group meetup because it’s been described as conversational level and I’m not there. I hope to be before too long.

For writing, the goal has been to write a short journal entry or email to my girlfriend about once a week. I’ve not been as consistent an that as I’d like, but I know that writing will be as important as conversing for me to get the language more thoroughly in my head.

In the summer I traveled with my girlfriend to Quebec City and Montreal. In preparing for that trip, I approached it almost like a final exam! We spent a lot of time talking, listening to talking, and working on phrases to use. The highpoint for me came when I had two total transactions in French! Scripts with shopkeepers can be rehearsed. I never did get a simple conversation going. And the accent is obviously apparent because, at the start of the trip, we’d burst out a hearty “Bonjour!” and hear “Good morning, what can I do for you?” as the response. That was less likely by the end of the trip, and that change was nice.

However, since then, I’ve feel as if I lost all of that facility. In focusing on the three elements above, and going back to basics to really get a solid foundation, I hope that another trip next year should be even more successful.

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