Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

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blaurebell
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:50 am

On days when I have doctor's appointments I get less Russian but more French done since I now listen to France Culture documentaries on the bus. And since my doctor studied in Germany, I actually get to speak German too, which means that a couple of days ago I actually engaged with 5 languages on one day, certainly a record for me! German with the doctor, English at home with my husband including 20min of reading out loud, an episode of Ministerio del Tiempo in Spanish, France culture on the bus and my Russian minimal study schedule - 100XP of Duolingo, 1 Assimil lesson, 15min of Clozemaster and 10min listening reading to Ночной дозор. Not half bad I would say!

Speaking of English and reading out loud: I live my life in English and it's also the language in which I write - primarily academic and journalistic content. This is mostly what we watch and read at home and also the language in which we speak with each other, with the odd Spanish word or sentence here or there. My husband lived in England for a very long time - longer than I did - and his Spanish is about as rusty as my German, since English is also still his primary language for work. Otherwise my Spanish would be much further along I suppose. After ten years of 10-15h of English a day and studying philosophy in English I have to say that nothing much counts as "language learning" for me anymore. Unless ... we read out loud! It's a great practice for language learning! We have been doing that for a few years and do it whenever we run out of things to watch. The last book we finished was Wilkie Collins The Moonstone and we are about to finish an English translation of the German translation (!) of Stanislaw Lem's The Invincible. I've read this book aloud in German as well and the German translation is simply beautifully written. I still find it a bit odd that they chose to translate this from German rather than Polish, but I guess there are more translators for German than for Polish. And since the German translation is beautiful - one of my absolute all time favourites in German - I see how a translator of German might have found the idea appealing.

In general German is difficult to translate into English because English has a preference for short sentences and German a preference for long ones, which means that English translations often overcompensate with too many short declarative sentences. It's the reason why there is hardly an English translation of German works I would recommend. The original will always be much much better. The exception are usually very long books, because then usually only the beginning is weak and then the quality of the translation goes up quickly. This is the case here as well, where the beginning was difficult to read due to too many short declarative sentences. The translator obviously started to get used to it after a while though as he progressed and further towards the end the translation isn't half bad. There are some pretty lovely passages in the penultimate chapter and I was almost not feeling bad anymore that my husband can't understand the German translation. So, in the end a passable translation, not too bad and even nice towards the end. Other good translations from German into English: W.G. Sebald is great in English because Sebald had a say in the translation and he lived in England himself. Also, Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain (Zauberberg) is long enough to be overall excellent. By the way, both are absolutely great in German, although probably somewhat challenging.

So since I'm talking about translations from German, I throw in some recommendations for German learners too: First off, read the German translation of Lem's Invincible, it's fantastic! And another translation into German I enjoyed was Georges Perec's A Man Asleep (Ein Mann der schläft), translated from the original French and I haven't yet had the guts to start this in French myself. I think it's several registers above anything I've read so far in French and the German translation isn't an easy read either. If I remember correctly, the first sentence is about 1 1/2 pages long, but so beautifully crafted that I could read it out loud without problems. Probably an excellent test to see how far you have come parsing long sentences. I also mentioned the German translation of David Eddings Belgariad saga before and the translation of a lot of the Terry Pratchett novels, especially the ones about Rincewind and the Night watch. Those last two are fairly easy to read pulp. Any of my other German recommendations have to be taken with caution though: In German I read mostly highbrow literature written between 1900-1945 with a preference for exile literature and works from the 1920s, so what I find worth reading would be quite advanced stuff for language learners, but excellent stuff for literature geeks.

I can give one recommendation that might be fairly easy though: Anything by Wladimir Kaminer. The language is comparatively simple, but has a broad vocabulary, and it's just insanely funny. It's not only a funny view on German culture from a deadpan Russian humour perspective, but contrasts it with an equally deadpan perspective on Russian culture as well. Hilarious and not too difficult I would expect. Recommended for anyone who is learning German AND Russian. For added enjoyment, listen to the audiobooks read by the author! He's got a Russian accent for sure, so that might be a little difficult, but he speaks exactly as he writes, so it has a nice flow. And I have no idea how he doesn't burst out laughing every couple of minutes! Also, let me tell you - although his stories sometimes sound somewhat unbelievable, I believe the majority of them to be true actually. My mum has told me similarly absurd stories, it's just the kind of crazy stuff that happens to Russians ;)

Also, big heart for reading out loud! Even after 10+ years of daily language exposure on a high level it still gives me a good workout, especially when reading classics like the Moonstone.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Sat Mar 11, 2017 9:30 am

Another week of Assimil Le Russe done. The lessons are getting more and more difficult to shadow, but I don't seem to be making many mistakes in the exercises at the end. Maybe there is a connection and the more I struggle to get the words out, the more repetition I get. I mean seriously, yesterday there was the lovely combination "прийти с пяти сорока пяти" and after listening to the sentence, the words out of my words were "f*** off" rather than the sentence containing that tongue twister. :lol: I did get it out at the speed of the recording in the end though and even read the sentence to my husband.

On Duolingo I passed the last checkpoint the other day. I'm now on the final stretch and according to Strides App I should be done with it in 2 weeks. By the way, towards the end of the tree the quality definitely goes down. There are some long sentences in there with too few alternatives for correct answers. I guess only a fraction of the learners reaches this part of the tree, so it can't really be avoided. Overall I find the course not half bad though. It's got some difficult humps, but I didn't feel overwhelmed with 100XP a day. And it covers everything needed for reading fast, which was what allowed me to get started with native content rather early.

Now that I'm almost at the end of Duolingo I decided that I need to go into more detail with grammar next, since Duolingo and Assimil will leave me with gaps for sure. Russian grammar is just too complicated to learn it without proper drills. So, my Duolingo time slot will be taken up by Modern Russian 1 soon, which I received in the mail the other day. What is it like? 487 pages, not a single picture and mostly drills! :? Something for the grammar time slot for sure! The scary part is that there is also a workbook of 128 pages which I'm still awaiting impatiently and of course there is also Modern Russian 2 which is even a few pages longer! :shock: I thought I might be able to finish Modern Russian 1 in 3 months perhaps, but this would leave me with 5 pages in the book + 1.5 pages in the workbook a day. It would be fine for a book with pictures, but 6 1/2 pages of pure grammar drills doesn't sound very pleasant to me! I guess I will just do 1h and see how far I get each day on average.

I have never finished a course like that before. Even my university Italian course which was somewhat going in this direction had less drills and a few pictures here and there. I powered through the Italian one in 3 months because I was on a deadline and graduating in time depended on it. Thanks to that awful course I kinda developed a hatred towards Italian for a while. I definitely shouldn't repeat that experience with Russian! So, no deadline on Modern Russian 1, I just see how long it will take me while I keep going with a 1h Russian grammar habit. Depending on how straining it is I might be able to do more once I finish with Assimil. In any case, I'd expect my hit rate with producing correct cases on cue should go up after I finish this one. However, I also won't buy Modern Russian 2 yet, in case my motivation falters and I decide to to reduce torture time to a minimum. The books aren't expensive, but I feel I have enough unfinished Russian courses that seem to mock me from their spot on the shelf.

In any case I don't think my motivation will falter though. There is a pretty amazing natural history museum waiting for me in Moscow at the end of this journey and I have not only my relatives but also at least 3 photography friends who have expressed the wish to speak Russian with me. By now I have a list of probably about 100 movies to watch and an insane reading list not only for pleasure but also for my PhD. I want this badly and since I'm already a third of the way into my first book I'll get there too. Considering my heritage I probably can't get away with speaking bad Russian either: My mum is a rather critical person and she will judge judge and judge if I speak badly. So, I can't wriggle my way out of doing a course like Modern Russian.

Yesterday I saw a Ted talk in French - another polyglot endorsing to speak from day 1. I'm one of these people who waits forever before speaking until I can be sure that what I say is at least somewhat grammatically correct - I still haven't started speaking French and I'm fine with that. I certainly won't speak to my mum in Russian for a very long time still. One day when I will have reached a sufficiently high level I'll just switch and surprise her with not too bad Russian. I can't wait to see her reaction!
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:02 am

Thoughts on my progress after 6 weeks of my 3 month Russian challenge

Yesterday I finally found the time for a long stretch of reading in Russian. I'm down to an average of 20 minutes per page and I came across a page with only 18% new words as well. Getting there! I'm also noticing that increasingly I can take in shorter words at a glance, rather than reading letter by letter. So, although progress seems slow, it's definitely there. So far there isn't too much of a difference between my progress in Russian and the progress I made with the same method in French. By the end of my 6th week with Assimil I was also at about 4000 known word forms in LWT. I do spend more time on reading with Russian, because I'm still below the 50% ratio of known / unknown words, but if I only go by the amount of Assimil+Duolingo that I've done, it actually matches.

With French I actually ditched formal study by week 8 to have more time for reading. For me the whole point of learning French was to be able to read and watch French native content. I only have one close French friend and since we studied together in England the common things we speak about require very specific English vocabulary. I wouldn't even be able to speak about the same things in German to be honest because it's so specific academic stuff! So, I just don't really have any motivation to actually speak at all. I'm fine with that and know that I could probably activate my French fairly quickly, but even travel doesn't seem too much of an incentive, since the only trip planned to France this year will happen with my husband's family. Travelling on my own I'd probably find opportunities to speak, but it's much more difficult to find the opportunity when I'm surrounded by a Spanish speaking bubble. So, for now I will just continue ramping up the difficulty of the content I engage with until I can read and watch just about any French content, even the stuff that is more inventive with the language. I'll leave the speaking for a time when I actually have a reason to speak it. I'm dreaming of a month long stay in Paris to get some photography done, but I'll probably only have time for it in a few years when I'm done with my PhD.

So with French after reading about 600 pages I didn't feel that formal study was helping me at all anymore for comprehension. By that time I had done about half of the passive wave of Assimil and most of Duolingo. At that point the main problem was vocabulary and I knew it would increase automatically if I just continued reading. After 5000 pages I switched over to watching stuff and now I'm focussing mainly on listening. In total I've spent about 330h reading vs 230h watching / listening, and only about 80h of formal study. I want to tip the balance over to listening now with oodles of France culture, audiobooks and finally native series after watching mostly dubbed TV so far. I'm not spending that much time on it these days with my focus on Russian, but I try to watch at least one episode or listen to one documentary a day and that gets me to about 40min to 2h of French a day. So, at the end of my Russian year I will probably have had another 300-400h of French behind me as well. It's also likely that I will read some books about Russian topics in French or books written in French by Russian exiles, so it might even be more in the end. So, at the end of 2017 I expect to have had around 1000h of French, I'm at 640h now.

For Russian my goal for this year is to reach at least 1100h total including the time I've spent on learning Russian during my unsuccessful attempt the last time round. So far I have had 250h and 130h of those happened this year. I need to average at about 3h a day to reach my goal and once I've broken through the comprehension barrier I can easily spend half of this time relaxing with TV and science fiction books. Or I might do significantly more than that once I understand, very likely actually! This initial period requires lots of tedious work - especially dictionary work -, but later on binge-watching TV and reading all sorts of nice stuff will be the reward. With Russian I actually have many reasons to speak, so I will try hard to keep the formal study up this time and add a lot more grammar due to the nature of Russian. I hope to finish Duolingo, Assimil Le Russe and Modern Russian this year at least. Maybe I will also do Michel Thomas Russian, Assimil Le Russe Perfectionnement or the Duolingo French for Russian speakers tree if I finish Modern Russian early. In the not too unlikely case that I actually ditch Modern Russian or "only" do half of it ( :lol: :cry: ) I will go with the New Penguin Russian course followed by a more advanced grammar like the Blackwell grammar + workbook by Terence Wade.

By the way, I also feel tempted to ditch Assimil halfway through again, since I obviously get the passive assimilation part done already with reading and would get more than enough grammar through Modern Russian. But then, although painful I actually find the shadowing really helpful for pronunciation and it doesn't really matter whether I have to force myself to shadow 20 sentences of Assimil in each lesson or force myself to shadow Glossika with much less context, no grammar explanations and about as useful sentences. Glossika sentences are supposed to be more useful, but in general they are not. "My brother and I are good tennis players" is about as far from reality as it gets for me :D If I run into too many idiotic and too long sentences in Assimil I might reconsider switching to Glossika though, since those sentences are actually meant to be shadowed, Assimil sentences are not. By the way, in general I believe ditching resources when they become less useful is preferable to wasting time on finishing them. Getting ahead of your resources just happens automatically when you engage with a lot of native content. It's just sometimes hard to decide whether something is painfully boring because it's repetitive or because it's below your level. For now I still find useful parts in Assimil and so I continue with it. And I guess Modern Russian will continually feel like more or less intense torture, but should actually work to beat the grammar mistakes out of me gulag-style.

Did you notice that language learners make a lot of plans and don't follow through with them? I'm one of those too. When I started with French I thought I'd do FSI eventually. I didn't even finish Assimil and just continued with what was fun for me. What will the minimal approach to Russian for me be if I reach my limit for formal study "torture"? The same as it was for French: Just keep on reading and then start watching. I'm already at a point where success is inevitable even if I ditch all formal study and just continue with intensive reading. So, basically I've reached my goal of this 3 month challenge after 6 weeks already! Very cool! Seems like my approach works and I can now break the comprehension barrier for any language that has an Assimil course and a Duolingo tree. I'm itching to try whether this approach might even work for Japanese, but I suppose it would be a lot more difficult to pick up a language with that kind of writing system by intensive reading! A project to keep in mind for the inevitable void after my PhD.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby Tomás » Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:39 pm

I am following in your French footsteps, and finding that it is very easy to start reading in if you already have Spanish and English. However, I would guess that relatively more difficult languages such as Russian and Japanese would require a longer period of study before moving to all native materials.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby outcast » Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:09 pm

blaurebell wrote:As for Spanish content: There used to be some very good Argentinian programs under the old government, most of which are defunded now I believe. So, since the last Argentinian elections I can't really recommend anything from there anymore either. It's a shame, there was some really interesting stuff on over there. One or two things about politics might still be on since they were independent, but of course they are super depressing right now. Those last elections not only ruined our plans for moving to Argentina but also totally derailed my Spanish engagement thanks to this major defunding of all the educational TV initiatives of the old government. Yep, we shouldn't talk about politics, but government funding and good educational TL content go hand in hand. And agreed also on Italian sources. This is the reason why I haven't kept up with my Italian at all, I just couldn't find any TV or radio worth my time. I will probably reactivate it at some point when I finally find the time and money for my Italian art history road trip, but until then I literally have no reason to engage with the language.
[/quote]

I am a bit bewildered by the situation you are relating. Now, I have no idea about online Spanish sources since on the one hand I don't see much need for listening practice in Spanish (but actually, I do need it, even if it is a mother tongue for me because my vocabulary has deteriorated), and also because at home with satellite tv and the international package there is like 40 Spanish channels available, and a large number are Argentine since cable tv there has been very well developed for decades now, so I get Telefe, 13, TyC, Utilisima, TN, Disney LA (and many teen shows in Latin America are from Argentina, I have my somewhat ::dark:: suspicions as to why Disney, Nickolodeon, and even some Latin American TV channels historically hire so many Argentine teens or actors to act in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, etc... sadly the key word is "dark"). I wish I got Cronica TV it's probably the most histerical news network in the world. There is also HBO in Spanish and plenty of Argentine movies there.

What I mean is, there are tons of channels and most are private, and one of the few things that has remained mostly stable over the last 20-30 years of crazy governments. Now I do know in the last elections the conservatives got back in and so I am not surprised if they are slashing budgets for the public television, and that obviously hurts if people had plans to try to venture into that. But as for actual tv shows just to practice listening, the private channels should not be affected at all, at least in the past the private networks never seemed affected by the change in government, either from the right or the left.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby Arnaud » Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:16 pm

Concerning "Modern Russian", there are two audio versions available on the internet. The one I'm currently listening contains only russian sentences, almost no english. The version available publicly contains the english translations with lot of blank spaces, so it's longer and less challenging.
I don't know exactly what I'm listening to, as I don't read the books: the textbooks ? the workbooks ? Is there several versions of that course ? I don't know.
The level is really very basic, lots of repetitions with always the same limited vocab, it's a little overkill but can be useful to create good automatisms and correct fossilized mistakes (for exemple, in my case, I always forget to use the animated accusative. Now, I think I forget it a little less)
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Sun Mar 12, 2017 10:36 pm

Tomás wrote:I am following in your French footsteps, and finding that it is very easy to start reading in if you already have Spanish and English. However, I would guess that relatively more difficult languages such as Russian and Japanese would require a longer period of study before moving to all native materials.


With French I started reading after only 42h of formal study. With Russian it was after 90h - Russian World 1 on Youtube, half of Duolingo, 20 lessons of Assimil. Considering that the FSI estimate for Russian is 1100h of classroom study that's actually nothing in the grand scheme of things. I guess with German as a native language I'm used to the concept of cases though, so that helps.

I guess that with a language like Japanese a lot more study time would have to go into figuring out the writing system so that dictionary lookup would be reasonably efficient. I've been toying with the idea of learning Japanese for about 15 years now, so one day I'm sure I'm going to try. A lot of my friends at university studied Japanese and the Modern Japan department was only one corridor away. The amount of time my friends spent solely studying kanji kinda put me off so far, but now that I have some fairly efficient methods for language learning in general I'm actually tempted to try. So far I haven't even attempted it in earnest and I don't own a single Japanese course. With all my anime watching with English subs I've only picked up a few expressions and a couple of isolated words here and there. (The first Japanese word I learned was actually the word for "panties" due to a particularly hilarious episode of Chobits :lol: Falls under "only in Japan ...")
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Sun Mar 12, 2017 10:49 pm

outcast wrote:What I mean is, there are tons of channels and most are private, and one of the few things that has remained mostly stable over the last 20-30 years of crazy governments. Now I do know in the last elections the conservatives got back in and so I am not surprised if they are slashing budgets for the public television, and that obviously hurts if people had plans to try to venture into that. But as for actual tv shows just to practice listening, the private channels should not be affected at all, at least in the past the private networks never seemed affected by the change in government, either from the right or the left.


You're of course totally right with the typical TV shows and series, but the problem is that I'm actually way beyond teen dramas and stuff like that in Argentinian. I can profit from watching the continental Spanish series only because I'm unfamiliar with the slang and find that they mumble a lot. In Argentinian I can half listen to tv shows while the dog is barking or my in-laws are talking over each other and still get 99%. Or at least that was the case about 2 year ago, maybe I'm a little more rusty now. In any case I was watching mostly educational TV, documentaries, literary programs, that sort of thing, more high brow programs with a wider vocabulary. And those of course got axed by the new government. Haven't been watching much Argentinian tv since that disaster happened :cry:
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Sun Mar 12, 2017 10:56 pm

Arnaud wrote:Concerning "Modern Russian", there are two audio versions available on the internet.


Oh, I only know this one: http://www.iu.edu/~celtie/russian_b09.html I assume that's the one with English, I haven't checked yet. Where did you find the other version? And yes, it looks a lot like overkill and over-learning, but I'm the kind of person who thinks slowly even under ideal circumstances. The average Russian speaker will have fallen asleep by the time I got my cases in order :lol: Better get some automaticity in there to compensate!
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian and reluctant Spanish

Postby blaurebell » Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:55 pm

French

So, it's the end of the 6WC and I'm registered with Russian. Of course, what did I do yesterday? 4h of French 1h of Spanish and only 2h of Russian :roll: I think something went wrong there. My silly dubbed series had a bunch of cliffhangers so I ended up watching 3 episodes in a row, watched a politics video, listened to a France Culture Simenon production and I finished 2 comics in French Le Sursis, Tome 1 & 2 because I got hooked. I guess I just needed to relax a little after spending 7h on Russian the day before. Russian is still hard work, so 7h was a lot. At least relaxing in French means that it's productive even if I procrastinate most of the day :D

Spanish

I'm surprised my eyeballs didn't pop out of their sockets from all the eye rolling I did during the third episode of El Ministerio del Tiempo. Yeah right, the cell phones work in the past, but not in the mountains :roll: Also, the jokes don't exactly become any better if you mutter them under your breath :roll: And jeez, is it not possible to find a single German actor in Spain?! And even if you only find Spanish people willing to play Nazis, at least have a German proof read your damn dialogue, grammar mistakes in pretty much every sentence! :roll: Also, acting challenges for the women: One of them is apparently supposed to look worried all the time, the other one is supposed to cry a lot :roll: Demons singing in French are a lot less cringeworthy than this series and that's saying a lot!

Russian

14 skills left on Duolingo and 8 of them are short! I can't wait to finish it, since it's not exactly enjoyable and there are a lot of strange and unnatural translations in the last stretch of the tree. This goes so far that the most difficult part isn't the Russian but guessing which silly translation they want for it. I guess Russian and English are sufficiently far apart to make translation from one into the other a real pain. I definitely won't keep the tree golden since I already got plenty of practice with the earlier parts of the tree and the last stretch is just not worth it. My time is better spent with Modern Russian.

As for Modern Russian: The audio of the whole course - Modern Russian 1 and 2 - is 50h long in total and it looks like I might need double the time to cover the content in the books and the audio. Not quite as bad as I thought. It certainly won't be fun, but I think grammar drilling is at least more enjoyable than translation exercises. If I can slog through 30h+ of Duolingo I can get through at least 25h of these audio-drills too. Also since this one was partially funded by the FSI, I believe I'll have lots of fun with all the relevant spy related Soviet vocabulary. All in all it looks like I will be able to finish it by the end of September after all, which is when our travel marathon starts this year: Madrid and Paris in October, Moscow in November - the most immediate reason for this adventure! I never really get much studying done while I'm travelling apart from some reading and audiobooks on the train, so it would be unlikely that I'd make any progress on grammar study in October. Better have it finished before then! No idea whether Modern Russian will be enough in general, but since I have a sort of masochistic love for grammar books I will probably have a look at the Blackwell grammar at the end of this journey to verify. I think in general I need to stop making fun of my dad for his masochistic hobbies - he likes to do difficult math problems in his free time. Learning Russian grammar in my free time is probably part of the same category of madness. I don't really enjoy it per se, but it's at least a nice challenge.

I just had a good idea: When I finish Modern Russian I will allow myself to buy a proper Graflex 4x5 camera with a lens and a development tank! I never buy cameras I don't *need*. 4x5 is always at the back of my mind, but strictly speaking I can't really use it for my work, so it never makes the cut. It would be more of a "toy" for me, so I tend to make more sane choices when I decide how to invest my money. When I finish all of Modern Russian, this will be my reward. If I ditch Modern Russian, no 4x5! Now, if that isn't an incentive! Look at that beauty!

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: 13 / 45 Modern Russian 1
: 64 / 100 Дэвид Эддингс - Обретение чуда
: 5787 / 35000 LWT Known

: 6919 / 10000 French Pages
: 29 / 150 French native audio
: 90 / 150 peninsular Spanish audio


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