Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

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Mr Dastardly
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Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:00 pm

EDITED SINCE REALISING IMPORTANCE OF FOCUSED GRAMMAR STUDY.

Hello Everyone,

So I began acquiring my first foreign language (French) at the beginning of the year. I spent some time researching language-learning methods before I embarked on what I like to think is a realistic approach to mastering a foreign language but, honestly, despite the prior research and some notable progress, I often feel doubtful of my approach. I am therefore hoping some nice people with more experience than me will be kind enough to examine my approach and either give me either some constructive advice or some reassurance that I'm roughly on the right path.

I study for roughly three or four hours a day, every day, and my approach is input-based.

* I started with Assimil, but stopped after 50 lessons due to near-suicidal bordom.

* I then intensively read (with audio) two of Olly Richard's readers: 101 conversations for beginners and the other one for intermediate learners. I input every sentence I could not understand into Anki, and memorised all the cards passively, from French > English. I then started timing myself to see how quickly I could read and re-read 25% of each book. I did this until I could understand maybe 90% of the content fairly fluently.

* Since getting bored with the readers, I have been engaging in three four daily activities:

1. Working my way through a frequency dictionary, Anki-ing 21 new example sentences each day (I've almost covered the most frequent 2000 words so far [I didn't need to Anki all 2000, though])

2. Intensively listening to 10-ish minute YouTube interviews from Le Dessous des Cartes. I've gone through five so far. I downloaded them as MP3s and have been listening to them repetitively an incalculable number of times - sometimes consciously, other times when I'm doing chores or something not too cognitively demanding. I switch back and forth between reading the transcript and pure listening until I can comprehend perhaps 90% of the recording.

3. Extensive reading or extensive listening, depending on how I feel. Sometimes I'll read the news or intermediate podcast transcripts from Inner French, or sometimes I'll try to watch dubbed Friends on Netflix or random French YouTube clips.

EDIT: 4. Reworking through Assimil and working through "French Grammar Drills" by Eliane Kurbegov.

Nb: I'm doing zero output and zero grammar study.

Progress

So I've definitely made progress. What was once virtually unintelligible is now only moderately unintelligible. I can obviously understand the recordings and texts that I study intensively and repetitively review, but truly novel native content still remains, at best, 70% comprehensible (although I find reading the news quite a lot easier than understanding every day spoken content, like dubbed Friends). Part of me thinks if I just keep doing what I am doing, I'll eventually get to the point of comprehending 100% of native content, but part of me also thinks what I'm doing is terribly inefficient, and yet another part thinks maybe I'll never reach a useful level of comprehension.

Many thanks for any guidance on this.
Last edited by Mr Dastardly on Sat Apr 03, 2021 11:16 am, edited 8 times in total.
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iguanamon
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby iguanamon » Wed Mar 31, 2021 7:12 pm

First, welcome to the forum, Mr Dastardly. I don't know how to say this diplomatically- No, I don't think your approach will take you very far. There are people here who can learn languages without a course, but they are usually not monolingual beginners. Language-learning without a course is about recognizing patterns. It's about drawing on knowledge of how languages work and figuring out which bits go where. While this is certainly not impossible for a monolingual beginner to do, it is not very probable.

Assimil, despite it's hype here on the forum, is not for everyone, but I'm surprised you found it "boring" because the lessons are short and the course approaches teaching grammar in a "lite" way, this usually precludes boredom. If I recommended other courses to you, if you found Assimil boring, you'd be bored out of your gourd with some of the others... and there are a blue million courses for English-speakers to learn French.

The thing about language-learning for a monolingual beginner is that they must learn how a language works. A course does this gradually through lessons that build upon each other. A course can't teach a learner a language, though. It can get the learner to a basic, fundamental grasp, but the learner has to interact with the language beyond courses and also within the course itself. While a course isn't the most exciting thing on the planet to read and work through, a good course can give the learner a solid background with a language.

While we all like to have fun when learning, some of this stuff just flat out ain't fun and a learner just has to get through it- boredom be damned. I don't like doing courses and I try to get through them as quickly as I can, but I get through them. My fun comes from gradually parsing native material as soon as I can, while I'm doing a course. It comes from synergy with working through two complimentary courses. I have fun listening to native music and catching words. I have fun trying to parse a tweet or a song lyric. All of this leads me to want to finish the course(s) I'm doing.

To sum up, I believe the most efficient way for a monolingual beginner is to find a course that doesn't annoy them too much in order to gain a foundation in the language. Accept that said course is not going to be exciting but know that if worked through and completed, that foundation can be built upon.

Have a look at my post about the multi-track approach here. If you're dead set on learning without a course, have a look at this thread French via shopping-themed reality television.

I'm sorry I haven't agreed with your approach to learning French. A lot of times here on the forum, we coddle beginners because we don't want them to quit. I certainly don't want you to quit. I just want to tell you what I have done and what other self-learners here have done to reach a high level in a language. If you are having fun doing what you are doing with French and you like doing it your way, by all means continue.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Le Baron » Wed Mar 31, 2021 9:03 pm

iguanamon wrote:While we all like to have fun when learning, some of this stuff just flat out ain't fun and a learner just has to get through it- boredom be damned...


Amen to that. And I learned it the hard way, after already knowing two other languages I thought it would be easier to 'acquire' a language in the rather fashionable manner that seems to be being promoted these days (such as that already multilingual languages professor on YouTube 'acquiring' Arabic by paying lots of teachers then going on an extended trip to Egypt...you know, like everyone does.) As you say one ends up all over the place reinventing the wheel when just sticking with a fundamental course would have pointed out all these things and gets you on you way; also pointing out the common pitfalls (very particular to some languages).

I agree with the heavy input approach, but like to see at the very least one course through to the end. I've had best results with Hugo 3 Months courses and I know how they work. I don't understand why people want everything in record time or believe it possible. It's getting tiresome. There's surely a difference between 'as efficiently as possible' and 'hurry up before I lose interest because I'm impatient to learn a set of skills'?

No offence to the OP. Seems he's put quite a bit of work in.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby rdearman » Wed Mar 31, 2021 9:13 pm

I think your approach could work, although it would probably take you longer than if you just pushed on through a course or two. If you do plan to continue as you are without a course, then I recommend you get a grammar book. "French grammar in context" is a good one, or really any French grammar book.

You say you aren't doing grammar study, but why? (I personally hate grammar books, so this isn't a criticism just curiosity)

There is a school of thought that you should do 1,000 hours of input before you start output. One member discussed this, you might find more in his log. https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?t=789
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby iguanamon » Wed Mar 31, 2021 9:22 pm

Le Baron wrote:... I learned it the hard way, after already knowing two other languages I thought it would be easier to 'acquire' a language in the rather fashionable manner that seems to be being promoted these days (such as that already multilingual languages professor on YouTube 'acquiring' Arabic by paying lots of teachers then going on an extended trip to Egypt...you know, like everyone does.) As you say one ends up all over the place reinventing the wheel when just sticking with a fundamental course would have pointed out all these things and gets you on you way; also pointing out the common pitfalls (very particular to some languages)...

I thought I could just "pick up" Catalan after having learned five languages to a high level. While I started off by reading a book with a dictionary ( and could read other books and watch a tv series), I still needed a course to point out the whys of what I was learning. I've had the reputation of here of being "anti-course" over a long time of my tenure. Maybe because I have critiqued people who I felt were overly dependent upon them to the almost exclusion of native material. There is a happy medium between all native material and all course. If I were the OP, I'd at least work my way through the CLE grammar series. Probably the Assimil course after all the OP's work, would serve to tie up some of these loose ends too.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Cenwalh » Wed Mar 31, 2021 10:09 pm

I see nothing wrong with this approach since you already seem to have a decent grounding from Assimil, and you're putting stuff in Anki. I love the idea of comprehensible input from the beginning, but I don't really think there's enough content out there for it unless you go to a specialised school.

I took a similar very light on the grammar approach - although I did study vocab and some conjugations before dropping them - with Spanish. I have no regrets about my approach, but I think with input only it takes a heck of a long time to get to comfortable output, so bear that in mind. Whilst grammar studiers can say basic things from the start, you will be able to say almost nothing for a very long time.

I would say that 70% comprehension will be quite frustrating in the long term. I would recommend finding some content for learners that is interesting but more basic than native speech for your extensive listening.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Sayonaroo » Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:07 am

how are you reading? i recommend vocabtracker.com for the computer
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby kundalini » Thu Apr 01, 2021 1:28 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote:I study for roughly three or four hours a day, every day, and my approach is input-based.

1. Working my way through a frequency dictionary, Anki-ing 21 new example sentences each day (I've almost covered the most frequent 2000 words so far [I didn't need to Anki all 2000, though])

2. Intensively listening to 10-ish minute YouTube interviews from Le Dessous des Cartes. I've gone through five so far. I downloaded them as MP3s and have been listening to them repetitively an incalculable number of times - sometimes consciously, other times when I'm doing chores or something not too cognitively demanding. I switch back and forth between reading the transcript and pure listening until I can comprehend perhaps 90% of the recording.

3. Extensive reading or extensive listening, depending on how I feel. Sometimes I'll read the news or intermediate podcast transcripts from Inner French, or sometimes I'll try to watch dubbed Friends on Netflix or random French YouTube clips.


Given that you've already made enormous strides, I think you're on the right track. I would say that an underrated aspect of language learning is self-knowledge. That is, it's up to the learner to figure out what works and what does not based on his understanding of himself. At 3-4 hours a day, you're putting in a very serious effort. I would suggest that, based on your knowledge of yourself, you consider how long you might sustain such a schedule, and that you come up with a backup plan to continue with French for a time when your motivation flags, or you have less time for French, or other interests compete for your attention. Only you can answer such questions.

If I were in your shoes, I'd also watch out for things that might dampen my enthusiasm for French. For example, grinding through a frequency list might feel like too much work to me, so I'd probably cut back on that . Frequent words kind of have a built-in mechanism for reinforcement anyway--they show up frequently in native material, consolidating your understanding of a word each time you encounter it.

Another thing that has the potential for burnout is listening to the same content too many times. I've done this kind of brute force listening, too. When I sense my body stiffen up in boredom or resistance, I know it's way past time to move on. If you experience something similar, consider fewer repetitions.

Speaking of your 90% threshold -- this seems high to me, because at your level, it requires so much effort to achieve it. Consider being more selective with what you choose to learn from any given material. If it feels too hard for you at a given moment, it's OK to move on to something else. There is an art to letting go. Try to find a zone of moderate effort that you can maintain.

So my advice for you would be to worry less about efficiency--because you're clearly making good progress--and more about sustaining your effort long-term.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby lysi » Thu Apr 01, 2021 2:59 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote:* I then intensively read (with audio) two of Olly Richard's readers: 101 conversations for beginners and the other one for intermediate learners. I input every sentence I could not understand into Anki, and memorised all the cards passively, from French > English. I then started timing myself to see how quickly I could read and re-read 25% of each book. I did this until I could understand maybe 90% of the content fairly fluently.

* Since getting bored with the readers, I have been engaging in three daily activities:


No wonder you'd get bored, the point of readers is to create artificially lower levelled content so that you can understand everything or at least almost all of it without having to stop and slowly work out every sentence. I can only really bear doing intensive reading when it's a subject or an author that I really like but you might be different, since I can't even consider memorizing sentences in Anki that I don't understand. What good will a translation to English do if you don't know what you don't understand?

I don't know about how good or boring Assimil is since I've never tried it so I can't say anything here. But I did like the Grammaire Progressive series, and you should be able to understand it despite it being only in French. It's very comprehensive, and I sometimes even refer back to the Niveau Perfectionnement book to check something (even though I completed it like 7 months ago). I would say try and give it a shot. Maybe take a look at FSI too and try one of the units and see what you think, even though it's considered to be boring (and it is), it does give instant feedback in a rhythm that's fairly easy to get used to.

I'm totally for the no output approach, but you should work on pronunciation. Better to do it at the start.

kundalini wrote:Given that you've already made enormous strides, I think you're on the right track. I would say that an underrated aspect of language learning is self-knowledge. That is, it's up to the learner to figure out what works and what does not based on his understanding of himself.

That's the reason why OP created this thread though. You just don't have the experience as a beginner in language learning to know if what you're doing is right. I also wouldn't call being able to understand 90% of beginner and intermediate readers after 3 months (270-360 hours for OP) an appropriate amount of progress for the effort put in.

Mr Dastardly wrote:Part of me thinks if I just keep doing what I am doing, I'll eventually get to the point of comprehending 100% of native content.

You can never really understand 100%, just a number which gets increasingly closer to it without ever touching it, like an asymptote.

I'll end off in saying that if you make a language log you could post things that you don't understand in there and I'd be happy to help you, and probably many more people too.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:26 pm

Many thanks for such a well-thought-out response, Iguanamon, and thanks for welcoming me to the forum.

I understand what you're saying and I'll consider revisiting a course. I'm a little reluctant to go back to a textbook however as I don't think grammar is the main culprit inhibiting my comprehension - I rather think it's firstly lexical, and secondly to do with having an underdeveloped ear for the language. Nonetheless, your article on the multi-track approach is etched into my mind as is your recommendation to revisit a course. Thanks for your honesty.

I do like Les Reines du Shopping! Not exactly the kind of content I'm drawn to in English, but it's a refreshingly motivating resource for my French!

Thanks again for your guidance.
Last edited by Mr Dastardly on Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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