Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

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

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:27 pm

Le Baron wrote:
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.


Hi Le Baron,

Thanks for your suggestion. I checked out the Hugo 3 Months course - it looks interesting but I couldn't find it in E-Book format, which is a bit of a deal-breaker for me.

Certainly agree that impatiently clambering to attain a complex skillset is a little foolish. Even if one is strongly outcome dependent, you would think they'd realise that enjoying the learning process might in the end yield better results. I hazard part of the struggle for monolingual newbies like me is we're not quite sure if what we're doing is actually plausible at all, which can make it harder to relax into the process. On top of that, progress can take a decent amount of time to observe, so it can really feel like we're wondering around aimlessly in the dark.

Thanks again for your input.
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Mr Dastardly
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:27 pm

rdearman wrote: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


Thanks for this rdearman. French Grammar in Context certainly is somewhat appealing - more so than a complete language course.

In answer to your Q...After having read the grammar points included in the first half of Assimil, I felt I had enough of a grasp of the patterns to just engage more directly with the language. Plus keeping in mind the learning/acquiring distinction that linguists talk about, I was under the impression that learning grammar rules was less effective than acquiring them through practice - on further reflection, though, I suppose learning rules could prime the mind for more effective acquisition due to the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon. Nonetheless, at this point in my learning, I find that my main barrier to comprehension is not grammatical, rather it is lexical - hence the frequency dictionary work. I don't have an aversion to grammar study, I just not convinced a lack of feel for the structure and morphology of the language poses much of an obstacle in my situation.

Wow, a 1,000 hours of input before starting output is crazy! Well, if something like a 1000 hours of input is required before comprehension is comfortable, I don't feel too bad about my progress.

Thanks for your help.
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Mr Dastardly
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:28 pm

kundalini wrote:
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.


Many thanks Kundalini for your helpful input - I'll definitely bear the burnout issue in mind. When I'm doing the intensive/repetitive listening, I tend to just let the language gently wash over me on repeat for an hour or so while I walk in the park - I listen carefully, but less for meaning, and more to get used to the sounds and rhythm of the language. It doesn't much feel like work to be honest. Once I'm familiar with the sounds, it feels fairly painless to the go back and forth between the transcript and the recording, and to remember the new vocab and structures.
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Mr Dastardly
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:29 pm

lysi wrote:
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.


Thanks Iysi for your response.

A few misunderstandings however:

1. I don't memorise sentences in Anki that I don't understand. I understand 99.9% of all French when I have the benefit of a dictionary and/or Deep L. I put i+1 sentences into Anki that I didn't understand until I deciphered them with the help of technology. I "fail" a card if I fail to understand the i+1 sentence, and "pass" it if I succeed in comprehending it. Hope that's clear.

2. I understand 100% of the readers, but only 90% of the content fluently - i.e without hesitation.

3. The study time I have put in has brought me to comprehending around 70% of native content, including the news and French translations of Harari's 21 lessons for the 21st Century and Frankopan's The Silk Roads. For some reason I struggle a lot more with understanding conversational language - I imagine in part because my French ear is less developed than my eye, and, with the exception of the OR readers, I tend not to read conversational language.

Thanks for the tips on pronunciation and your course recommendations - I'll give them some thought.
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Mr Dastardly
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:37 pm

Sayonaroo wrote:how are you reading? i recommend vocabtracker.com for the computer


I tend to import my texts into Ling-q. I also use the simple translate add-on for Firefox, and I use the Deep L translator to create ad-hoc parallel texts.

Is vocabtracker better than Ling-Q?
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby gsbod » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:17 pm

What are your goals for French, Mr Dastardly? Are you concentrating on comprehension because comprehension is your end goal? Or are you looking to develop a more rounded skill set, with the expectation that good comprehension will lead you to acquire what you need for good production skills?

If your goal is comprehension and you have no need to develop production skills, then I would say if your method is working for you, keep going.

Another possibility is you could focus on comprehension now if this is more important to you at the moment, but when you want/need to move on to production, you can adjust your method at that point to get the results you need.

However, if you think that you will automatically be able to develop solid production skills as a result of your comprehension skills, you will probably end up disappointed (but feel free to prove me wrong here!)
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:54 pm

gsbod wrote:What are your goals for French, Mr Dastardly? Are you concentrating on comprehension because comprehension is your end goal? Or are you looking to develop a more rounded skill set, with the expectation that good comprehension will lead you to acquire what you need for good production skills?

If your goal is comprehension and you have no need to develop production skills, then I would say if your method is working for you, keep going.

Another possibility is you could focus on comprehension now if this is more important to you at the moment, but when you want/need to move on to production, you can adjust your method at that point to get the results you need.

However, if you think that you will automatically be able to develop solid production skills as a result of your comprehension skills, you will probably end up disappointed (but feel free to prove me wrong here!)


Hi gsbod,

my ultimate goal is general proficiency across the four language skills. My strategy to get there is to first attain strong comprehension skills via a 100% input-based approach, and then to start working on output. I of course don't expect my output skills to magically develop without putting concerted effort into their development. Having said that, I do occasionally play with output in the shower and surprise myself with being able to successfully - albeit inelegantly - give my opinion to the wall on some fairly complicated academic topics.

How about you? Do you like to go through a pure input phase at the beginning? Do you use courses? How do you feel about grammar study in relation to learning/acquisition distinction?
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby lysi » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:57 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote:Plus keeping in mind the learning/acquiring distinction that linguists talk about, I was under the impression that learning grammar rules was less effective than acquiring them through practice

I can understand why you would be under this impression given the absurdly large popularity of Krashen online (in part, it seems, because of its diametric opposition to the 'grammar study' done in language learning in schools), but the distinction between learning/acquisition is not universally accepted and is contested for many reasons. For example, Krashen does not ever explain what the process of acquisition actually is, nor as to why learned information is not accessible as acquired information would be.

Mr Dastardly wrote:3. The study time I have put in has brought me to comprehending around 70% of native content, including the news and French translations of Harari's 21 lessons for the 21st Century and Frankopan's The Silk Roads. For some reason I struggle a lot more with understanding conversational language - I imagine in part because my French ear is less developed than my eye, and, with the exception of the OR readers, I tend not to read conversational language.


It depends on what you define as conversation language (there are many different registers in French) but the modern spoken popular language can be very difficult to understand at the beginning, since the lexicon is almost completely different from "standard French". There's plenty of verlan words (ouf, meuf), Arabic words (kiffer, toubib), louchébem words (kind of like verlan but it was spoken by Parisien butchers, such as in the word lerche, mostly used in 'pas lerche'), and some others (clamser, radiner, cramer, pialler, cavale, castagne). Those are the most common words that I had never seen until I tried talking with people in French, so this might help you. What frequency dictionary in particular are you using? I personally like Lexique3, which is an online corpus for French based on subtitles from movies (though there's also one from literature too) so I would recommend it.

As a final note, that I forgot to mention, make sure to learn the gender of the words you're learning, because you aren't forced to learn the gender of words in order to understand what you're listening or reading to. It's also easier to learn from the start, which is a mistake that I made.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby gsbod » Fri Apr 02, 2021 3:22 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote:How about you? Do you like to go through a pure input phase at the beginning? Do you use courses?


I would say out of the four skills, I value listening most, followed by speaking (assuming I have the opportunity to speak), then reading, and I dislike writing generally.

I do use courses, and I have a pretty good idea of what kind of course works for me and what doesn't, but that has come about after years of trial and error. So for example, I don't get on with Assimil, but I know it works wonders for other learners. Also, to date, I've generally gone with languages where there is a good variety of course types to choose from. I appreciate this is something of a luxury.

I don't go through a pure input phase at the beginning, although my output tends to be very conservative to start with if all I'm doing is sitting at my desk or doing self talk. Of course, if I get into a situation where I have to use the language to communicate in real life, I get on and communicate as best I can. As far as input goes, I start with native materials as soon as I understand enough to make it worthwhile, and then I consume as much as possible.

Mr Dastardly wrote:How do you feel about grammar study in relation to learning/acquisition distinction?


That depends on which day of the week you ask me! My attitude towards grammar changed a lot after learning German, which is my most successful language to date. At the beginner to intermediate stages, I put a lot more emphasis on the grammar than for languages I'd studied previously, and it really paid off as I progressed to a more advanced level. But how much of this is down to the nature of the German language, or the way that the German language is taught, or simply down to my own development as a language learner, I don't know.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Sayonaroo » Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:35 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote:
Sayonaroo wrote:how are you reading? i recommend vocabtracker.com for the computer


I tend to import my texts into Ling-q. I also use the simple translate add-on for Firefox, and I use the Deep L translator to create ad-hoc parallel texts.

Is vocabtracker better than Ling-Q?


it does the same thing but it's free. some people like vocabtracker better. i personally hate the interface of lingq. i also love using deepl for making parallel texts. i also use lingoes pop-up dictionary. screenshot for korean but it works for french too https://lensdump.com/i/WWXjK7
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