Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

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

Postby Lisa » Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:06 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote: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


You can figure out many things in context that allow you to read pretty well without much grammar. However... once you get to production, it becomes very important to be able to have a strong distinction between grammatically-important fiddly detail. For example, in Spanish I tend to mix up the conjugations for "I" and "he/she", which is very confusing for a listener, and this was never is an issue in reading.

I myself find courses boring, though, and since I've been a false beginner I felt okay skipping it... for Spanish I realized I just needed to study grammar late in the game, and I used KwizIq to catch up, but there were some gotchas. I really liked KwizIq and I wished they had German. KwizIq does offer French, but it wasn't very friendly to a beginner.

Sort of an aside as a general principle... the thing about not taking an organized course is that you will miss things that are indirectly important, but don't seem so at the time. I'm all for self-study and read textbooks for fun, but you can feel like you know a topic very well, BUT with self-study, you don't know what you don't know. One of my pet peeves used to be self-taught programmers, they, sometimes, would write just obviously bad code. They didn't have to go through all the required classes, e.g. compilers and operating systems; which were hard, boring and pointless at the time, and so they never internalized some general fundamentals about compilers or OSes (or whatever).
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Le Baron » Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:15 pm

gsbod wrote: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.


I agree. I was quite lax with grammar study in the past, but there's a lot to be said for ironing-out grammar issues at an early stage. And contrary what people tend to think when you say 'study grammar', it's not sitting down for hours night after night combing through some thick grammar text to perfect every aspect; rather learning the necessary grammar snippets as you go along.

I still put the main focus on both learning words and listening to how they are incorporated into natural speech patterns (and reading). However neglecting grammar and assuming it will all fall into place from exposure and usage leaves gaps and obstacles. At least it has for me at times.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Cavesa » Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:34 pm

If you're only after comprehension, it will work. Less efficiently, than if you also learnt the grammar and other such stuff, but it will work.

But if you also want production (now or much later), you're likely to be disappointed.

I've actually done something like you, except in my third romance language, Italian. I haven't had the time to really properly do the boring work, complete a few coursebooks, grammar books, and so on. So, I was able to watch tv series in a few weeks, I can understand near perfectly movies or stand up comedians, or read a not too difficult book (I am ok with a normal novel of an easier genre for adults, not with Dante). But my active skills are horrible, several cefr levels bellow the production skills. Still not that bad in various situations, Italian being my third romance language shows. So, I am rather good at using an Italian-Spanish hybrid, I can sort of talk with people rather well, I can write a fb post, if I keep checking stuff. But that's different from being overall good at Italian. My C1ish or perhaps even C2ish listening is of limited use, with the rest of the skills being not up for the scratch.

With Spanish (my second romance language), I've done both. The coursebooks and similar stuff have always been extremely helpful. As the result, my active skills are not that far behind the near perfect comprehension skills

So, don't be like me with Italian. You're learning your first foreign language, so you are risking even more. Nobody tells you to leave all the fun things and do only the boring ones, but there should be some better balance, if you want to succeed in both comprehension and production. Mistakes you learn now (for example by misinterpreting some rules that you see applied in your reading all the time) will be hard to fix later. And as was very wisely said by Lisa: you don't know, what you don't know.

Your best bet could be either the Progressives (Grammaire is the best, but it is not the only useful one), but also Kwiziq and similar stuff. Assimil is good, but you did just the first half.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:23 am

OK I'm convinced - don't neglect active grammar study. I am going back to Assimil and I have got a hold of "French Grammar Drills" by Eliane Kurbegov.

Thanks everyone for your help - very much appreciated. :D :D :D

* Edited original post to reflect integration of grammar.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Cainntear » Sat Apr 03, 2021 11:13 am

If you can get the Michel Thomas French courses from your local library, I'd strongly recommend giving it them a go.

My first experience of MT was the Spanish course, having already learnt French to reasonable competency and a bit of Italian, and I was completely blown away by it, to the point that I even went back and worked through the French course.

It's based entirely on production of language, and it works on building up the structure of the grammar intuitively (without overly conscious rules and explicit memorisation) while using a very limited vocabulary.

That won't sound appealing to you, I know, but it really seems extremely powerful to me. Once you start to build up an intuitive feel for how the language should stick together, it's much easier listening to sentences and picking out the new vocab.
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Mr Dastardly » Sat Apr 03, 2021 12:03 pm

lysi wrote:
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.


Very helpful post, thank you.

I'm using Neri Roche's "5000 Most Frequently Used French Words: A Dictionary of Frequency". Do you know of it? Thanks for the Lexique3 suggestion, I'll be sure to trawl through it at a later date to fill in the gaps.

Re learning the gender of nouns: I am planning on creating an Anki deck of the most frequently used 1000 nouns (maybe more) to drill their genders. The format I have in mind is this:

1. The cards will be active, so will go from English > French, requiring me to actively recall the French nouns and genders, rather than passively recognise them.

2. The nous will be isolated - i.e they will not be embedded in the context of a pre-designed sentence. Why? To exercise spontaneous use. The idea is to not only actively recall the noun and its gender, but to also integrate the noun and its gender into a spontaneously generated sentence that includes an adjective. Cards/nouns will only be "passed" if they can be fluently recalled and accurately integrated into a novel sentence.

Do you think this sounds like a plausible approach?

If so, do you know of any reliable and convenient frequency list that specifically focuses on nouns and that references their genders?
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Cavesa » Sat Apr 03, 2021 12:25 pm

Mr Dastardly wrote:I'm using Neri Roche's "5000 Most Frequently Used French Words: A Dictionary of Frequency". Do you know of it? Thanks for the Lexique3 suggestion, I'll be sure to trawl through it at a later date to fill in the gaps.

1. The cards will be active, so will go from English > French, requiring me to actively recall the French nouns and genders, rather than passively recognise them.
...
If so, do you know of any reliable and convenient frequency list that specifically focuses on nouns and that references their genders?


Yes. The Lexique database has been used by a wonderful person, with nickname "Eunoia" on Memrise, to create a set of courses +French. They are in the right direction, require typing, and are sorted into a set of courses. Nouns 1-5, Verbs (I think 1-3), Adjectives, and so on.

https://app.memrise.com/user/eunoia/courses/teaching/
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby smallwhite » Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:46 pm

I suggest moving on when you're 70% good rather than 99% good at something, because after you put the steak on the plate, it still cooks. Especially if the "something" is "1000 most frequent XXX".
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Cainntear » Sat Apr 03, 2021 6:51 pm

lysi wrote:
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.

Agreed, and it's worse than that: no-one who supports Krashen's views can demonstrate empirically why a significant percentage of successful learners have done formal grammar study, and huge numbers of immigrants never fully "acquire" the language correctly despite living decades in a native-speaking environment.
They just wave their hands and say "affective filter" and "speaking their native language at home".

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.

This is also my general justification for why production is important early on -- the act of comprehending language doesn't require noticing of various features, and gender is simply the most salient of these.

Another example: you don't need to know which French conjugations end with S and which with T to understand them, just like a learner of English can completely understand a sentence without noticing that there's an S in he/she/it verbs in the present that other persons don't have.

Only production, and more specifically only speaking, makes every gap and mistake in your learning clear and obvious enough to motivate your brain to learn it right.
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Lisa
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Re: Newbie Acquiring French [Will my method work?]

Postby Lisa » Sat Apr 03, 2021 7:22 pm

Cainntear wrote:Only production, and more specifically only speaking, makes every gap and mistake in your learning clear and obvious enough to motivate your brain to learn it right.


Hmmm, why only speaking? I find I can happily speak bad German by munging sounds (is it konnte or könnte? ein or eine? ), and I am understood (at least I think so!); but when I write I'm forced to commit to writing it a specific way, and then can see (or check) if it's right or wrong.

This might be an unusual circumstance, though, since I went from (learn grammar)->(forget grammar)->(learn speaking) without the reading/writing stage.
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