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Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Portuguese/Russian)

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 2:39 pm
by Caromarlyse
Hello! I’ve been browsing the forum for a few months and thought I’d join to benefit from the knowledge around here, for some community, and to keep me honest! I’m English, based in the UK, now doing a job that requires me to use English quite academically each day but also leaves a fair bit of free time for outside interests. Which is where foreign languages come in! I left secondary school with French, German and Spanish at the same level (though I’d studied them for different lengths of time). I then studied French and German at university and worked in France for a while. Thanks to other massive time commitments from graduation to now, I haven’t used much of any of them for years: the occasional French and German on trips, an abandoned German course, and quite a lot of Spanish at work for a while (also a long time ago now, really) when there was no other option.

I’ve been trying to revive them over the past few months, French in particular. With the new year approaching, what better time to set some goals for the next year?!

I want to aim to get certified at C2 level by the end of 2020. My motivation is both personal and professional: I don’t want to lose the skill and enjoy it in any case, and also want to have professional options open to me that having the certificate (and having better French!) would provide. My framework of tasks currently looks like the following:
    I want to finish going through Grammaire progressive – niveau perfectionnement. I’ve been quite diligent at going through this, doing the exercises, and making myself flashcards. I’ve then been revising my cards each day, and referring back to the book when I’ve forgotten a rule. I should start the last unité next week. I think progress might then slow down a bit as some of the chapters there look quite heavy.
      Once I’ve finished that book, I want to spend my rote study time going through Vocabulaire progressif – niveau perfectionnement. I’ll aim to go through a double-page spread a day.
        I’ve just organised a tutor for one-on-one sessions. I’m going to use these sessions to focus on my oral French for the moment. I’m listening to something on some kind of thorny contemporary issue from France Culture or equivalent and then preparing a short presentation on it. We’ll then discuss the topic. This is very painful but probably good for me! He’s also agreed to look at/correct my written work. My writing is quite strong (if I have time to think/review etc…); I’m going to try to get started with this asap but whilst the oral is still so hard, I’ll probably not put too much pressure on myself to write as well. I’ll also be able to use him to answer queries that emerge out of my reading/listening/other work.
          I’m reading Code 93 (crime fiction) at the moment, and will continue with this, and the rest of the books in the series (which I deliberately chose as it’s something long-ish that I can get into). I’m looking up words as I go – I was debating the merit of doing this, but having built up a list of vocab already from other books I’ve read over the past few months, I am finding that words are reappearing, both in books and podcasts, and noticing them is helping to make them stick.
            I’m listening to podcasts, but this is really just a means to fill dead time, and I’m not too sure how much it is helping. I may as well continue, though, as I have to walk a lot and there’s no harm in having earphones in whilst doing so.
              I’m also watching various series/films etc. I had been doing so without looking anything up, but I have recently watched Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont writing down anything I didn’t know on a sheet of paper and looking those words up later, and found that process both efficient and helpful, whilst not spoiling my enjoyment of the film.

              Eventually I’d like C2 for German also, but I think C1 is a more realistic first step. A lower level exam is not worth actually sitting for me, so it might just take longer before I'm at a level when I can sit an exam. When I did the course I mentioned above, I tested into the C1 classes. I am so rusty though! I haven’t made as much progress with German so far, nor have I really decided what to focus on. It’ll have to adopt a similar approach to French, albeit it always feels so different as the two languages make completely different demands, and have completely different difficult spots.
                Grammar: I have Hammer already, as well as the Lehr- und Übungsbuch der deutschen Grammatik, both of which pre-date the German spelling reform (which I never properly studied). I’m not entirely sold on either of them. If anyone had any recommendations as to a good advanced German grammar that suits independent study, I’d be grateful to hear it. The answer may well be that I just need to knuckle down… If so, the second book is probably the one I’ll go for, as it’s monolingual and I feel better about it.
                  Vocabulary: I have Using German Vocabulary and need to sit down and work with it. Again, not really feeling it so far.
                    Tutor: TBC. I just tested someone out and it was horrible! To the extent of putting me off German forever… I know I just need to try again but ugh.
                      Reading: I have read one fiction book and have just ordered others from the same series. This is the only thing I'm actually really enjoying with German at the moment. I do like the language, honest!
                        Listening/watching: again, I have started listening to some podcasts and watching some series. I’m going to rewatch the series I’ve finished (Criminal Germany) and note down unknown vocab. Podcasts will probably stay passive listening for the same reasons as above.

                        I think this is going to have to be on my to do list, because the above workload is already quite heavy.

                        And that's about it! Looking forward to "meeting" you all here, and participating in this community.

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 1:22 am
                        by Lawyer&Mom
                        Welcome! I also focus on French and German, so I will follow your log with interest. What are you reading in German? Always looking for new ideas.

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:18 am
                        by Caromarlyse
                        Lawyer&Mom wrote:Welcome! I also focus on French and German, so I will follow your log with interest. What are you reading in German? Always looking for new ideas.

                        Oh, excellent. I'll follow your log too then: it's always good to share what you're doing with someone who can relate. I've just read Die Lebenden und die Toten by Nele Neuhaus. I didn't realise it was part of a series when I borrowed it. I have since ordered the first couple from the same series, which should be arriving today. They all get excellent reviews. I read the first one without looking anything up, both because I only had it on a tablet and because I only had it for a short period and calculated I needed to get through 30 pages a day in order to finish it in time. At my level it was perfectly readable. I wouldn't say there were any passages I didn't follow, even if I definitely couldn't have given translations for every word. It gripped me, to the extent that I read a lot more than 30 pages a day for the last third of the book. As someone who can struggle a bit with fiction even in English (I tend to prefer non-fiction apart from occasional fiction binges), it was a good choice.

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:49 pm
                        by Lawyer&Mom
                        Looks like there is a TV series too! Fun!

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Thu Dec 12, 2019 3:57 pm
                        by Caromarlyse
                        Week in review – Friday 6 – Thursday 12 December


                        I finished off the penultimate unit in Grammaire progressive. I also jumped into the last unit a little bit, as it has the mots de liaison that I needed to prepare for my lesson. I did my Anki review of grammar exercises (that I’ve made myself for everything I’ve covered so far) five days out of seven. The last few days I’ve taken a break from doing a grammar chapter a day as work has been busy. I’ll get back to it.

                        I read my 10 pages a day of Code 93 for the first half of the week, but have since put it to one side. It’s a bit confusing whilst reading a German language crime thriller at the same time. I’m going to switch to a French non-fiction book for a while, I think. I also watched the film L’Ascension. Perfectly watchable, but not amazing. Apart from quite a lot of slang, the French was comprehensible. I’ve added L’Amant by Marguerite Duras to my reading list – there were some extracts of this in my grammar book, and I appreciated the style of writing. I’ve got to get through what I’ve got already and my forthcoming Christmas presents first, though!

                        I had an hour-long lesson with a tutor. I prepared for it by listening to a 40-minute long France Culture programme, several times, taking notes as I went, and by then preparing a summary of the programme. The idea ultimately will be to give the summary fairly spontaneously, but as I feel I need a crutch still, I wrote a whole text out. It ended up being about 1,500 words. I guess that was good writing practice in itself. In the lesson itself, we went through some questions I had that had come up during the week, mainly grammar points. It was nice to know I was right that the answer key was wrong in a couple of places! My tutor also said how a lot of the points I’m dealing with are very nuanced, but I suppose that’s the point of a perfectionnement level grammar book. We then went through my summary of the programme, and he asked me questions around the topic. That bit was awful, mainly because even formulating opinions on the fly in English is something I’d struggle with, and surprisingly enough, I don’t develop the ability when speaking French. At least it’s something to work on, I suppose. It’s going to be tricky; I’m realising how much I just avoid giving opinions in English, especially if it’s going to cause any discomfort for anyone, i.e. if I suspect we disagree. Also, I don’t like just talking when I don’t know what I’m talking about. I prefer to research first then present that. I suggested we keep the same topic for next week, and I prepare to give some opinions… If I think beforehand and then try to hold a spontaneous conversation, that might be a good first step. My tutor’s also going to take a look at the text I wrote, and give me some corrections.


                        As mentioned in my intro post, I had one trial lesson that was terrible. I immediately booked a second trial. I then regretted having done so, and was going to cancel, but didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t, as the second one was much better. He assessed my level at around B2, which I think is fair. The lesson involved a bit of an introduction, which I think I was much better at doing the second time round, followed by a filling in the gaps B2 exercise (which I mainly got right) and discussing a text off Deutsche Welle. I think he was able to identify my issue pretty well in the half hour, which is that I just can’t produce German particularly well at the moment due to a lack of practice and lack of vocabulary but have quite a high level of understanding. This is quite tricky, as I find learner-oriented texts too simplistic and boring, yet that’s clearly how I sound when I try to produce anything myself! I definitely finished the lesson feeling better about my German than I had. It was also quite good to see a gap filling exercise at the B2 level, which he had me do online. After the class, I found the C1 equivalent, and could do that too. I then realised it belongs to a book, so did some shopping! I bought Erkundungen C1 and C-Grammatik. I’ve started the grammar book already, and it seems to be just what I was looking for: monolingual, reminding myself of stuff I once knew and allowing me to learn vocab as I go. I’m going to start with that. I don’t think I need a tutor at the moment. Perhaps then once I’m a bit more fluent it’ll be time to seek out a tutor to add some of the polish. I just don’t see the point in paying someone to go through stuff I’m capable of doing alone, and the speaking practice that I do need will be better once I’ve dug up the vocab/grammar from the depths of my brain. I’m glad I did the trials to get to this realisation however. In the meantime, I am going to record myself speaking occasionally.

                        I am also really getting into my fiction reading in German (up to page 180 in volume 1 in this series I’ve found), and I think it’ll be good for me to do what I really enjoy and WANT to do rather than force classes on myself. Oh yes, and I listened to a few Halbe Katoffl podcasts on my walks too.

                        Next week

                        Prepare for French class - priority and will take some time.
                        Start non-fiction - it's a translation from English and doesn't appear to be well done, but I now have a tutor I can run things by, which will be good practice in itself.
                        Anki French grammar review.
                        Possibly more French grammar chapters, depending on workload.
                        More German fiction reading (yay!).
                        More German grammar (new book, also yay!).
                        Perhaps German comprehension/production exercise but may have to wait for week after next when I'm off work.

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:29 pm
                        by Caromarlyse
                        Week in review – Friday 13 – Thursday 19 December

                        I haven’t been well this week, which messed up somewhat my ability/desire to do anything too demanding, though in the end I got quite a lot done.

                        I cancelled my class (postponed it to January) because I wasn’t well. I did, however, get back into my Anki grammar review – I’ve caught up again (after a break, the reviews got pretty long). I also did another six chapters of the grammar book. I’m ready to be done with it now. I’m pretty close to the end, and am motivated by the idea of taking the test at the end of the book under exam conditions and seeing how I do.

                        I watched one episode of Dix Pour Cent (Call the Agent), though am going to watch some more tonight. No reading – I’m not into anything at the moment and find this is how I am with reading: either I binge read something I’m hooked on, or read nothing at all.

                        The idea of me attending a conference in France for work next year has been floated, which would require pretty fluent French. I need to find out more about what my role would be, but it’ll be good external motivation to carry on with the improvements.

                        ETA: I watched the first episode of Dix Pour Cent again (to see the vocab I’d looked up in context), and watched the second episode. I also spent a couple of hours reading articles and noting down opinions/arguments in preparation for my French lesson.

                        I finished volume 1 of my crime series (a further 255 pages in total) and started on volume 2. I’m 148 pages into that. Lying in bed does have its upsides! See above re: binge reading… It definitely seems to be helping in getting me to think again in the language.

                        I also did quite a few exercises from C-Grammatik. I’m quite enjoying it. It’s good to build vocab too. I’m trying to do a double-page spread a day. It is quite tricky, however, and I want to go away and build my own reminders on verbs that can be both separable and inseparable and verbs that take different forms depending on whether they are transitive or intransitive. This is not covered in huge detail, and whilst I kind of reminder it, I think my own crib sheet would be handy. I'm wondering whether I should move down a level and then move back up, or whether I just need to suck up this feeling hard.

                        I discovered Das grosse Backen and watched four episodes of the most recent series. I’m finding it quite fast and the adverts are quite annoying (and it doesn’t like it at all if you try stopping and restarting – unless you watch a whole episode through, it’s liable to kick you out and say you’re no longer able to watch). That said, it felt like decent enough practice, and definitely a good one if you’re not feeling great. It reinforced one word – naschen – I'd just learnt from the grammar book. I’m not sure I’m hooked enough to watch much more, however.

                        I decided to get back to reviving my Spanish. I have Gente Hoy A1-A2, and reviewed the first four chapters of the book. I’d done most of the exercises here before, so was mainly just reminding myself of the content. I also wrote a bit about myself, what I like to do on holiday, etc. Some of the listening exercises even right at the beginning of the book are pretty hard. I also find the grammar explanations not to be the clearest, so I’m going to alternate working through this book with working through Gramática básica del estudiante de español, levels A1-B1. That should help with vocab too. I’ve ordered some graded readers, as I know too much to start right from scratch and I figured seeing the language in use would be less boring and would remind me of what I once knew. Unfortunately, I learnt Spanish the first time round very quickly, so it is nowhere nearly as well embedded as it might otherwise have been.

                        I also watched two episodes of Criminal Spain, albeit with English subtitles as I was watching with my husband. The episodes were so much more harrowing than the other language versions of this series – my husband liked them but they’re my least favourite of the four.

                        Next week
                        After a last day of work tomorrow, I’m now on holiday, though staying at home, and have a few days to myself and a few days filled with family etc. The plan is to keep going with the above really, though I do want to force myself to prepare for my French lesson, along the lines of reading to get some opinions (!) and preparing speaking notes. It's weighing on my mind a bit. I’m also thinking of getting some conversation practice in German, and perhaps also Spanish, lined up for the new year. I like working on my own but then miss speaking. I also feel I’m avoiding it, which is a good sign it’s what I need to be doing. I find that I get myself a bit wound up before any contact with another person, and feel I have to over-prepare, which I don’t necessarily have time for. I may well be letting perfect be the enemy of the good here, and might just have to let go of my expectations as to how good I need to be when “performing” for someone else. If anyone wanted to chime in with thoughts/advice on this, they’d be well received!

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 11:03 pm
                        by hedgehog.chess
                        Caromarlyse wrote: If anyone had any recommendations as to a good advanced German grammar that suits independent study, I’d be grateful to hear it.

                        I'm a bit late to the party but I can recommend both parts of Sag’s besser! by Hans Földeak. I’m finishing my second run through the first one and I’m in the middle of the second. They were written to prepare foreign students for studies at German universities(source: Sag’s besser! Teil 1 page 8). As such they are quite challenging. The exercises are mainly about building or transforming whole sentences, or parts of them. They are meant as exercise books so don’t offer explanations. I consider them as grammar books for grown-ups-there are no color pictures inside, it’s just exercises vs you :) But after going through the first one almost two times I’m a changed man(as far as language abilities are concerned :) ) Good luck!

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:02 pm
                        by Caromarlyse
                        hedgehog.chess wrote:
                        Caromarlyse wrote: If anyone had any recommendations as to a good advanced German grammar that suits independent study, I’d be grateful to hear it.

                        I'm a bit late to the party but I can recommend both parts of Sag’s besser! by Hans Földeak. I’m finishing my second run through the first one and I’m in the middle of the second. They were written to prepare foreign students for studies at German universities(source: Sag’s besser! Teil 1 page 8). As such they are quite challenging. The exercises are mainly about building or transforming whole sentences, or parts of them. They are meant as exercise books so don’t offer explanations. I consider them as grammar books for grown-ups-there are no color pictures inside, it’s just exercises vs you :) But after going through the first one almost two times I’m a changed man(as far as language abilities are concerned :) ) Good luck!

                        That's interesting to hear, thanks. I had seen it but reviews saying how hard it was put me off. I will look to get hold of them once I'm a bit further along with B/C-Grammatik.

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:05 pm
                        by Caromarlyse
                        Week in review – Friday 20 – Thursday 26 December

                        I’ve still been ill, plus having family around really messes with study plans, so not a huge amount again.

                        I watched four more episodes of Dix Pour Cent (Call the Agent), one twice through. I also listened to the most recent Parler comme jamais podcast, on accent.

                        I did another four chapters in my grammar book, and a load more grammar review. The problem with having almost gone through an entire book is that I now have so much to review. It is feeling easier, though, I think.

                        I found a chapter in Edito C1 that covers the topic I’m preparing for my French lesson, so worked through the vocab building lessons there and continued to make notes for the class. I’ve still got a lot more to do, however.

                        I also started a book, Le liseur du 6h27, but only a few pages.

                        I finished volume 2 of my crime series, so another 240 pages. I’m going to have to buy the next couple, as I’m feeling so lost now I don’t have anything to read in this series!

                        I decided to get B-Grammatik as well, and have done the first couple of chapters (corresponding to those I already did in C-Grammatik). I find that with the B level, I’m maybe 85-90% there, where with the C level it’s more like 50%. I might continue working with both, as they cover things from different angles and are pretty complementary. I haven’t yet made the crib sheet I wanted to, due to less desk time than planned. (I've done this today, though, i.e. day 1 of new week, so all is not lost!)

                        I watched the first episode of Criminal Germany, for a second time, this time with my husband so with English subtitles. It was more an entertainment/social exercise than a language learning one. I also listened to a bilingual (German/English) podcast about language learning.

                        I booked another German lesson for the beginning of January. I’m going to make these a regular thing – I think I need this input as well as what I can do myself.

                        I read an A2 graded reader, La profe de español, and then listened to all the audio online that accompanies the book. I also did the comprehension questions. I found it pretty easy, though I definitely wouldn’t be able to produce the language myself and need to revise the tenses. Another crib sheet is in order here, I think. I’d like to get someone to speak Spanish to, but want to get some basic grammar down again first.

                        I watched the last episode of Criminal Spain, again with English subtitles.

                        Next week
                        I'm not going to set any goals, as it's still the holidays and my time isn't my own in the same way as usual.

                        Re: Caromarlyse’s log (French/German/Spanish)

                        Posted: Tue Dec 31, 2019 10:47 am
                        by Caromarlyse
                        Week in review – Friday 27 to Tuesday 31 December

                        A short week, so that I can start the new year afresh.

                        I watched three more episodes of Dix Pour Cent.

                        I did another ten chapters in my grammar book, and more grammar review. Only one chapter and the final récréation to go. The remaining chapter is 12 pages long, however… I’m then going to continue revising for a bit before doing the test at the end of the book under exam conditions.

                        I continued to make notes for my tutor session in January, pulling vocab and ideas from various online articles.

                        I got the next book in the series, but it only arrived yesterday so I’ve only read a few pages so far.

                        I made my crib sheet on separable/inseparable verbs. I also started a notebook on grammar generally, starting off with noting down irregular verbs and drawing little cartoons to try to help me remember. I want to focus on getting all the fundamentals memorised once and for all. Of course I know a lot already, but there are definitely some where I guess, and some verbs whose meaning I don’t know. I’ll try and memorise 10 a day.

                        I listened to various news podcasts whilst walking, and also found the Deutsch mit Marija channel and watched a few videos there. I found them quite motivational in terms of pushing me to want to learn the grammar fundamentals, per the above. I’ll also work with them in due course to pull some vocab, as well as (further down the line) to get some exam prep tips.

                        Nothing. Oops.

                        2019 review
                        I only started getting back into French in September, and then only started German and Spanish again right towards the end of the year. In that time, I’ve read 2,009 pages in French, 824 in German, and 90 in Spanish. I’ve listened to 1,596 minutes of French and 209 minutes of German (though these are huge under-estimates, because I didn’t record the minutes for news programmes I listened to, either on Arte or on radio/podcasts). I worked my way through (very nearly) an entire French grammar book. Most importantly, I rediscovered my love of languages and my desire to work on them again.

                        2020 goals
                        I’m signed up to the 366 day challenge, specific for both French and German. I fancy focusing on vocab at the moment, especially things like idiomatic expressions and synonyms, so I might spend the 30 minutes a day doing that, and then keep up with the kind of stuff I’ve already been doing on top of that. I’m toying with the idea of doing 30 minutes of Spanish as well, but that’s probably not realistic. I’m doing to have a go with recording how much time I spend each day. I want to work more with news/politics input on an extensive basis, on top of the more entertainment-focused input.