French for More Than Fun

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aokoye
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French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:59 am

This could also be called French for Academic Purposes, but where's the fun in that ;)

Background:
In the year and nine months that I've been studying French (since January of 2019) I've managed to learn enough French to get into an masters program at the University of Ottawa where the classes are taught in both French and English. While I didn't have to take a language test as a requirement of admission (it's not required for applicants whose L1 is English and/or French or who have graduated from bachelors degrees that were taught in either language), I did have to essentially convince the admissions committee that I had enough French and would continue working on my French. That said, it appears that my reading is somewhere between B2 and C1 (Dialang said B2, I suspect it's higher given my ability to read newspaper articles, including about topics I'm not familiar with) and my listening is somewhere between B1 and B2 (TV5Monde's diagnostic test said B2 a few days ago).

The MA program I'm in is two years (a full 24 months, not 18), the first year (or rather, the first two semesters, so not including the summer) being coursework and the second (including Summer 2021) being devoted to thesis work. I'm required to take one of my two required classes in French and the other in English and then I can take my two electives in either language, though I've chosen to take them both in French. This means that I'll have one class in English and the other in French in the Fall and then both grad classes will be in French in the Spring. It's also highly recommended to take FSL/FLS or ESL classes depending on your linguistics skills so I'll also be taking a FLS class each semester.

Goals:
I have a handful of concrete goals at the moment. They include:
  • Doing all of my homework for my three grad classes (as opposed to FSL classes) in French
  • Taking the DALF C1 or C2 test next summer
  • [Potentially] writing my thesis in French
Note that the university's regulations state that students are allowed to submit work in French or English for most classes so if I wanted to I could submit all of my homework in English. That said, it will be better for my French if I do it all in French.

Method:
So how am I planning on meeting these goals? As I mentioned, I'm taking French as a second language classes every term. The university has copious amounts of them becuase of their goals with regards to promoting French. For reference, I tested in as "low advanced" (there's also mid and high advanced). Like I said, I didn't have to take a test to get into the program, but I did have to to register for FLS classes. I'm also doing one to two half an hour/45 min conversations on Italki a week with two different people. This is mostly to improve my comfortability speaking in French, but obviously also helps with listening. In an ideal world, I'd spend a fair amount of time in Gatineau (just across the river in Quebec), but at the moment I'm still in the US because of COVID-19 related travel restrictions. I'm still planning on doing that, I just don't know when I'll be able to move to Canada (and I have zero desire to talk about that here - it's too stressful).

Outside of the FSL and Italki stuff, my three MA classes in French will be a huge help with regards my reading and listening skills. From what I understand, the bulk of the reading for the classes are in the language of instruction which means I'll be reading university level texts in French starting late next Wednesday. As there will likely be a lot of journal articles, I'm planning on using Readlang (which I have a free "you tested this, thank you!" premium account with) or Learn with Texts. Doing all of my homework for those classes in French is also going to help with my writing.

I have access to a number of books from Routledge/Taylor and Francis via the university's institutional subscriptions so I just downloaded Les mots franaçais yesterday and have started putting the words into Memrise (the author also has them all on Quizlet). I know a large chunk of the just over 5,300 words, but reviewing them in Quizlet will make sure I can actually spell them and will help me remember their gender. Outside of Memrise I'm just under halfway through Speakly's French course (I know a good chunk of the words/phrases I'm given, but it's useful for conjugation and at the rate I'm going I should finish it in ~100 days).

I'm working through Grammaire progressive français intermédiare at the moment and also just started using Comprehension orale B1 (another CLE publication) again. It's far more digestible now than it was when I got it a few months ago. Ideally I'd do a third of a chapter a day which would get me through the entire book in 13 days. In reality it'll probably take longer than that but it's not a bad short term goal. Note that I'm also getting listening in by way of RFI and some TV shows. As much as I would *like* to get a C1 and/or C2 textbook, I don't think it's very logical given what the next 9 months is going to look like. It would make more sense to use grammar and potentially more listening specific books in addition to whatever is assigned in my FSL courses (the textbook for the one starting next week just shipped today). In the spring I'll sit down with someone who is knowledgeable about DALF and have my French assessed. At that point I'll decide on C1 or C2 and then start studying specifically for the exam.

What's next:
This log will mostly be about my experiences learning French and doing university in French. I am going to try to refrain from talking about what I am (and am not) doing with other languages here.
Last edited by aokoye on Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:14 pm

It’s wonderful to see you here! So exciting, even if your French Adventure is currently stuck below the border. Please keep us posted!
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:17 pm

First I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome back, between a lovely private message, Lawyer&Mom's reply, and more likes on a single post than I've probably ever had here - thank you everyone!

This week marked my first partial week of grad school and it's been - interesting. My state is currently on fire due to a historic wind storm and extremely dry conditions. I didn't have any internet or power for most of the waking hours on Tuesday (first the internet went out, then the power) which meant I got to do my one hour orientation on my phone (I preemptively downloaded and logged into Microsoft Teams on my phone). As of this morning the smoke is worse, fires are going to get significantly worse before they get better. The sun just came up and the sky is an orangey tan.

In, better, news - my class about CALL (ALAO, apprentissage des langues assisté par ordinateur, in French) in French went really well yesterday. I understood most of what was said and spoke in a mixture of French and English. There also weren't any major technical difficulties which was great. There are only nine of us which makes it a lot easier. I was able to understand most of what was said and I spoke in both French and English (probably about an equal mix - I normally started in French and then switched to English). The majority of the students (five or six out of nine) speak French as an L2 with varying degrees of comfortability in the language which, is an example of why only listening to native speakers when you're learning a language is a bad plan.

Like I said in my previous post, I'm going to do all of my homework in French and I'll try to do all of my presentations primarily in French as well. I have a presentation at the end of the month which should be interesting (and actually is kind of bad timing as it coincides with another homework assignment - they potentially will play off of each other though). Needless to say, grad class is going to be very helpful for my French.

I think my plan with the French readings for this class is to put some of them into Readlang and do significantly more annotation on the hard copies than I normally would if the article was written in English. I'm also going to try putting various words/phrases/constructions from said articles/chapters in a notebook that I'll only use for my grad classes and not my French as a second language classes. I'm not using it for my FLS classes because I'm planning on annotating my grad class readings significantly more than the FLS ones. There's only been one reading assigned thus far and it wasn't too horrible to copy and paste into Readlang. Certainly worth the effort.

My French reading and writing class started Wednesday afternoon with an assessment to make sure we were in the correct class. It was fairly painless and I haven't been moved up or down in level which I'm more or less ok with (I would have been fine moving up and very sad to be moved down). The other bonus is that I can use my textbook which finally got delivered yesterday afternoon and not deal with returning it by way of international shipping. It seems like the class will move pretty quickly though it's not explicitly an intensive class. We're doing a chapter a week (skipping the first chapter) so that's exciting. It's funny, compared to my ALAO class, the readings and written assignments will likely be significantly easier. I read the syllabus and one of the goals is writing texts that are up to 600 words. My analysis paper for ALAO is 1,500 words.
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:58 am

First academic article in French: Read.

This MA class is going to kick my ass. It will get better but the on ramp will be/is steep and fast given how long I've been studying French. I will say, I'm glad that I decided to take this class instead of the other English language class (which honestly I'm very interested in as well). If I were to go into next semester going from zero content courses in French to two, I can't imagine things would go well.

I read the first half of the article going back and forth from the hard copy to Readlang and then the last half just with the aid of Readlang, mostly because I needed to get through it and was having trouble focusing. Mind you, to be fair, there's a lot to be distracted by. Our air quality this morning when I started reading was something like 515 according to the EPA and the visibility was .06 miles. Right now it's 505.

I'm going to go back through it tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday as I don't have to have it read until Wednesday morning. Thankfully it appears that the most important parts were towards the end of the text (though amusingly not in the conclusion) and thankfully that section was the easiest to read.

The FLS class starts in full tomorrow afternoon and I am just under half way through learning the vocabulary for the chapter via Memrise. I've had to back down to learning 5 words per go from my usual 10 which I'm more or less ok with. I'd rather slower but efficient than fast and inefficient. That and if I'm able to keep ahead of schedule the slowness won't be an issue. While we're mostly spending two course periods (one synchronous and one asynchronous) per chapter, tomorrow will just be spent on introducing the course so I have a fair bit of time until I have this chapter's vocabulary learned. I should also get a more detailed idea of what homework for that class will look like tomorrow which I'm kind of looking forward to. Mostly because I want to know what exactly is expected of me and when it's due (do I have to turn in the exercise questions or is it just tests and essays?).
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:56 am

A tidbit from this book chapter that I'm reading in English that I found amusing (and relevant to the forum), though I already knew it (from Bilingualism: An Advanced Resource Book, Ng & Wigglesworth 2007):

On the other hand, mature learners were able to acquire the target language at a much faster rate (Long 1990).


Cue me checking when I first started really studying French - January, 2019.
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Wed Nov 04, 2020 11:23 pm

I'm two months in to my program and things have been...interesting. Pandemic related travel and immigration restrictions I'm still in the US, however my study permit application finally got approved last Friday and I'll be flying in on the 12th of this month as various restrictions for international students have eased/changed. Once I arrive I'll be quarantined for 14 days and then moving to where I'll be living, an apt in Hull.

In French news, things are getting easier which is nice, it's been especially noticeable over the past few weeks. I've had an easier time reading abstracts in French and my aural comprehension has gotten a lot better. Today in my class that's taught in French I also talked about the election for about 10 min before class started (my professor asked me about it and I was the first person to get to the Zoom call/class) mostly using French and was brave. I also asked what was apparently a very good question which was more of a drawn out comment with a question on the end to our guest lecturer today which then prompted her to talk for another 5 or 10 minutes. I still haven't submitted any homework for that class in French, but that's mostly because of how much (or little) time I've had.

My French as a second language course is so-so. I like how quickly it moves but it is probably too easy for me in terms of the reading. I also need to do a better job making sure that I go through all of the vocabulary exercises. I had an exam on Monday and I got a low B, likely in large part because of some of the vocab questions (namely turning nouns into adjectives and what not) were more difficult for me than they should have been. That said, apparently the department is working on a complete overhaul of the placement test this year so I'm probably going to have a talk with the professor who is in charge of that so I can give her some feedback.
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby PeterMollenburg » Thu Nov 05, 2020 12:59 pm

Hi aokoye!

From one French learner to another- it's an interesting French path you are on and well done on your fast French advancement, aokoye. I hadn't even noticed this thread! I hope you keep up the excellent progress through your diligent work and enjoy your experiences!

Kind regards,
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Fri Nov 06, 2020 8:27 pm

Thanks Peter! It has certainly been an interesting almost two years. I started studying French in January of 2019 because the Mandarin course I had taken the previous quarter at university was awful (horrible pedagogy which meant it moved way too quickly for me) and I wanted to study another language, partially so I would be taking enough credits to keep my health insurance. My options were Spanish and French so I chose French and here I am.

Looking back, the big jump from first year French to third year French (having skipped second year) was perhaps a little harder than the situation I'm in now where I'm jumping from only learning French in a FFL context (after studying it for around 20 months) to taking a graduate level class in French. I suspect part of that is because I'm not required to do my written work in French and I've essentially chosen not to so far. I'm a lot less nervous to speak in French which I think is in large part because I'm not worried about the other students judging my French. I don't think it's a matter of people being any more or less kind, rather it's that I'm not being assessed on my French so when I talk it's not because I'm answering a grammar or vocabulary question, rather I'm talking about content.

I am taking a French as a second language class right now, but it's pretty laid back and I think it being on Zoom has meant my language related anxiety is lower than it would be if it was in person. Note that I hate Zoom for my grad classes...I'm really not a fan of this not doing anything in person situation at all but keeping people safe and healthy is (and should be) a priority, thus.
Last edited by aokoye on Fri Nov 06, 2020 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Fri Nov 06, 2020 8:49 pm

Thanks for the update! I’ve been wondering how you are doing, glad you will soon be in Hull!
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Re: French for More Than Fun

Postby aokoye » Sun Dec 13, 2020 4:32 pm

I am alive, just very busy as it's the end of the semester!

So, big news - I moved to Gatineau! After quarantining for 14 days (per Canada's policy), I moved to my current house (it's a triplex) on November 26th. That said, because of the pandemic, I don't actually get to use my French all that much. My housemate and I sometimes speak in French (we had brunch in French last weekend) and I need to use him as a resource to practice my French more, but otherwise it's still mostly using it for school and watching/listening to things in French.

My reading skills have been improving by leaps and bounds which is exciting. I'm at the point where I can read linguistics articles in French without major gnashing of teeth, though it's still a lot slower than when I read articles in English and it's hard to skim for content (I'm able to do so sometimes, but rarely). My listening skills have probably also gotten a better, but it's my reading skills that are noticeably better.

Writing wise things are also going well. I wrote my last two assignments for my French MA course in French (as I've mentioned, I have the option of writing anything for my MA courses in French or English no matter the language the class is in). The longer one was a shockingly good (with regards to productivity) group project that I did with a friend of mine who is a francophone and the final project was an online portfolio that I will post a link to it in a week or two after it's been graded.

At the moment I have a paper for my English MA class that I need to finish and I have a French final on the 21st for the FLS class I'm taking. It's definitely not a great class (though the textbook is surprisingly good - I think a lot of my frustration with this class comes down to the limitations of teaching and learning during a pandemic), but I'm not paying any extra for it so there's only so much I can complain about it. Next semester I'll have a similar situation with classes, one MA class in French, one in English, and one FLS class. I almost was going to take two FLS classes, but then came to my senses :lol: I have enough stuff on my plate right now in terms of assignments, that I don't need to add more onto that next semester.

Right now I'm waffling on whether or not I want to get a Vocabulaire progressif book and if so which one. I'll make that decision by the end of the day.
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