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Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Posted: Thu Jul 28, 2016 5:40 pm
by blaurebell
A bit more than 2 weeks ago the language learning bug caught me again and I started learning French.
I have already tried to learn a few languages, English and Spanish successfully in a school / language school immersion setting, and I've also attempted Italian and Russian. So far all my attempts to learn a language by myself kinda failed though. I powered through A2 Italian in 3 months memorising a whole university level course book that's supposed to last a year, all in order to pass my A2 exam required by the university at the end. I did, but unsurprisingly memorising a grammar heavy classic textbook kinda ruined the language for me. It was way too much and I didn't really have a choice in the matter. After passing the exam I never touched Italian again, I was just too sick of it. My Russian attempt lasted also about 3 months and I totally burnt myself out with that one as well. I blame Anki and a couple of pretty dismal classic textbooks that were not only boring but also going over everything way too quickly. Finally I realised that I was probably trying to run before I could walk. Instead of trying to learn such a difficult language by myself I should really try to tackle something more manageable first to figure out what works for me.

At least one thing I definitely learned though from my Italian and Russian failures: Front-loading grammar and vocabulary only makes me want to tear my hair out. Yes, it works, and years after my bout of Italian I realised that I could somehow understand spoken Italian quite well, despite never having used Italian after my exam or even attempted to understand spoken Italian while I was studying for it! That Italian is just sitting in my brain somewhere waiting to be reactivated. Nevertheless, if something makes me hate the language it can't be right for me.

So, French! With Spanish and Italian grammar already lodged in my brain French shouldn't be hard and of course Spanish and English help a lot with the vocabulary too. This time I decided to go with Assimil. I've heard plenty of good things about it and it's the opposite of the previous approach that made me quit. I'll also skip Anki this time apart from going through Gabriel Wyner's French Pronunciation trainer right at the beginning. This one really helped me while studying Russian and it's pretty much just 10min a day for 3 weeks. I'm almost through with it already.

I think what really broke my neck with the Russian was that I wasn't having any fun with it. Even children's books were still too difficult for me after 3 months and the movies that interested me were even further off. With French I'm in a much better position : I pretty much started watching the Simpsons in French with French subtitles after 4 days of Assimil and started reading children's stories with LWT after 10 days without any major problems. After a season of the Simpsons I can already pick out full sentences here and there, although there are of course always things I miss. I always get the general gist though and can watch without feeling lost.

My goal this time is to stick with it and finish the Assimil course. If the Duolingo gets too repetitive I might drop it, but if I can stand it I will finish the tree and might also attempt to do the reverse tree. This time I will try to keep the tedious parts to a minimum. The only part that I won't drop no matter what is Assimil.

Why French? Well, apart from the ease factor of being another romance language I actually very much enjoy French philosophy. Being able to read that in the original would be great! Lofty goals, I know, but why not? Also, French movies and comics!

So the plan for now:
French Pronunciation trainer (81% done)
Assimil French with Ease (Lesson 18)
Duolingo (29 / 78 skills)
at least 22 seasons of Simpsons episodes dubbed in French with French subs (I'm on 2/22)
read 4 children's stories (2 / 4)

FSI French Phonology
MT French all levels
Assimil Using French
Duolingo reverse tree and/or Practice makes Perfect Complete French Grammar
Stargate French dub no subs (22 seasons)
Harry Potter in French

By the way, first post here :)

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Thu Jul 28, 2016 10:41 pm
by tomgosse
Bonjour et bienvenue.
Hello and Welcome. It's great to have another French student with us. Please look at our French group, Les Voyageurs, consider joining. We look forward to following your progress.

All the best,

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:17 am
by blaurebell
Thanks Tom, precisely what I was planning to do! :)

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:47 pm
by Ketutar

I restarted my French in the beginning of this month :-)

I'd love to work together to keep the flame burning... and also trying to prevent ourselves trying to too fast too early ;-)

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:17 pm
by blaurebell
Oh cool, I would love to work together! Yay! It's always more fun with other people working towards the same goal! What's your Duolingo user name? I'm also blaurebell over there :) Btw, I was just reading your log and the whole thing of losing interest after 3 weeks or 3 months or something like that sounds so familiar. What's up with those wicked 3s?

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:13 pm
by Ketutar
blaurebell wrote:Oh cool, I would love to work together! Yay! It's always more fun with other people working towards the same goal! What's your Duolingo user name? I'm also blaurebell over there :) Btw, I was just reading your log and the whole thing of losing interest after 3 weeks or 3 months or something like that sounds so familiar. What's up with those wicked 3s?


I'm Ketutar all over the place :-D How do you find other people at Duolingo?

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:45 pm
by blaurebell
On the right side there is the Leaderboard. Underneath one of the buttons is "search" and there you can just look for the username. Just added you!

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 12:04 pm
by blaurebell
After 4 weeks of studying French it's time for an update on my progress. So, during the last 4 weeks I spent more than 67h on French! 44h of these were spent on formal courses or studying and the rest was spent with intensive reading and watching the Simpsons dubbed in French with French subs. My progress sort of surprised me. After barely a month I can basically understand the Simpsons. I miss a few sentences here and there still, but not once did I wonder what was going on or missed anything plot related. Maybe this is because I've seen the Simpsons a million times, but essentially I can already watch the Simpsons and actually have fun with French!

After 10 days of studying I also started reading and made my way through 4 children's stories with LWT. A week ago I then started with Harry Potter and I'm about 2/3 into the first chapter, which is about 22min of the audiobook. I read intensively, still looking up every word I don't know. However, the unknown words have gone down to about 20-30% of every new page I add and it's going faster and faster every day. The last couple of days reading like this has actually become enjoyable too, which means that within only a month of study I've learned enough French to make native material fun for me. Pretty great I'd say!

During my immersion stay in Spain I had nowhere near as much fun with Spanish after 4 weeks and it was still all very confusing. To get to a point where I could start reading Harry Potter took me 10 weeks back then. I didn't have to look up quite as many words then, but with regard to grammar I was pretty much in the same spot - mainly because my previous knowledge of Italian and Spanish is helping me a ton now. Also, there are a huge number of cognates popping up both from English and from Spanish, which makes progress extremely fast.

The formal daily courses I'm following - Assimil and Duolingo - seem to work well for me too. I shadow a lot with Assimil which is time-consuming but really helps me to understand the lesson and internalise structures. I might start out only getting about 50-70% of the lesson on the first hearing, but when I'm done shadowing and open the book to look at the text I usually already understand 98% of it. Reading the text and translation usually just confirms a couple of minor doubts. It's really strange how that works! Duolingo also keeps going at a pretty comfortable pace and although I sometimes feel like I'm struggling a lot during the parts where I actually have to produce French sentences, it's getting easier and easier. I'm a little more than halfway through it now and at my current rate I should be done with the Duolingo in a month or two. It's useful to quickly give me a grammar overview to see where French is different from Spanish and Italian, and pick up some vocabulary along the way. Obviously both these courses are far from formal, so most of the time it's just fun and I don't feel like I'm really "studying" all that much. Both Assimil and Duolingo can feel draining when I'm tired, but none of it is as painful as the previous material I used for learning other languages. Being able to have fun with native material fast and keeping the studying light has really been a huge improvement over the grammar and vocabulary bootcamp method from before. And quite obviously I'm making great progress nonetheless! I have not studied a single vocabulary flashcard nor gone through pages and pages of verb drills and still, I'm learning the language extremely fast.

The only exception where I'm allowing drills is pronunciation. I'm trying to avoid having a badly pronounced inner vocalisation when I'm reading, which seems to be hugely detrimental also for listening comprehension. I notice this with my dad who has a huge vocabulary both in English and Spanish due to reading a lot, but still struggles with his own pronunciation and native audio after years of studying both languages. So, to avoid having a primarily "mute" engagement with the language with my self-study methods, I made pronunciation a focus to help make the transition going from passive to active production and speaking a little easier later on. So far I finished Gabriel Wyner's French Pronunciation trainer and started with FSI French Phonology. Since the FSI Phonology course is pretty boring, dense drilling, I don't do it every day. I only throw in a lesson here and there when Assimil didn't take up too much time. I keep progressing pretty steadily though and I think I might finish it by the end of the month. It's helping a lot and when reading my Assimil lessons out loud I noticed a marked improvement over the last month. Especially with the mad spelling "system" of French I think the focus on pronunciation is helping a lot and it's probably also why watching the Simpsons this early is working well for me.

French Pronunciation trainer (100% done)
read 4 children's stories (100% done)
Assimil French with Ease (Lesson 28)
Duolingo (40 / 78 skills)
FSI French Phonology (Lesson 7 / 20)
at least 22 seasons of Simpsons episodes dubbed in French with French subs (ca. 150h) (2/22)
Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers (4% done)

FSI French Basic
MT French all levels
Assimil Using French
Duolingo reverse tree
Practice makes Perfect Complete French Grammar or other grammar book
Stargate French dub no subs (22 seasons, ca 300h)
The rest of Harry Potter in French (ca. 4000 pages)
French crime novels (ca. 1000 pages)

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:02 pm
by Ketutar
Yay! Hourah! And other such exclamations!

I'm glad it's going well with your studies :-) It's so nice when one can read books and actually understand more than a word here and a sentence there :-)
I'm reading The Secret of Ji and I understand a lot, enough to be able to enjoy the story and to want to read it, even though I still fight with understanding when the word is a story specific name or species of animals, and when it is a real French word :-D
And I'm fighting with the urge to go and seek out the meaning of every word and sentence.
I do read intensively every now and then, but mostly extensively, at least as long as my 5000 words adventure is going on :-D

I might add Stargate to my watch list... right now I'm watching (mostly) French movies and series, and not dubbed, but... I kind of like the American movies and series, especially scifi and fantasy. I might add Once upon a time and Grimm too to my watch list. :-D

Re: Lilly's log - French

Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:26 pm
by PeterMollenburg
I'm impressed with your speedy proress Lilly. Keep up the speedy progress and don't burn out! :)