James29's Spanish and French Log

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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby sfuqua » Mon Nov 02, 2015 4:01 am

My Tagalog is a good example of what you get when you don't practice new things. I'm probably not as fluent speaking as I was when I lived in the Philippines, even though I've been getting comprehensible input for 31 years. It takes something more than just having some of the L2 in your life.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:01 pm

I'd say this was a pretty good week. I finished Michael Connelly's El Poeta. I really liked the book. It all came together quite well. This is the second Connelly book I've read and I'd say I'll definitely read another.

I listened to the audio with the text. It was quite fast and went very much faster than I'd be able to read. At first, this was tough, but I got used to it quite quickly. There were a couple major plot twists in the book and when the plot was flipping and flopping I stopped the audio and went back a few pages and re-read without the audio just to make sure I understood what was happening. I might have done this in English too. It was worth it because I really liked the story.

The big thing I noticed by reading/listening to this book was what happened after. When I watched my telenovela I was amazed at how "slow" they seemed to be speaking. Listening to the audio of the book at such a fast pace just made my brain able to process Spanish faster. This really made me want to read some more books while listening to fast audio books.

After finishing the book I started listening to the telenovela Los Miserables again. I really like the show. It is amazing that it can just keep going on and on and continue to be interesting and non-cheesy.

I've been listening to the voa news every morning. That's a habit and I don't think I'll stop it. I just wish I did not have to listen to day old news. At 6am they don't have the new program on yet so I have to listen to the show that came out at 8am the previous day.

I had a couple nice skype talks too. Once I get going in a one on one conversation I am unstoppable. If I get comfortable and get it flowing I feel great.

I hate to mention it, but I re-started French. I've been doing Assimil lessons one a day for three days now. I am surprised that it is actually easier than I thought it would be. I'm really only doing the minimal necessary to "do" a lesson... about 15 minutes each, but I feel like I actually understand every word. I remember starting Assimil Spanish after working through 90 Pimsleur lessons and Michel Thomas and feeling a bit "lost." Maybe French really won't be as much work as I thought. I'm just going to take it one step at a time. I'll work on Assimil as long as I find it interesting. Then, hopefully, I'll move on to the French for Reading book. Ideally, I'd like to get to a point where I can simply alternate reading Spanish and French books for a while.
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Re: James29's Spanish Log

Postby James29 » Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:40 pm

I'd say this was a pretty good week. For Spanish I've pretty much just been watching episodes of Los Miserables. I'm on episode 70 now. There are very few instances that I don't understand what is being said. I am quite pleased with my comprehension. I'm sure that after listening to 70 episodes with the same characters I'm just used to the way they speak. The cool thing is that I can just watch this show and relax and enjoy it. I don't need to concentrate on understanding. It is just easy time with Spanish.

I also did a few good skype talks and went to my regular meetup.

I still listen to the news in Spanish every morning.

I've noticed that I tend to have periods of time when I "let down" with my Spanish and then later I "gear up" to tackle something. Right now it is just easy and relaxing to watch telenovela episodes. I'm not quite sure to tackle something big right now. I have the C level grammar book, but don't think I'll start it anytime soon.

I'm actually still plugging along with French. I've done one Assimil lesson each day. I like it. I'm not doing them nearly as thoroughly as I did the Spanish lessons. I usually only spend 15-20 minutes with each lesson. I am trying to focus on reading a bit. I start by reading through the lesson and see how much I can understand. I then turn on the audio and set it on repeat. I try to listen to it once and then I shadow it a few times. I do the audio exercises too. I'm not sure yet how long I'll continue with Assimil. I do want to start fairly soon working with the French for Reading book.
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Re: James29's Spanish (and occasional French) Log

Postby James29 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:13 pm

I'd say it was a pretty slow Spanish week. I have these every now and then. I still managed to do something in Spanish every day. I'm basically just listening to the news in the morning on the radio/phone and watching my telenovela. I'm on episode 76 in the telenovela now. I'll probably stop after episode 80 and start another book.

I had a couple skype exchanges too. I'm not sure how much I get out of these anymore, but it is real. I spoke to someone from Venezuela. I don't have much experience speaking to Venezuelans so it was interesting. It was fascinating talking about the situation there and their government.

I did watch the first episode of the Telemundo telenovela "La Patrona." It has many of the same actors as my telenovela and it was hilarious seeing them in different roles. Frankly, I had a hard time understanding what was going on. It was a totally new story with totally new characters and many of them had "new" voices that I had not ever heard before.

I'm still doing French every day and have not quit yet. I'm no lesson seventeen in Assimil. I am doing them very quickly. I don't think I spend more than 15 minutes on each lesson (except the review lessons where I review all of the dialogues). My routine is to read the French dialogue and notes and try to understand as much as possible. I consult the English as necessary to make sure I understand. I then put the audio on repeat and let it play five or six times. I'll shadow it about four times and just listen/read as I feel necessary too. I am repeating the exercises out loud.

I must say that I am really contemplating quitting French again. I just don't see the payoff for all the hard work. I'll see how it goes for a little while and just see what happens.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Nov 29, 2015 4:45 pm

Well, it was a pretty good week for me. It was Thanksgiving week so I had some extra time. French took the forefront this week (more on that later).

Spanish:

I watched a few more episodes of Los Miserables. I stopped at episode 80. I'll take some time off for a while. Eventually I'll finish it, but right now I want to take a break. It is still a great show and is quite interesting, but I can only handle so much screen time. I must say that the "evil twin" sub-plot is not as stupid as it seems. Some of the sub-plots are getting a bit unbelievable, but, nevertheless, it is fun to follow.

I have started Agatha Christie's El Asesinato de Rogelio Ackroyd. I like this type of book very much. It is interesting and easy. It is short enough that I can read for a few hours and feel like I am making a good dent on the book. It is easy enough that I can read it in the evening and it is not too much "work" for my tired brain. I actually find it somewhat relaxing. I have read seven chapters now. If I don't know a word I just skip it and keep moving. I am impressed with my Spanish because I can notice which words are "old" words that would not be used in modern day writing. I bought the book at a flea market on the street in Mexico City for the equivalent of about $0.30 or $0.40 so there is some sort of joy in reading it. I remember being quite pleased when I found this book (and a few Perry Mason books) on that street. I was actually successful in negotiating down the price. :)

I had a wonderful talk with a new Spanish speaking customer this week. I felt like a superhero. This time I actually am going to get some financial gain as this guy will become a good paying customer and I can honestly say that my Spanish has now officially made me some money. As I add up all the hours I spent on learning the language it, of course, has not yet been "worth it" financially. That being said, if I exclude my trips I think the profit I will make from this new customer will easily pay for all of the other resources I have purchased over the last six years. I realized that my Spanish is basically as good as it needs to be to do my job. I don't necessarily need to study or use my Spanish more... what would help would be to just use my Spanish much more with Spanish speaking customers. That will, hopefully, come with time. I am not kidding myself, Spanish is not going to make a major impact on my business in the near future... but it is fun! In the long term I do think it could really make a difference for my business, but I'm not going to worry about it for now.

French:

Wow! Right now I am really pumped up about French. I have long had a desire to "know" French but getting the desire to actually put in the time to learn it has been tough. My reasons for knowing French are more personal and less practical than my reasons for knowing Spanish. Now that my Spanish is pretty solid I don't mind taking a bit of time away from Spanish and putting it into French.

This week I completed Assimil up until lesson 21. I am going to stop there. My first real goal is to be able to read novels in French. It has been strongly recommended to me to do at least some work with something like Assimil to make sure I understand the pronunciation. I think that was good advice. I'm going to stop now and just focus on reading.

I am now working with French for Reading by Sandberg and Tatham. Wow! This is a great course. I have put a couple hours into it each day for the last four days. I have completed the first six chapters (out of 21). I am on page 113 (out of 489). Maybe I will prove myself wrong, but this seems like the "magic pill" for me right now. It breaks down the issues (grammar, vocab, conjugation, etc) into little concepts and then "drills" them with readings of phrases or short sentences. It basically states the grammar or vocab issue up front and then you get a series of very short phrases in French. You decipher the meaning of the French phrase and translate them into English. Then you check your translation against the English. They are perfectly sized "bite sized" chunks of French. They all work toward a common goal (the reading at the end of the chapter) and the drills work in previously learned vocab and grammar. He basically gives you tons of "comprehensible input" in carefully organized bite sized chunks as a way of teaching you.

I bought a used book which at first was a bit annoying because the previous owner wrote in many of the answers and circled all the words he/she did not know. I soon liked it because I seem to be doing much better than the previous owner. That gives me a confidence boost. I also note that the previous owner seems to have stopped using the book right about where I am now. I can see how this could get overwhelming because it is quite a bit of work. I am definitely going to continue because I can see how this course is really going to get me to a competent reading level very fast.

I think I was underestimating how much my Spanish is going to help with French. It is unbelievably helpful as there are so many cognates and also many of the ways you say things in French are the same in both Spanish and French. It is so simple to just say to myself... "ok, you just do that the same way you do that in French"... or "ok, that is the same word in French."

My current plan is to first finish French for Reading. Then, I'll hopefully be able to struggle through some basic books on my Kindle. I'd really like to read the remaining five books of the Alex Rider series. I really liked the first five books in Spanish and was a bit disappointed that the remaining five were never translated into Spanish. All ten are available in French on Kindle. When I finish French for Reading I'll hopefully be able to work on books like Alex Rider. I'm also eyeing the Bob Morane series which looks great. There are 120+ Bob Morane books available on Kindle. We'll see how my reading level is when I get there, but I think I'll have to work some of those into my French diet when I can read.

My basic plan is to tackle French much differently than Spanish. With French I'm just going to develop my reading skills as fast as possible and try to enjoy the language as fast as possible. I'll read until I feel quite comfortable (maybe a million words?) and then I'll re-assess the situation and decide what to do next. I am not going to worry at all about having conversations. I'm not even going to worry much about listening at this point either. When my reading gets advanced I'll probably then try to tackle listening and then, after that, I'll hopefully be able to make rapid progress into speaking. We'll see. The key is to have fun. I'm finally excited about French so I'm going to ride the wave as long as possible.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Dec 06, 2015 8:17 pm

OK, it is time for my weekly update.

French:

I'm going to talk about French first because it seems to be my priority right now. I'm working through Sandberg's French for Reading. What an awesome course. I am learning TONS. I completed the first nine chapters. On chapters eight and nine (especially nine) I kind of hit a wall. By the end of nine I was getting half of the sentence translations wrong. I decided that the French snowball was starting to get out of control so I doubled back and started re-doing the course. I went back to chapter one and started over. I'll do all the chapters over again and then when I get back to chapter nine I should be ready to move ahead. Then I think I'll do each chapter twice.

The course is programmed in a way where everything builds on each other. The sentences get a bit more complicated and they do some sort of spaced type repetition to remind you of things you learned in earlier chapters. So, if you don't master a chapter you are going to be screwed as you move forward. That is basically what was happening to me.

I've noticed that I am not pronouncing the sentences in French. I am looking at the French and then pronouncing the meaning in English. I'm not sure if this is good or bad... it definitely avoids those tricky French pronunciation rules for the time being!!

I must say that the results from this little French project are astonishing. I am able to read quite a bit of stuff. I thumbed through my Assimil and I can read most of the lessons fairly well. There will be some words that I don't know, but there were also a couple lessons that I read where I could read every single word. I could definitely get the gist of every Assimil lesson I looked at. I also looked at a couple A1 readers on Amazon and did not seem to have a problem reading them.

I'm definitely going to stick with this course and work it all the way through. I think I'll be able to struggle through novels for teens on my Kindle when I am done.

Spanish:

My Spanish is taking a bit of a back seat role now. I am still listening to the news in Spanish every morning. I am also reading an Agatha Christie book every now and then. I had a nice long talk with someone on Skype all in Spanish. That was probably about 90 minutes of Spanish. My Spanish is good where I can fairly quickly adjust to new accents. This person was Venezuelan and, at first, it was a bit tough. By the end I had no problem whatsoever. I also had a pretty good meetup. I have managed to do some Spanish every day this week which is all I really want to do.

General:

I am really just taking things as they come. I am quite pleased that I am not quitting French and I don't think I will quit anytime soon. I am seeing so much progress reading that it is really exciting. I do miss Spanish and I am starting to feel guilty because Spanish is just so much more important to me. My basic goal is to get French up to a moderately usable level and then get back to more of a focus on Spanish.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Sun Dec 13, 2015 4:34 pm

Well, I'd say it was a pretty good week. I still have not quit French which is a good sign. I'm feeling like I am really making progress. I'm still managing to "touch" Spanish every day too. But, Spanish was my first love and I can tell she is getting jealous.

French:

I did French for Reading every day this week. I worked through all chapters through chapter nine for a second time. This second wave through the first nine chapters was really useful and necessary. I had essentially hit a wall. I also went through chapter ten for the first time.

This course is really wonderful. The learner sees amazing progress because it is really a one dimensional course. It just teaches you to read in French. By skipping pronunciation, listening, active production, etc you really make a ton of progress fast.

My basic plan now is to really work this course well. I'm going to do each remaining chapter at least two times. I'll probably do two new chapters and then review them a second time before moving on. I'm not sure yet. I did chapter ten pretty well so that is a good indication that I can do a few new chapters before reviewing.

I had really thought and hoped that I would finish the book by the end of the year. I don't really see that happening anymore. I am spending about an hour a day with the book and I can usually do about 3/4 of a chapter in that hour. Or, if it is a review I can do a full chapter in that amount of time. With eleven more chapters that would be at least 22 more hours. I am thinking that I'll need more than two hours on each chapter as things continue to get harder.

The preface of the book says students will need between 70 and 120 hours to correctly complete the course. I initially thought that would be way too much, but now I am seeing that might be about right.

I'm going to try to advance my reading as fast as possible so I can actually get to enjoying the language. I might or might not do the Assimil course. My wife, unfortunately, has misplaced my Assimil so I might have to buy a new one. Can you believe that? She misplaced my Assimil?!?!?! Unbelievable.

Through reading I'd really like to get super comfortable with grammar and build vocabulary. Then, I'll add in listening through audio-books while I follow along with text. Then, hopefully, add in some TV or other audio. Then, when I feel comfortable both reading and listening/understanding I'll do some intense productive work which should, hopefully, be fairly easy to do at that point.

I tried the first half hour of French FSI Basic. It seems like it would be a good resource down the road when I am ready for it. I'm not ready for that type of thing now.

I periodically see how well I can read. Sometimes i don't have any problem reading simple things, but other times I just get smacked with something that really discourages me. I looked at The Little Prince and had a hard time reading it. I'm not ready for that yet.

I think often about my goals in French and why am I doing this. I would really like to be able to do two things: 1) read popular American novels translated into French and 2) be able to have meaningful/useful conversations with folks from Quebec and the French Caribbean.

Spanish:

So, my first love, Spanish, is suffering. I am still doing a bit every day, but it really is not much. I listen to the news in the car in the morning and sometimes that is all I do.

I am slowly working my way through Agatha Christie's El Asesinato de Rogelio Ackroyd. I am currently on page 171 out of 238. Honestly, I am not reading it very carefully. I've been reading a bit in the evening when my mind is not too fresh and there will be times where I just read and am not really paying attention to what is going on. I am just totally skipping words that I don't know (very few of those) and if I find myself not really paying attention I'll just continue reading instead of looping back and re-reading.

I had a couple good skype talks. I spoke with one of my old partners who I have not spoken to for quite a while. This was great. It was literally like talking to an old friend. We used to talk several times a week, but now that we are both working so much we just do not talk anymore. We've been trying to connect for a while and yesterday we got caught up.

I'm wondering now if I could listen to Spanish on the way home from work too. Typically I just listen to the news in English or just listen to music to unwind. I think I might start listening to the news on the way home and find something else to do in the morning.

The more I do French the more I think about the things I still need to do with my Spanish. I can understand and speak fine, but I really am not "polished" at all and I have no nuance in my speaking. I don't use a ton of idioms and I often times struggle with explaining concepts in Spanish when I don't know the perfect word. Only one example comes to mind... I was trying to say "some people are moody" and just needed to walk my way around "moody" because I could only explain it in a phrase/sentence and not a succinct word. When I get corrected in my language exchanges it is usually about how I say something. I am perfectly understood, but I am told things like "the way you said that it just sounds too abrupt or awkward.... you should say it more like this _______. "

Well, that's it for now.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby James29 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 12:41 pm

Today's chapter in French for Reading was on the subjunctive. It is something I don't really have any problem with anymore in Spanish. I learned it through numerous definitions, explanations, exceptions, rules, drills, etc. Sandberg summed up the subjunctive in a way I so wish I had seen a few years ago when I was struggling with it in Spanish:

"[t]he Subjunctive mood suggests that the action of the verb is viewed from a subjective point of view (as opposed to the objective, factual point of view of the Indicative)"

That just seems like such a simple and perfect way to think about the subjunctive.
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby tastyonions » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:06 pm

That works to some extent, though in many cases you can use "subjective" or otherwise "hedging" language in French without the subjunctive being required as long as it is in an "affirmative" context.

"Je crois qu'il est prêt." (I believe that he is ready.)
"Je pense que vous avez pris la bonne voie." (I think that you have taken the correct route.)
...and yet...
"Je ne crois pas qu'il soit prêt." (I don't believe that he is ready.)
"Je ne pense pas que vous ayez pris la bonne voie." (I don't think that you have taken the correct route.)

It is the "negative" or "doubtful" context that makes the difference here. Italian, however, keeps rather closer to a "subjectively 'tagged' propositions take the subjunctive" guideline:

"Penso che sia meglio così." (I think that it is better like that).
"Credo che sia venuto." (I believe that he came.)
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Re: James29's Spanish and French Log

Postby emk » Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:43 pm

James29 wrote:Sandberg summed up the subjunctive in a way I so wish I had seen a few years ago when I was struggling with it in Spanish:

"[t]he Subjunctive mood suggests that the action of the verb is viewed from a subjective point of view (as opposed to the objective, factual point of view of the Indicative)".

The subjunctive in French, as far as I can tell, is pretty "mechanical". Some combinations of verb+negation+se always take the subjunctive, and others never take it. You could build a lookup table and just apply it mechanically, and you'd get about 99% of the way there. In fact, you can generally just refer to Larura Lawless's Subjunctivator. Anybody who can do Spanish verbs can eat French verbs for breakfast. :-)

A good English analogy for the French subjunctive is "demand that", which functions like a Romance subjunctive:

  • Indicative: "He stops annoying me."
  • Subjunctive: "I demand that he stop annoying me."
  • Indicative: "He is ready on time."
  • Subjunctive: "I demand that he be ready on time tomorrow."
Here, we drop the usual "-s" inflection in English, and we use "be". To me at least, it would be really weird to use the indicative in either of these sentences. Not "weird" as in "the dialect of a different social group", but "weird" as in "that doesn't even parse as English."

French just has a lot more verbs that work like "demand that". Learn how to handle -er and regular -ir verbs, learn the 20 most common irregular subjunctive stems, use the Subjunctivator, and you're in great shape. I mean, unless you actually get a job writing in elevated French with a copy editor or something. :-)
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