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Robierre’s French C2 log

Posted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:50 pm
by Robierre
Short resume
June 2015

My name is Robierre. I am here to share with you my day-to-day progress in French and
Italian, two languages that are currently in the focus of my interest. If I exclude
school courses during early teenage years, these languages are important part of my
life from 2006 (FR) and 2010 (IT). Currently, I am in the middle of the most exciting
part of every language learning process: it is the stage when you are able to read
books or newspapers, watch TV or movies, listen to radio stations, write long e-mails,
speak with your friends or use the language at work. More or less to do the same
activities as with your mother language. But with one important difference: it is
still a foreign language that you are learning and every each of these activities is
full of obstacles and challenges.

So what are my goals?

Let's just continue to learn while having fun and enjoying in exploring different
facets of both languages. To get you know with the direction that I am taking, I will
discover you briefly my weak points.

Langue familière and argot. I agree very much with those of you saying that
there is a huge difference between everyday French and the formal register. I can feel
this gap. You can easily notice from my spoken French that I learned the language from
grammar textbooks, university teachers, newspapers like Le Temps or Le Monde, media
like France Culture or TV5Monde. That's great, but - when you're at the party with
native French speakers commenting soccer, girls or telling jokes, you will need a
different kind of register, that's for sure.

Literature. I love to read and if you want to read classics, you have to have a
very rich vocabulary. By combining extensive and intensive reading I have already
great results, but I want to continue that way.

Listening skills. I have to admit that I have problems with some movies in
French. My ears are used to deal with clear academic French and not so much with movie
characters speaking while yelling or crying or eating. A lot of work here. The example
of the show that is very hard for me to follow is On n'est pas couché on France2 - I
always get depressed when I try to understand the jokes.

Speaking more fluently. I have a good pronunciation of separate words and even
groups of words, but it would be great to develop the fast way of speaking for the
occasions where you have to react fast in conversations - it is also connected with
the low register where you have to pronounce the words in a different way.

Writing. Maybe it is not on the top of my priorities but it would be also nice
to make some progress - maybe to try to use some forums.

Some more complex grammar. From time to time I plan to work on some specific
points of grammar, specially concordance des temps and subjonctif; I always come back
on this.

Reading quality literature. No problems here with popular literature and
newspapers. When it comes to Moravia or Pasolini, it gets more difficult. So what I
need is extensive reading of classics and contemporary writers and more analytical
approach (using dictionary) with some complex articles dealing with, let's say,
philosophy or art.

Administrative Italian. Specific sort of language; not easy at all. I already
work quite well on this task.

Writing on social networks. Sometimes when I write e-mails or messages to my
friends I struggle with the style - I want to stay grammatically correct while adding
some words that are more used among younger generation. I think I need a bit of slang
to spice up my linguaggio familiare (which is much better then in French).

Speaking with Italians. Very often when I have an occasion to speak with
Italians I realize that I can do it much better. Or is it the complex because I want
to sound completely native. I don't know, it might be that I need more practice to
make a response that is more than just one sentence; sometimes I have this weird
impression that my responses are to short. It must be a cultural thing. Concerning the
prononciation, I am a bit obsessed how my e&o aperta/chiusa sound in some words, but
I know that it is not a big deal for Italians.

Get to know a dialect. Contrary to French, Italian is the language of dialects.
I feel the need to get familiar with this part of the culture. Napoletano and Veneto
are on my list but I still have to work on this idea.

Listening. Generally I don't have problems with listening. The only exception
is fast speaking - I noticed it on some tv-shows, for example Gazebo on Rai3, I really
get lost from time to time. The same goes for some jokes of Luciana Litizzetto in Che
tempo che fa.

Some grammar. From time to time some exercises, just to refresh some things.

Hope to have your support in all this, specially if you're on the same level with
these languages. Cheers

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:57 pm
by Robierre
Week 1

Few weeks ago I started to read articles on the cultural web-site of Nouvel Obs, called Bibliobs: It's a good portion of vocabulary, normally I write daily about 50-100 new words in my notebook - much more than I would find in "normal" news articles; BibliObs uses a really high register of writing. For example, there is a long article about Jamce Joyce and Bloomsday: .

I'm also doing a parallel reading/listening of the book Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fourier (classic novel from 1913). It is the first time that I'm using this method of reading and I find it useful; you can relate spoken word with the written text. The book is not easy as I though it would be (teenagers read it in French schools) but I don't have major problems in following the story.

During my commuting time I listen to podcasts from France culture. I will put here from time to time some interesting tracks. For example, there is an interesting conference about Histoire et symbolique du blu:

I had my last four hours of language course this week. I am preparing tomorrow for the written exam next week (mostly grammar: passato remoto, concordanze, congiuntivo...).

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:05 pm
by Robierre
Week 2

My end of course exam was a good excuse to review some grammar. One of my favorite grammar textbooks is L'Italien pour tous (Ed. Becherelle) - written for French speakers with B2 level in Italian. The reason I like it so much is because it is based on simple sentences written in both French and Italian. An interesting way to compare grammatical structures; for example:

Via via che si invecchia, si diventa più apprensivi.
A mesure qu'on vieillit, on devient plus anxieux.

From this simple sentence you can learn a lot: the French expression "à mesure que" (as) has a completely different meaning from "dans la mesure où"(insofar as), the Italian expression "via via" is a synonym of man mano, the difference in the use of forma impersonale (si invecchia vs. on viellit) and some new vocabulary (apprensivo - which reminds me on its French sibling appréhensif).

My grammar review was this time focused on proposizioni subordinate (avversative, causali, comparative, concessive, temporali ecc.) with a touch of concordanze dei tempi.

The exam. I love the exams because they always put you under pressure to give the best of you; suddenly all your hidden knowledge gets out of your head somehow. On the test it was written the remark "C.2.1.", which is already a heavy burden; I don't consider myself to be at C2 level, but I can accept the qualification "basic fluency (work in progress)". The listening part was easy: 5 minutes recording of a minister speaking on the radio about the new anti-corruption legislation. The reading comprehension was also piece of cake - three pages from the book written by the journalist Oriana Fallaci. The essay was to write about the influence of new media and internet on reading and literature (one 300 words page; quite easy also). The grammar exercises were easy for me except the verb exercise (concordanza) which I found to be the most difficult part of the exam (sentences with missing verbs where you have to choose the correct tense and conjugate the verb: passato remoto, congiuntivo, varoius past tenses etc.). The oral presentation is scheduled for the next week.

To forget the tests, I did also one you-tube listening activity this week: Alessandro Baricco talks 2 hours about Proust. Part 1.: [search on youtube]
Part 2: It might sound boring, and probably it will be if you're not into literature, but for me it was pure pleasure! Che meraviglia! He analyses complex sentences word by word in a very interesting and simple way.

Obviously it was not a French week this time. I tried to listen some of the series proposed by my followers here (thank you all!) and I must say that it is just what I needed. Kaamelott was quite demanding: the mixture of segments that I can understand perfectly and the others that are totally incomprehensible.

Finally, here's my recommendation from this week's podcast: the story about the mythic library La Hune, which is closing:

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:12 pm
by Robierre
Week 3

The results of the written exam are great - more than 90%, even in the grammar exercises. The oral presentation this week went well. I was speaking about a monument in my home city, mainly about history (a lot of passato remoto and combination of different past tenses, passive structures, etc were used) and the architecture (technical vocabulary). The presentation was "spontaneous", I was speaking with my own words about interesting things I found out from my research that included different articles. From time to time I was missing the right word, but at this point I am able to "skip" the word and start a new sentence with an explanation in a way that it seems like a spontaneous change of thoughts.

My language course is over now; I will continue with my last level in October.

Last week I was writing here about Alessandro Baricco and his great lectures on you-tube. Well, this week I continued with these lectures and I can recommend them all (they are 4 or 5 and you can find them by searching: Baricco Palladium lectures): you can choose between Tucidide (speaking about the wars between Athens and Sparta in the contemporary context), Luigi XIV (philosophical discussion about time), Proust (see my last log) and Kate Moss (actually, it's a bout the beauty of imperfection and the biggest part is about Maria Callas and not just about Kate Moss).

Yesterday I was watching on Rai3 the live streaming of Premio Strega prize. It is the most important Italian literary award and it was a good occasion to find out what's new on book shelves in Italy. The show was hosted by Concita de Gregorio; I like her clear and beautiful standard Italian (although she was born in Spain), so I spent some time listening to her on you-tube speaking about the book she wrote together with her son:

I had a small telephone conversation in French this week and it reminded me how much I miss speaking it. I love the feeling when you finish the conversation and you want more! :-) I am thinking a lot about taking a conversation course on Italki; I even found a tutor but I never tried these online lessons...we'll see.

Some new articles on BibliObs this week, a couple of podcasts on FranceCulture...and that's it.

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:35 pm
by Robierre
Hello everyone! After the c/p introduction post and journals written during my first three weeks on HTAL (read my log here:, it's time for my new achievements. It was the first week after holidays and I was very busy.

Week 4

My daily reading routine consists of newspaper articles, mainly on Bibliobs. It is the intensive reading part of my learning: I never skip unknown words or expressions; the goal is to discover their meaning (by using Petit Robert French-French dictionary or Wordreference forum) and to write them down in my notebook. Here is the example of an article that I read on Monday: (story about the famous French cheese camembert).

I will spend next week-end in Paris; so, I started to explore the web-site Time Out ( which gives a lot of cool tips what to do/see in the city. The thing that surprised me is the linguistic aspect of the site: a lot of colloquial words! Check for example this article: (5 bars et terrasses éphémères à tester avant la fin de l'été). Here is just one sentence in which I learned four new words/expressions:

"c’est le nom d’une nouvelle adresse éphémère pour faire la bringue en tongs à Paris. Aloha, une de plus ! Pas sûr que le concept aurait branché Dany le Rouge, mais on apprécie l’emplacement central de ce lieu de goguette estival."

Talking about Paris, I wanted to recommend you one more great blog with some amazing colloquial vocabulary and a lot of irony/sarcasm. It is called Paris à chier ( and is about "différents lieux de vie dans Paris tels qu'ils sont réellement : surestimés et merdique". :D

I have a new project for August and September (free period before my courses don't start in October): self-learning from the book Un giorno in Italia 2.
It has 350 pages and I completed some 100 pages two years ago. Now I want to review them and to continue with the manual, which I find very interesting ("B2-C2" level). This week I did the first 30 pages.

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:52 pm
by Robierre
I am trying to add a bit of intuition to my language learning scheme. (And to my life, generally speaking.) Schedules are useful but we shouldn't forget that the main point in the end is to enjoy the process and not to feel forced to do something (and consequently to feel bad if you don't do it). I want to focus more on this inner process, try to speak with my subconscious side, ask myself questions like: what do you prefer to do in this moment - French or Italian, to watch a film or to read a book, to hear something funny or something deeply serious, to contemplate or to have an active conversation...? Basically, to do things randomly. And with no regrets. It is like when you go to a library without any specific goal and in the end you buy some "random" book. But, if you use your intuition, it is never a random choice - there is a reason why you selected exactly this book and not some other. This reason is inside you, where you keep a lot of thoughts, feelings and information. Most of them you will never be able to express because they are very far from your conscious and rational side.

That being said, it is time for my new journal.

Week 5

It was another predominantly French week but some of the activities were related to Italian. For example, I was listening a conference given by the Italian writer Claudio Magris ( I have his book Microcosmes in French on my shelf (read just 5 pages and left it for better times). Despite the fact that the conference was quite boring (once he had a great interview with Laure Adler on French Culture), I always enjoy listening to Italians when they speak good French and he is very fluent.
Another podcast from France Culture: discussion about the famous Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci (; again, the conversation not the most interesting in the world but I am interested in all references related to Italian culture.

If the aforementioned podcasts were mediocre, I found an interesting summer series of discussions about different animals and their symbolism: Les Animaux ont aussi leur histoire This one, for example, is about raven:

In NouvelObs I read an interesting article about mythic places in Paris (I'll be there this weekend) related to Sartre and S.d. Beauvoir: Even if you don't like these writers (I found that the author is also a bit cynical), it is always interesting to read about the rich cultural heritage that this city hides literaly on every street corner.

I read my first French BD this week. Bibliobs publishes very cool BDs every week, 6 episodes under the title Le Vietnam raconté à mes filles: Something new and interesting for me.

I am continuing my self-learning with the book Un giorno in Italia 2; this week I completed pages 30-50/350.

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:12 pm
by kimchizzle
Wow, you have so many great links. I will be following your log to watch your progress in French.

One question. I read you write unfamiliar words in a notebook when you read. Do you prefer to use French only definitions for those words, or do you use the translation into your native language?

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:17 pm
by sctroyenne
Robierre wrote:Talking about Paris, I wanted to recommend you one more great blog with some amazing colloquial vocabulary and a lot of irony/sarcasm. It is called Paris à chier ( and is about "différents lieux de vie dans Paris tels qu'ils sont réellement : surestimés et merdique". :D

Thanks for sharing this - quite a few standards for the exchange student crowd are on here (all the Grands Boulevards pubs are the big hangout spots, plus Le Moose). I ended up at Delaville quite a bit because it's right next to the Théâtre Gymnase where I saw a lot of shows. I wouldn't say it's all that bad - it had the feel of a more upscale American chain restaurant (but with standard French food) without actually being a chain.

Enjoy your weekend in Paris - jealous!

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 4:47 am
by PeterMollenburg
Hi Robierre,

I'm just saying hi, as I'm following your logenburg, logatorium, and logola.

Fry on,

Re: Robierre’s French & Italian C1/2 journal

Posted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:07 am
by garyb
I discovered "Paris à chier" a while ago, it's great. Shame they've not posted anything new for a while, but the archives can keep you busy.

How are you finding "Un giorno in Italia"? What sort of things does it teach? B2-C2 textbooks are quite thin on the ground.