Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

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magnusragnar
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Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby magnusragnar » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:13 am

So it's a VERY long story about how i got started with french and how i ended up in france but i will keep it short and concise.

- Two years ago I began learning French with Pimsleur for the heck of it. Absolute0 prior knowledge of the language.
- Studying was sporadic at best. But made it to the tail end of French II in pimsleur.

Quickly realized pimsleur is really on going for regurgitating prepracticed phrases in pre-defined situations. So I realized I needed to get a grammar workbook. Started to improve grammar and sentence structure than realized my listening comprehension was downright deplorable.

Took sporadic lessons with online tutors talking about subjects on the fly, and again having my world rocked with by how poorly i could construct thoughts I did not "foresee".

Currently living in france and i seem to be at this absolutely horrible multi-level of language development with my skills alllllll over the place. For example:

My pronunciation/accent: B2/C1
My vocabulary: A2
Listening Comprehension: A2
Proper grammar structure for my sentences: A1/A2

It's really embarrassing living here. Because I'll enter a shop, restaurant, etc with my "pre meditated" phrase book of what i expect i'll have to say, and what I want to say. I get there and execute and it sounds so natural they assume i'm native or near bilingual. Then it's just deer in the head lights face for me ALTHOUGH my listening comprehension has come a long way since living here.

That said I've been here 6months already and I don't think i've progressed nearly as much as I should have. I really love the "easy french" series on youtube because it's literally the ONLY source online where i've found natural dialogue with both english and french subtitles underneath. Im just not exactly sure where to start because i open the french book i have to start improving my grammar and it's all stuff i know already but i know my current skill gap is because i skipped over grammar. Any advice would be appreciated, also this is my very first post on the forum so i apologize for any newbness in this situation.
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby rdearman » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:52 am

You can attack this in a number of ways. But for vocabulary the best thing is probably reading. Since you have access to newspapers and books written in French get some and make a point of read each and every day and looking up new words. Probably worth purchasing a mono-linguaal dictionary in French and looking up the words.

For listening comprehension you also have French TV, so make a point of watching it and parsing the words which are being said. Newscasters would probably be the easist since they tend to speak more clearly than someone in say a crime drama, etc.

I woulldn't worry to much about grammar at the moment. Caveman French will do for output. Hopefully people will correct you (if you have french friends then insist they correct you) and if they dont you'll be understood and not mistaken for a native, so no deer in the headlights.

Grammar should take care of itself anyway as you get more laanguage input from newspapers, tv, books etc. You didn't say where you were in France, but if you're around a lot of English speakers then I would avoid them like the plague.
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby DaveBee » Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:16 am

magnusragnar wrote:Currently living in france and i seem to be at this absolutely horrible multi-level of language development with my skills alllllll over the place. For example:

My pronunciation/accent: B2/C1
My vocabulary: A2
Listening Comprehension: A2
Proper grammar structure for my sentences: A1/A2

It's really embarrassing living here. Because I'll enter a shop, restaurant, etc with my "pre meditated" phrase book of what i expect i'll have to say, and what I want to say. I get there and execute and it sounds so natural they assume i'm native or near bilingual. Then it's just deer in the head lights face for me ALTHOUGH my listening comprehension has come a long way since living here.

Im just not exactly sure where to start because i open the french book i have to start improving my grammar and it's all stuff i know already but i know my current skill gap is because i skipped over grammar. Any advice would be appreciated, also this is my very first post on the forum so i apologize for any newbness in this situation.
1. Do you have any hobbies, subject areas you know very well? Look up french resources for those: articles (wikipedia?), radio/TV programmes. Your deep subject knowledge should help you understand and pick up supporting vocabulary. Once you feel confident in one area, joining a local club would be a good next step. In the UK, the local library would keep details of clubs in the area.

2. For reading access to software pop-up dictionaries is very helpful. Readlang and Amazon Kindle (app or device) can be helpful here. Online dictionaries I like are: Larousse, Collins and Linguee.

3. If you don't have a TV RFI's daily news with transcript might be a good way to start the day. I believe one local radio network in France is France-Bleu (I like to listen to their recipe phone in programme: On Cuisine Ensemble.)
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby James29 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:44 am

I was like that in Spanish. I did so many things like Pimsleur and FSI that my speaking was pretty impressive, but it was only out put as I could never understand anything that was put back to me.

I agree with the advice of reading. That is what helped for me. Lots of reading will fill in the gaps. Also, reading with audio will get you used to hearing the words. It comes with time.

The good news for you is that I think you have done it right. By learning the structure of the language (and the pronunciation/output) I think things will really fall into place quickly if you do some massive input.

Good luck.
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Cavesa
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby Cavesa » Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:27 pm

Welcome to the forum!

I think a combination of a few strategies could help you immensely. Following advice is completely biased by my own experience learning French, including my mistakes during the process, but I think it can still be useful:

1. Listening is the key skill for staying in the country. It is the base of any conversation as no native will use just the content of your course to talk to you. You have great resources at your disposition, you don' even need to look for pirated tv series. Watch tv, or watch the region locked stuff on tv websites, you might even be able to get Amazon streaming, or something like that. But don't expect miracles after one hour. But one season of a tv series should already make a difference.

The easiest is stuff with quality dubbing. I can recommend Grimm, Eureka, Lost Girl as quite easy stuff. EMK had progressed immensely with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At your level, it is not useful to think too much about all those internet discussions like "translated shows are useless because they are worse than the originals". Of course they are easier and a bit different, that is why we use them first. But many of them simply cannot be of that bad quality or unnatural, as the dubbing is made for natives.

The second step (or you can skip the first, if you want to) are easier native shows. Profilage is a good example, or most crime series or romance or other lighter genres.

Than the hard stuff. Engrenages, Kaamelott, and many others. Get comfortable with these and natives in situ will seem hyper easy!

Sure, movies are great too, but tv series have the advantage of providing you with a lot of time spent with the same group of speakers +some new ones in every episode, and recurring topics.

2.Talking: from my experience, you can improve immensely thanks to listening. The immersion does work, despite many people doubting it and saying things like "you can only improve speaking by speaking". No, they are usually doing it wrong. Listening will help your speaking (even while you don't speak at all during a period of time), you just need to devour dozens and hundreds hours of content, which most people don't do. Of course there is no progress after one or two movies. But 250 hours of listening were the main difference between my jump from weak B2 to C2 speaking.

Of course it is better to practice, especially as you are in the country now. Sure. But I think excuses like the one mentioned a few lines above are not helpful. And the attempts to improve speaking just by speaking without any other study activity are not too efficient.

As was recently discussed in other threads, we always need to be active in order to get some practice and not fall into the English bubble. Look for group activities in your town, widen the circle of things you are doing in the language, make it as similar to the list of your normal activities as possible. It is much easier to talk for longer time with people in your knitting circle (one forum member described such an experience) than just strangers on the street.

3.Reading. Use the libraries in your town. Start with BDs. BDs are quite expensive, in my opinion, but absolutely awesome. Fortunately, they are so popular that public libraries tend to be well stocked. Progress to easier books and so on, similarily to what I described for tv series.

Reading will help your vocabulary and "feeling" for what is correct immensely. But again, do not expect any results after the first few chapters. Many people do that and give up after a few minutes, as they "don't want to waste time with something they don't completely understand". Well, that attiitude is likely to make them fail again and again and prevent them from ever reaching beyond coursebooks.

Some estimates, based on my experience with extensive reading: First signs of progress: after a hundred pages or two. Really noticeable progress: after approximately 5000 pages. Almost no difference between reading in L1 and L2: somewhere between 10000 and 15000 pages. And after that, there will still be a few unknown words in every new book, unless you stop leaving your comfort zone, and that is not a bad thing.

Bonus: books are awesome conversation starters. And they help break the language switching curse as people usually notice you are reading in French, and therefore won't treat you like the typical tourist with five memorised phrases.

4. Grammar You are absolutely correct that grammar knowledge is indispensable, if you want to make your own sentences and not just repeat the memorised ones. And I miss a bit more info about HOW you've been learning grammar in your post. Sure, there are people who learn grammar well without any grammar books or explanations, just from observation. But I don't think most of us are able to do that. Or rather: I don't think it is the most efficient way for most of us. And it ends too often in what you describe: just repeating memorised phrases. Good quality explanations, examples, and exercises can facilitate the learning process.

This is actually one of the things I hated about Pimsleur and why I didn't even finish the one course I had been trying out. Yes, Pimsleur has many qualities, I don't doubt that. But it simply lacks a good grammar approach.

The best, most learner friendly, and most practical French grammar resources:

-Grammaire Progressive by CLE. Perhaps the most popular French grammar series in the world and for good reasons. Just skip the complete beginner level, I think that is just copy of a half of the original débutant supposed to make students pay twice for the same stuff. Start with débutant or perhaps intermediaire. Open the books in a bookshop and decide for yourself. I strongly believe that this is the choice for anyone who wants to invest in just one grammar series. In combination with their other books, it can remove any need for normal courses.

-grammars by PUG. I had been using their l'Exercisier and liked it, but they have newer books with more explanations too.

-Hachette had made a great exercise books series 350 exercises leading to very advanced levels, but it is hard to get these days. They made a new series, that leads only to B2, and I haven't tried it. But it might be good

Vocabulary Highly important. You will learn tons of vocabulary from reading, listening, and from the real life (for example visiting your local Carrefour or Auchan and walking through all the departments is a highly educational activity, which I don't doubt you've already done :-) ). But you can make the process faster and more efficient with SRS. On Memrise, there are very good courses by Eunoia, which are 1.large 2.based on a good frequency list that is not based just on books and newspapers. Apart from that, there are equivalents to grammar books, just on vocab building. Many people find them not worth the investment, but I disagree. Thematic vocab builders can nicely help bridge the gap between coursebook vocabulary and vocab from books and movies and give you a lot of tools to tackle the real life with. Vocabulaire Progressif by CLE is a great example. Look inside and decide. If you have budget only for either the grammar or the vocabulary book, get the grammar one :-)

Personality related stuff: Such a situation requires us to grow in many ways. Of course it is much easier to progress in the langauge in the country for people with certain qualities: highly active in many areas, extroverts, loving social life, good at making friends fast (as we don't usually spend too much time with most people we meet. Without building a friendship fast, we lose the opportunity).

This stuff is highly important. Most times, we focus just on our language related skills and blame language related faults (such as accent) for our troubles finding opportunity to speak. But it is often shyness, or another personality trait we need to change a bit in order to succeed. And it is much harder to find any advice on that.
Last edited by Cavesa on Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby vogeltje » Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:27 pm

I learned a lot of Dutch from the TV, but I was about 12 when i learned Dutch, so it was in about 2004 when the technology wasn't so advanced as now.

You can watch:

    in your own langauge with subtitles in the foreign language
    in the foreign language with subtitles in your language
    in the foreign language with subtitles in the same language

If you didn't understand then you can rewind and listen again.

You can pause and say what they said

good luck :)
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magnusragnar
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby magnusragnar » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:15 pm

Wow. I posted this thread before going to the cafe to work on some formal grammar study not knowing what to expect. Seriously everyone, thank you much for the responses.

Definitely going to start getting as much "input" as absolutely possible now. Will hopefully come back and update this thread after a bit of time.
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Finny
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby Finny » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:20 pm

Lots of good advice already. I'm not in France, but right now I'm listening to RMC (a French radio station), as I do every day, while reading The Hunger Games (in French, of course) from time to time, as I do every day. I've read two books to my son this morning, one of which was in French (Zoe ne veut pas aider), and there are about 40 more on the shelves across the room. I also ordered 5 more this morning that my daughter (and son if he ever sits still enough) will love.

Basically, the goal is to spend as much time as possible in the language you're learning. Since you're actually in France, this is easier, because you don't need your computer to hear all French all the time, you don't need to buy a single book to fill your house with French ones (due to the library), and going pretty much anywhere will surround you with French speakers, as long as you aren't immersing yourself among English ones, the way expats are prone to do.

At the same time, don't put too much pressure on yourself. It's easy to end up doing nothing if you fall into a pattern of telling yourself you should be doing more. Stay positive and keep reading, listening to, and watching French. Don't worry too much about talking or writing just yet.
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby Cavesa » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:43 pm

Well, I am now in France, and I certainly don't think it is as easy, as you say Finny. Yes, there are French speakers everywhere you go. But that doesn't necessarily mean practice opportunities, people have other things to do.

But going to a library or places like that can provide such opportunities. Unfortunately, it is not easy to get that much more exposure in the country, compared to using internet at home. I speak at hospital every day, but my non-medical French is more or less rotting.

One more tip: get a job in the language. I wish I were more healthy during my six months here, I could have gotten a student job. That is a way to be forced to speak and to get people talking to you in French. If you are already a normal person, not a student, you can certainly find something good. I think a part of the trouble for people in the English bubble are the English jobs. It is like a plague, more and more countries are just hosting a team that speaks English, despite the fact there are locals in the team too and the foreigners are staying in the country for years.

However, it is not easy at your level, I suppose. I don't know the specific circumstances, perhaps this was such a great opportunity you really didn't want/couldn't postpone it. But normally, I don't get why people go abroad at their A2 level or less. I know many do, so many other Erasmus students here came with very low level, some even without any previous French study (counting on the intelligibility with their native Italian), but they were supposed to communicate with patients at hospital from day 1. But even in other fields, I simply don't get it. The rule is very simple. The more prepared you arrive, the more you get from your stay. My C2 French allowed me to enjoy my medical rounds and to learn so much more, than had I arrived at a low level. But if the purpose is improving the langauge, I must say that half a year is not much at the C2 level. I think those who profit the most, as far as language learning is concerned, are learners at B1, B2, or C1.

A2 is not that bad starting level, but it requires a lot of extra studying in the free time (so do the later levels, ok) to get to a more useful level asap. Just being country doesn't work like magic, letting you absorb the language without studying, which you obviously understand well. It is possible to learn without much studying, but only in situations in which you desperately need to learn, as your life and job depend on it.

Actually, the low level might be making your attempts to find practice opportunities a bit harder. The french (unlike the spaniards or germans for example) tend to switch to English a lot, even when speaking to advanced speakers. When speaking to a beginner, it makes sense they don't want to "waste time".
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Re: Living in target country. Help me not squander this opportunity.

Postby Finny » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:44 pm

Cavesa wrote:Well, I am now in France, and I certainly don't think it is as easy, as you say Finny. Yes, there are French speakers everywhere you go. But that doesn't necessarily mean practice opportunities, people have other things to do.


I agree! But I didn't mean practice opportunities; I meant listening opportunities. That's why I said not to worry about talking, but to keep listening to, watching, and reading French. I'll be even more direct and actively suggest the OP not try to speak any more than necessary, and prioritize understanding.

Magnusragnar, you sound like you're putting far too much pressure on yourself to speak when you haven't internalized enough of the language yet. This trip is not going to be a waste if you leave France without speaking perfect or even decent French. Try to look at it as an opportunity to soak in the language, not a guantlet requiring you to regurgitate it at every turn. :D
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