Verb conjugation while speaking

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kgoedert
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Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby kgoedert » Tue Apr 11, 2017 7:28 pm

Hi,

I am having a bit of difficulty with verbs conjugation in french while speaking. I know the verb tenses, and I can conjugate them on paper, or if I have time to think about it. But, when I speak to someone, more often then not, I get the conjugation wrong. Is there any kind of exercise that you guys recommend?

Or maybe I don't know the tenses as well as I think I do, and if the conjugations where more "automatic", I would be able to do better?

Thanks

Kelly
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby Cavesa » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:22 pm

kgoedert wrote:Hi,

I am having a bit of difficulty with verbs conjugation in french while speaking. I know the verb tenses, and I can conjugate them on paper, or if I have time to think about it. But, when I speak to someone, more often then not, I get the conjugation wrong. Is there any kind of exercise that you guys recommend?

Or maybe I don't know the tenses as well as I think I do, and if the conjugations where more "automatic", I would be able to do better?

Thanks

Kelly

Hi Kelly,

I think you have found a big part of the answer yourself. You are not as strong at the conjugations, as you need to be. That is quite common and fortunately remediable :-)

There are several things I combine, when learning conjugations. The best mix of these may be highly individual, but I think the list bellow is more or less covering the common choices:

1.good systematic knowledge of the construction and use of the verb forms. Grammarbooks like Grammaire Progressif by CLE are awesome for clarification of the system, or references like Toute la conjugaison by Gaillard and Colignon. I recommend not hanging too much on bilingual sources comparing French to English or your native Portuguese too much. Of course majority of the system will be the same as in Portuguese, but the differences will still be there and very important. (I don't know Portuguese, but my experience with Spanish and Italian suggests so).

If you can conjugate on paper, therefore slowly, it is quite likely you have learnt this part quite well.

2.automatisation of the verb forms. SRS is one of the tools you can use. I've made quite a complete list here: https://www.memrise.com/course/738096/c ... -complete/
but you should not use it from start to finish at this point. Choose examples you need now and learn just those levels, and use the ignore function on tenses and moods you don't need to learn yet. Of course you can improve the conjugations to the automatic level without such drills, but I find them very efficient. A good time investment, that can improve your level noticeably. There are other lists like this one, but I found none other comprehensive enough, and most use either translation (which is simply wrong, as one tense in one langauge doesn't have to correspond precisely to one tense in the other language, and so on) or they use non-French terminology for the French grammar, which is quite confusing.

This may be useful to you, as you can address exactly the patterns and exceptions that don't stick. It is great for improving the speed.

3.Lots of input. A big part of automatic use of the verbs is being used to them. Tons of input are bound to take care about this. Books, movies, tv series, anything. You'll need large amount of material, but it is well worth it. You can develop a similar sense for what is correct or wrong to the one you have in your native language. Of course less perfect, but still very useful and important. A Super Challenge or two are an awesome way to work on your skills, including the active ones (as speaking requires thinking in the langauge, automatisation, a sense for what sounds right or wrong).

Extremely useful, I totally recommend it, as tons of input improve all the skills.

4.Practice. Yes, it is needed, but I'd be more careful about some kinds of it than many other learners. From my experience, it is extremely easy to fossilize mistakes. So, grammar exercises are great. Various kinds, and as many as you need. Writing and speaking is good. But writing and speaking too much without having a strong base (no matter how acquired, some people skip grammar books completely and just do a lot more observation), that is a recipe for getting stuck at quite a neanderthal level. I know many people like that. The popular internet advice "you need to just speak and speak" has a major flaw here. I still have some fossilized mistakes too, despite the many attempts to get rid of them. I unlearnt many but a few keep resisting my efforts (mostly accent), as it may simply be too late for me (but they don't limit me in any way, it is mostly my ego that gets hurt). And no, speaking with a teacher/tutor correcting you is not likely to help, unless you understand the underlying issue and do a lot of studying too. Just being corrected is not enough, and most teachers don't correct strictly enough anyways.

In short: try things out, find what works for you. And don't rely just on more practice. Many people are doing this mistake. Majority of French learners I know gets stuck somewhere around A2/B1 due to verbs. Really, it is the most common problem that stops people and even drives them away from learning the language completely. Not the pronunciation, not the vocabulary, not gender and articles. The verbs. And instead of studying the verbs, these learners usually keep repeating: "I am not fluent because I've been learning grammar too much, I just need more speaking practice." Nonsense. Of course they are not fluent, if they get stuck twice per sentence and even after the longer thinking process choose wrongly. And of course they are unlikely to improve, if they just pay for practice, during which they repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby smallwhite » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:32 am

kgoedert wrote:But, when I speak to someone, more often then not, I get the conjugation wrong.


What kind of mistakes do you make?
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby tarvos » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:30 am

kgoedert wrote:Hi,

I am having a bit of difficulty with verbs conjugation in french while speaking. I know the verb tenses, and I can conjugate them on paper, or if I have time to think about it. But, when I speak to someone, more often then not, I get the conjugation wrong. Is there any kind of exercise that you guys recommend?

Or maybe I don't know the tenses as well as I think I do, and if the conjugations where more "automatic", I would be able to do better?

Thanks

Kelly


You don't know the tenses as well as you think you do. But I'm going to disagree with Cavesa - you do actually need a teacher to drill you on automatic production of the verbs. However she is right that many teachers aren't strict enough - so find the biggest goddamn asshole you can find and get that person to drill you until you're sick of it. You should be blue in the face at the end of every class. Be prepared for some ego bruising. That's hard, but you'll get better. You have to push yourself to get better. Aim at being just a little better than last time around.

Automatization is very important when you're at A2/B1 level and no amount of sitting at home reading input is going to change this. B1-B2 is the time where you need to focus on these particular grammar issues and work on the underlying issue. And yes, you also need to do the grammar exercises in the book until you can conjugate them in three seconds. Fortunately, grammar issues are some of the most easily worked around with some consistent, targeted practice. Don't just do random things - think about your goal and form a plan that targets exactly that. Just like a surgeon needs scalpels to cut, you need to find the tools for your job.
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby kgoedert » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:38 am

Thank you all for the advice. I guess I will have to spend more time with my grammar books now...
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:57 pm

tarvos wrote: ... you do actually need a teacher to drill you on automatic production of the verbs. However she is right that many teachers aren't strict enough - so find the biggest goddamn asshole you can find and get that person to drill you until you're sick of it. You should be blue in the face at the end of every class ...
This sounds a lot like the audio-lingual method to me, of which I am a strong proponent, especially for the A1 through B1 stages of learning. If the OP cannot hook-up with Ilsa*, he can always try the FSI Basic French drills (if I recall correctly, every sixth or seventh lesson is a review). For additional practice, one might try the Glossika French files.

*"Ilsa, la louve des SS*"
(https://www.senscritique.com/film/Ilsa_la_Louve_des_SS/367036)
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby s_allard » Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:43 pm

Before one runs out looking for "the biggest goddamn asshole you can find" to use as a tutor for French verb drills, it might be useful to better understand what the problem is. Verb conjugation problems in French can take various forms. The OP says that in writing and in grammar exercises, there is no problem. It's in speaking. Well, is it the wrong conjugations forms, e.g. *j'alle instead of je vais. Is is the wrong auxiliary, e.g. *j'ai venu instead of je suis venu. Or is it the wrong tense, i.e. je mangeai instead of j'ai mangé.

Or are the complications actually more of a pronunciation nature? After all, verb conjugations in Portuguese and in French have many parallels. Without more details it's hard to suggest a specific solution.
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kgoedert
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby kgoedert » Wed Apr 12, 2017 5:29 pm

My problems would fall more on this category: ". Or is it the wrong tense, i.e. je mangeai instead of j'ai mangé"
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby tarvos » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:00 pm

Usage definitely needs correction by a native speaker and lots of exercises with mixed tense usage.
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Re: Verb conjugation while speaking

Postby s_allard » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:17 pm

kgoedert wrote:My problems would fall more on this category: ". Or is it the wrong tense, i.e. je mangeai instead of j'ai mangé"

Well, this gives us a bit more to work with. The problem seems to not be conjugation forms but more when to use the right forms, i.e. the right tenses. Unfortunately, I don't have much time right now but here are a couple of pointers that I might expand on at a later date. I'm assuming of course that you are well aware that French just like Portuguese classifies verbs into various groups according to the ending of the infinitive (er, re, ir). There are also some irregular verbs that must be learned by heart.

1. When speaking about past events, the two key tenses are the passé composé (j'ai vu, il a fait, etc.) and the imparfait (je voyais and il faisait). These two are good for at least 95% of needs when talking about events past.

2. Remember that a big complication in the passé composé of French verbs is that around 16 verbs take the auxiliary être instead of avoir (e.g. je suis allé, elle est venue.)

3. Unlike Portuguese which I do not know very well, the preterite past form (j'allai, elle vint, il parla) is not used at all in spoken French. Forget about it. This is why the passé composé is so important.

4. In spoken French the nous verb form is very often replaced by on (on est allés instead of nous sommes allés) right across the board. As a matter of fact, this on form can replace many of the other conjugated forms. So concentrate on conjugating verbs with on. It's very useful.

5. The future tense is often replaced by the verb aller and the infinitive (on va parler instead of nous parlerons). So you basically don't have to learn the future tense forms to a great degree.

6. There is of course the subjunctive but I think it is probably much less complicated than the Portuguese subjunctive. And there are ways of working around it.


Considering all this, French verb conjugation of real use can be reduced to relatively few forms. As others have a suggested, some grammar work and lots of practice should take care of this. As for using the "biggest goddamn asshole you can find" as a tutor, I'm not so sure about that.
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