The Happy Mental Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

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Teango
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby Teango » Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:01 am

Your day-to-day accounts of pushing ever onwards and upwards in French and Spanish are both inspiring and full of interesting personal reflections and analyses. I look forward to following your ongoing adventures in these languages, and hope you and your family have a wonderful time in Dublin and Paris! Ke aloha, T.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby Carmody » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:17 pm

Can you list the French books that you have chosen to read? I would be interested to learn of more good books.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Tue Jun 05, 2018 3:58 am

Super Challenge Romance languages (French and Spanish)
100 books: 646 / 5000
100 movies: 239 / 9000

I've often found it useful to approach a big subject by finding a single theme to follow into the topic. It makes sort of a wedge to approach an unfamiliar topic.

I've been approaching French from a weird direction, the life of Jean Seberg. I was alive in the 60's, and I vaguely remember her. She was a witness and minor actor in many of the events of the 60's, and was cooler than cool -- a French movie star from the United States, a lovely young woman from Iowa who had French writers, Mexican revolutionaries, Mexican writers, and Black Panthers for lovers. She lived her life with bipolar disorder, and was so fragile that the FBI was able to drive her mad. She was blacklisted and spent her last decade in a pretty sad state. She killed herself at age 40.

OK, not the major figure of the 60's, nor the world's greatest actress or anything, but I have great sympathy with her. She was a kid from Iowa, who made a life for herself in France. She eventually spoke great French, really decent Spanish, pretty good Italian, and (apparently) pasable German. Her accent in French sucked. :D I wonder if she had lived, would she be a member of this forum?

And the black and white vision of her selling "New York Herald Tribune" in _Breathless_ is 60's girl perfection, in my humble opinion.

There is a little bit of writing about Ms. Seberg written in Spanish, the most interesting thing being the "fictional" memoire written by Carlos Fuentes, _Diana o la cazadora Solitaria_. A couple of names are changed, but the book seems to have a lot of truth to it. The public facts of the time are covered accurately. I started to read the book in English translation, and actually gave up on it, because it seemed to me that there was way too much bragging about his exploits with his many women and especially his "conquest" of a "movie star". I'm right at the end of the book, and it is much better in Spanish, and the cruel, brutal way that his relationship with Seberg ended makes a fine contrast with the idiocy of the beginning of the book. She taught him that he was an old fuddy duddy, which is a brutal thing to teach a man. The book has many, many digressions--Mexican politics, US politics, the meaning of donjuanism, the nature of God, the nature of sin, then meaning of death, the wonders of the smoothness of a lover's skin, the madness of racism, the amazing stupidity of people in the throes of their "midlife crisis", and so much else.

Fuentes is a wonderful writer, and I am in the last few lines of the book. When you read a book by a powerful writer like Fuentes, if you give it a chance, it puts you into a trance. I'm in the trance right now and I plan to finish the book tonight. Let me wake up and then I will be able to give a more reasonable evaluation.

The next thing I am going to read in Spanish is Terra Nostra, also by Fuentes. This book seems to be a novel that connects the whole Hispanic world history. Reviews seem to suggest that the book is a failure, but I still have a lot to learn about the history of the Spanish speaking world, and I've learned a lot from my first book by Fuentes; I wonder what I'll learn from this one. As long as he doesn't descend into chapter long sentences (I'm talking about you García-Márquez), I'll give it a good try. He wrote some of this during his 2 month affair with Seberg.

In French there are many things written about Seberg. The best biography about her seems to be _Jean Seberg -- Une Vie_. I've read it in English (the original version _Played out_), and a glance at the French translation didn't seem to add a lot, so... I'll read this in French later or not at all.

_Jean S._ by Alain Absire is what I've been reading in French. This is a poetic rhapsody about an American girl, who becomes a woman, and a movie star, and doesn't find peace. I know enough about Ms. Seberg to know that the author has certainly done his homework. It's an odd book, closer to a book like _Burr_ by Gore Vidal than an actual biography. Since I am familiar with his sources, I recognize where he got a certain line, or incident, but it is still fun to read. In some ways this book is less useful as an introduction to the 60's and to France than it could be, since it focuses so much on the psyche of one woman.
I'm only up to about 1960 in her life, so I have almost 20 years to go. What will she think about '68? How will he handle her descent into madness? What about her last night, which is all question marks?

OK, after that book in French, I'm going to read _Chien Blanc_ and _Les Mangeurs d'étoiles_ by Romain Gary, her second husband, whom she shared an apartment with long after they were divorced. Seberg is a recognizable character in both of these stories. Gary killed himself about a year after she did and explicitly said in his suicide note that her suicide had nothing to do with his. Sure. Sad.

After the books I have mentioned, I plan to go crazy in French and Spanish and read everything. I'm at a point where I can read García-Márquez and I should really read through everything he wrote. Then there is my new writers crush, Carlos Fuentes. Not to mention Vargas-Llosa...

In French there is an embarassemnt of riches. One writer I plan to read from end to end is Françoise Sagan. I made it about halfway though _Bonjour Tristesse_ and I'm very impressed. She wrote several books about the life of women in France in the 50's/60's in France, and I am a big fan of women writers and stories about women. Her books tend to be short and her books seem clearer than _Jean S._ that I am reading now. If Romain Gary turns out to be too hard for me, I will hit Ms. Sagan's books first. I also have a bunch of classics in French that are somewhere on the radar to read, Proust and Hugo, for instance.

Hey, I'm having fun, and I may very well choose to read the _Expanse_ novels by SA Covey or the Arthur or _Last Kingdom_ books by Cornwell next (in translation of course).
Then there is Jame Bond, and Tolkien, and Outlander, and Clan of the Cave Bear, and Follett's KIngsbridge and Century trilogies.

For learning purposes I should have started out with these translated books first, but I didn't. I want to finish my weird, Jean Seberg phase by this summer. I'll go to her grave this summer in Paris and call it done.

edited to add a sentence and correct typos.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:30 am

Super Challenge Romance languages (French and Spanish)
100 books: 662 / 5000
100 movies: 239 / 9000

I finished _Diana o la cazadora Solitaria_ . There was another chapter to go beyond where I thought, and so I read 36 total pages of French and Spanish today. Fuentes didn't disappoint in the ending of the book. He lapsed into a poetic rhapsody about the U.S. that was beautiful and horrible. It was particularly moving for me today, because of my profound saddness and shame over the state of the country I was born in...
Fuentes is a great writer. _Diana_ has many flaws as a book. I suspect that it is more of a set of essays spliced together around a memoire of an affair. They are (mostly) great essays. The book is worth rereading at some point.

Jean S. has moved into a less interesting phase, perhaps because there is less source material for this part of her life. OK, after Breathless, before it was released she went back to Hollywood and had an affair and got stoned a lot. When her husband followed her there she continued to get stoned and have her affair. I just don't find it very interesting. I got bored enough that I considered starting another book today, but my daily 10 pages ended with her meeting Romain Gary.

I hope the book picks up, because the first 30% of it has done wonders for my French.

There were no big insights or breakthroughs today.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:31 am

Super Challenge Romance languages (French and Spanish)
100 books: 682 / 5000
100 movies: 239 / 9000

It didn't take me long to get finished with Jean S. I may finish it someday, but I'm going to give it a rest. I started today and things were still boring. If I go back to it, I'll probably skip 50 pages and try again, but that wasn't for today. The first page of _Nostra Terra_ didn't send me over the moon either and I realized that I wanted to get further away from my current reality. OK, historical fiction or science fiction? I spent a couple of hours reading the first page of the many books in my library. I'm also getting tired of the parallel texts (an absolute Godsend a few hundred pages ago, but now???). I decided to try the Dark Ages with Bernard Cornwell. His books about his version of the Arthurian story starts about 480 C.E.. His _Warlord_ series is available in French and English, and I wondered if a strategy that I had tried before (with limited success) would work better now with my newly improved French comprehension. I started both _El rey del invierno_ and _Le roi de l'hiver_ and read the first 10 pages. The Spanish version was pretty easy, I'm unfamiliar with some of the terms, but it was very readable and the unknown words were easily guessed. I immediately read the French, and it was much harder, but the unknown terms were pretty easy to guess, given that I had just read the same material in a much more comprehensible langauge, and I got through the 10 pages without loosing track of the story.

20 pages, fairly read, with no parallel text in sight. It took about an hour for 20 pages, not terrible at all for someone who sucks at French. :lol:

I'm going to keep on this path for a while. Using Spanish as a crutch helps practice Spanish and absolutely supports French...

I read to my 11 year old daughter (12 on Saturday), every night before sleep, and we started the _ Valley of Horses_ last night. (sometimes she reads to me if I'm sleepy) She loves Ayla and is still enraged about the end of _Clan of the Cave Bear_. I have some of this series in both Spanish and French; maybe I'll try this next. I found _Clan of the Cave Bear_ to be surprisingly hard back when I was doing my own personal Super Challenge in Spanish. I guess I'm sort of indoor boy. :D
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:38 am

Super Challenge Romance languages (French and Spanish)
100 books: 760 / 5000
100 movies: 239 / 9000
Just a quick update.
I'm floundering a bit, but I think this is just a normal part of doing a process of massive input.
I got tired of my beloved Jean Seberg and _Jean_S_ and parallel texts at about the same time. I've been struggling trying figure out exactly what I'm tired of. Maybe everything. My personal life has been eating into my personal time, and I've had a few days where language study was very minimal. Some of it has been bizarre.There was the normal end of the year craziness and some strange events at my school which made my head spin for a few days.

Never underestimate the power of sex to lead people into stupid situations. My God, never underestimate it. Careers destroyed, marriages ruined, major yuk factors...

At some point I hope to get to the point where I can move ahead by reading the Spanish while listening to the tts voice in either European or American Spanish a(nd then reading the same material in either European or Canadian (American?) French. If I can make sense of the same material withing two or three passes, I'm going to continue this way.

I need to find something easier than what I've been reading. I looked at Harry Potter (again) and I once again decided that I don't want to spend 4800 pages with Harry. I guess there is plenty of violence, but is there enough romance (sex?)?(see above). I don't know why I'm so stubborn about reading Potter, when I will struggle my way through Baldomero in Assimil Spanish with Ease.

I'm going to try the Hobbit next. After that I'll try some Follett books (much harder than the Hobbit on the online automatic grade level calculators).

I'm fine, I'm just treading water a little. I'll start swimming again soon.
edited to finish a couple of sentences.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:58 am

Super Challenge Romance languages (French and Spanish)
100 books: 953 / 5000
100 movies: 519 / 9000

I've been offline for a while. No problem, just busy.
I've gone through a period where I wasn't enjoying what I was doing with the challenge. I was exicited and pleased with my progress, but when I got tired of dragging through paralllel texts, I had some trouble finding another way of handling my weak French and getting input from native materials...

Well, I tried L-R, and that would work, but it is pretty inconvenient to use. I tried reading the Hobbit, bilingually to support the French, and it didn't work. I started several times to use anki decks to try to frontload the vocabulary I need, but I didn't find it either fun or very effective. I'm pretty sure that if I memorized a few thousand words in French, it would help my French reading. It isn't very fun, though.

To get through the 3-6 million words or so of input that I need to have any hope of reading and listening at a C1/C2 level, I've got to find a way to get native speaker input that I can understand.

Generally, spoken language has a lower vocabulary load that written language (I'm too lazy to cite many sources, so http://nflrc.lll.hawaii.edu/rfl/October2014/articles/nation.pdf ). However, other research supports the idea that, given the same input, writing is much better at making vocabulary stick than listeng(https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2010.00593.x; there are many other studies). Well... Is there any way to read spoken languages? Subtitles are what filmmakers came up with to represent normal spoken language. Research shows that subtitle language is different then regular spoken language, but it is a lot closer than what you find in novels. They beat the heck out of courses in the way that mimic informal spoken language.
(Example:Despite what I have seen in courses on French, the French subtitles to "Breathless" are full of sentences where the "ne" is dropped)

Also, research seems to suggest that reading alound makes a text "stick" better than just passively reading it. Other reading research seems to suggest that reading a passage while listening to it read aloud helps comprehension and increases reading speed for very slow readers.

Well, I tried changing a set a subtitle files, for movies I am very familar with, into epub files and shadowing them while I read them. I think that this may have a good impact on my French reading (not to mention watching movies). I don't think that this is any sort of golden pathway to fluency or anything, but I think it may be useful in the short term.. maybe a month or so...

Uh, it seemed useful today... I may try to put some vocabulary lists through anki also, just to try to get to the point where I can (imperfectly, but enjoyably) listen and read to full fledged French books and movies.

Ah... there lies the promised land. The wonderful worlds of French and Spanish books, movies, and TV revealed for my enjoyment.
I can't wait.

Spanish is right on the brink still yet.

Even though it drags down that speed of my movement toward Spanish fluency, I am determined to bring both French and Spanish to the finish lines...
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Fri Jun 29, 2018 3:08 am

Super Challenge Romance languages (French and Spanish)
100 books: 969 / 5000
100 movies: 519 / 9000
969 pages; I'm getting close to 1000 pages.
The shadowing I've been doing lately is interesting. I can shadow along with somewhat unfamiliar material at 150 wpm in Spanish. I struggle to keep up in French. I get lost and have to restart with a new sentence over and over, every three or four sentences. I'm not sure that this sort of exercise is a bad idea; I think I'm just a couple of repetitions or a couple of days away from being able to keep up.

But...

If I slow the speed down down to 110-130 wpm, I can keep up with the voice. In Spanish, I can admire the clever use of the subjunctive in a sentence. In French, I can keep up, mostly. I think that the French shadowing is teaching me how to read aloud, at the very least. I am following the story in both languages, since I am familiar with the movies. At least mostly.

The sort of shadowing I'm doing is very different from the kind of shadowing I did at one time with Spanish with Ease. In those days, I was a beginner shadowing the lessons until they were memorized and that I could "sing along with them". This may be a good idea to learn prosody and vocabulary, but I think that there is a limit to its effectiveness.
Now, I'm just shadowing freely into unfamilar territory. I'm making no attempt to memorize anything. I'm dragging a word or two behind the voice, but I'm keeping up; sometimes with French and seldomly(is that a word? :D ) with Spanish, I do a "what!" about the pronunciation of a given word, but I try to shadow along. I think a couple of weeks of this may kick my French and Spanish in the right direction.

I guess I really like shadowing. This loose shadowing gives me the illusion of of performing at a relatively high level in my L2's. "I'm listening to L2! I'm reading L2! I'm speaking L2!"
Yeah, C2, here I come!

In a side note, I've started rotating between French and Canadian French, now that google has Canadian French tts voices, the same way I used to rotate between Spanish and American Spanish. I find the Canadian French voices very appealing. The vowel changes in Canadian French are a relief to my American English ears and mouth. I also think google just did a better job of these voices than they usually do. Maybe it's just novelty. I hope they improve the Spanish voices with their next update. I'm still rotating between North American and European versions of the languages.

I'm just trying to use the tts voices as a bridge up to a higher vocabulary level in both languages.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:02 pm

sfuqua wrote:Now, I'm just shadowing freely into unfamilar territory. I'm making no attempt to memorize anything. I'm dragging a word or two behind the voice, but I'm keeping up; sometimes with French and seldomly(is that a word? :D ) with Spanish, I do a "what!" about the pronunciation of a given word, but I try to shadow along. I think a couple of weeks of this may kick my French and Spanish in the right direction.

I guess I really like shadowing. This loose shadowing gives me the illusion of of performing at a relatively high level in my L2's. "I'm listening to L2! I'm reading L2! I'm speaking L2!"
Yeah, C2, here I come!


Exactly! One of the things I like with shadowing (besides the synergy effect due to the number of activities involved) is that very sense of doing something IN the language. I get better and better, sometimes due to going through the same material (say, an Assimil course now and then), but also because the "ear-tongue coordination" improves all the time.
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Re: The Outstanding Tourist enjoys French and Spanish

Postby sfuqua » Sun Jul 01, 2018 3:02 am

There have been a lot of family related issues to deal with the past couple of days, so my shadowing slowed down. I have started doing a vocabulary list made from the subtitle files that I made an epub of. At one point in Samoan, long ago, I used vocabulary lists to move my Samoan out ot the "intermediate" range and into the "Oh my God, that foreigner speaks Samoan. Your mother was Samoan, right?"

I've been trying to recreate this experience in my languages ever since, but I haven't been willing to do a hundred words a day to blast my way into a higher level. Well, this is it. In some ways it has been coming for a while. I can struggle with strategies and everything, but I am going to slam my way through vocabulary lists until my French says, "OK, go read a book already".
I was able to recreate, in my mind, the schedule that I used back in 1977 with my Samoan. In a very short period, a couple of months, I memorized word lists with somewhere around 6000 to 8000 words. I memorized them in the L1->L2 direction mostly, but toward the end as I found it harder and harder to find unknown words, I did L2->L1 and then L1->L2.
I followed this up with extensive reading aloud in the same passages that I had gotten the words from. I felt a huge amount of language learner pleasure seeing all of those vocabulary words I had memorized show up in the material I was reading aloud.

So far, here is what I have been doing with vocabulary. I made a vocabulary list out of the words from the subtitle file. If I memorize the lists at 50 words a day, 50 Spanish and 50 French so far, I should be able to have a big effect on the specific thing the vocabulary list came from. Reading it should get easier and easier rapidly. The theory is that if I do this with a variety of input, I will start to find new input comprehensible.

Anyway, I love shadowing, and I'm going to continue to shadow the same material that where I am trying to memorize all of the words.
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