French Language Learning: Progress Report, 1.5 Months

It’s been about a month and a half since I started seriously learning and studying french. In Ireland I had checked out a grammar book on french and signed up for the apps that the Dublin library offers for language learning. I started using Quizlet to make flashcards and learn the most common words in french. How has it been working so far? That’s what I plan to explore through this post, a reflection on the first month and a half of training.

Note: I based this progress report off of the concepts I talked about in my post about the Fluent Forever method.

Pronunciation

It’s still difficult! This is something I am still struggling with even after practicing a lot. Some days are definitely better than others. What I’ve been doing to combat this is reading out loud to my frenchie, Augustin. What I see on the page isn’t always the same as what I say, even if I should know better, and he always corrects me. I get frustrated yes, but it’s an uphill battle. We regularly go over difficult words and sounds and practice saying them together and I practice hearing what he says.

Good news though! My “r”s are improving, and they are improving so much that sometimes I add an extra r to a word just because I want to say it. Okay well not exactly, but for some reason I keep adding an r within random words, I guess it feels more french that way. Still a work in progress.

Vocabulary

I started out by searching on Quizlet for the 625 most common french words since I figured people making vocabulary lists specifically for 625 would also be trying to follow the Fluent Forever method. I would go through the words and practice on my daily commute. The FF method calls for using Anki, but alas the mobile version is $25 and I’m not in a prime position to cough up a ton of money trying out programs that I may or may not like. I have been using Quizlet since middle school though, and I like all the various features it has to help in learning. It has exercises for writing, listening, and can create mini exams for you to help solidify your knowledge.

I used someone else’s set for a while until I realized there was a fatal flaw, their unfixable flaws. I kept running into spelling errors and it bothered me a lot, because what is the point in learning incorrect material. I also was sick and tired of studying simple words like “je” and “et”. For me there was no point, I wanted something a little more personal. It was then I decided I would make my own Quizlet and find a frequency list online to guide me.

Here is my quizlet for the most common french words, but do note that there are not 1000 words on this list. I skipped over quite a few words, including most that had mainly to do with grammar structure (pronouns, toniques, etc), and also those words that I was already very familiar with (le chat, le chien). Feel free to look through my flashcards, but I highly recommend that you make your own! You’ll learn a lot while making them and the information will stick better when you review, believe me, I learned this first hand.

After creating my initial quizlet, I reviewed it, or at least part of it, every day. My next goal was to make another quizlet full of the words that I had written down in my notebook when practicing with my boyfriend. We had started watching french Youtubers and watching their videos with captions and writing down the new words and explaining. It was useful, but more a cultural and slang word lesson than anything and probably not the best place to start. Nonetheless, I had this list of vocabulary already handy and decided to type it up. This quizlet is labeled under My French Vocab.

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Sneak peak of “My French Vocab” Quizlet

I followed that Quizlet with More French Vocabulary where I took another frequency list, and started typing up more words. I found that this frequency list differed a lot from my previous one so I actually started from almost the beginning again and reviewed old words, while typing up the new words. What I really like about this list, it is also includes the word used in a sentence so it gives better context to the word, its meaning, and its place within the french language. I recommend it.

At this point I kind of trailed off and stopped doing vocabulary from a frequency list. I found it wasn’t providing extra value and wasn’t progressing my french very fast. It was around this time I started “creating a customized language course” like mentioned in the Fluent Forever book and I learned vocabulary and phrases centered around my job and life. Particularly, Restaurant French and Babysitters French, respectively my former job and my current job. Here I chose to curate mostly phrases, so I could have shortcut to common phrases when communicating. This has helped so much and has been much more useful than memorizing words out of a frequency dictionary.

Grammar

In Dublin, I checked out and committed to reading an entire french grammar book. I found a Collins grammar book at the library and set to reading it and taking notes. It was in english and explained all of the french constructions and topics in english, which I think really helped me grasp a lot of french concepts I was struggling with.

label_qualite_fle_epita_etat_france_langue_francaise_international_etudiants_formation_competences_2015_01Last week, I checked out a new french grammar book from one of the Paris libraries. This one is all in french, but specifically FLE, meaning it is specifically for people trying to learn french. In comparison, so far at least, this book is a lot more detailed and seems to contain many more examples. It is also all in french, which makes it a little harder at times, but I believe it is overall more useful. Since I have to read and comprehend french, in french, it forces my brain to work a little harder to understand, but it also keeps my brain in french mode.

Overall, I’m happy I read the book with english descriptions first because I think it allowed a good overview of french language and afterwards, I was able to understand or at least recognize many more grammar structures. Now with the FLE book, I’m able to review those concepts and get a deeper and more detailed account of grammar. It’s an exciting feeling to be reading and understanding!

Building A Custom Language Class

I mentioned this a bit when I talked about vocabulary, like creating flash cards for certain words and phrases that are most useful to me. In addition, I have rented a “méthode de français” book at the library, which is basically a french learning book, and only written in french. This is an A2 level book, so I shouldn’t exactly have much trouble with it, but it has without a doubt improved my french drastically. I was surprised by how much I was able to already read from this book and each unite has a theme and specific grammar to practice. There are no specific vocabulary lists, but through the activities and readings you can learn many new words.

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My Methode de Français book

The book also came with a CD and DVD for listening exercises, listening comprehension, and videos based around each unite. I thought it was brilliant… until I got home and realized I have no way to play a CD anymore. We happen to have a DVD player in the flat, but a certain wild west themed video game has been hogging the television as of lately.

Since I can’t complete every exercise precisely how the book explains (some exercises are built for a class discussion), I have resorted to writing paragraphs based on the vocabulary and lessons. So far, I wrote a little about my apartment, what is in the apartment, and how it is arranged. I also wrote about my babysitting job using the vocabulary and phrases from my quizlet.

Reading and Listening

I’m currently reading two french books! Well sort of, a french grammar book and a méthode de français book, both which I already mentioned. I haven’t started Harry Potter yet, but I plan to soon. I promise. I have read several kid sized french books while babysitting (it was really hard reading aloud), and I’ve started reading more online posts and comments in french instead of just clicking “see translation.” It’s a good start I think.

As for listening, I haven’t found a TV show I’m particularly attached to. Part of the problem is Augustin wants to watch them with me and we haven’t had as much time for Netflix lately (again because of that wild west video game). I do get a lot of practice talking to french speakers, interacting with the kids, and during day to day life. It’s been getting easier, but conjugations (is it quelle or qu’elle?), accents, speed, and enunciation are still very weak spots.

Moving Forward

I plan to finish the two french learning books and kind of re-evaluate a little more after that. More than likey I’ll probably get another méthode de français book at the library, either a course or an A2 test preparation book and study that. Alongside that I’ll hopefully start Harry Potter soon, I just need to buy a copy in french. I would like to find a TV show to watch in french, I was told via someone on reddit to watch Riverdale in french. I’ve been following it in english for about a year now, so rewatching it in french might not be a bad idea.

My ultimate goal right now is to reach B1 level by early february so I can sign up for B1 classes at the Mairie (city council) when the new semester starts. I looked into classes around Paris and wow it is expensive, hence why I need to take the classes with the Mairie. 120 hours for a semester through the city council is 270 euros, while the cost of classes per week at a private institute is about the same price. The classes in the Mairie fill up fast though, hence why I would prefer a slightly higher level and also it would be a more of a challenge.

Okay well that’s the end of my progress for 1.5 months of training! I’ve seen a lot of improvements and it’s only up from here.

Til next time, à bientot!

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