How do I learn French?

Discussion in 'Specific Languages' started by SaraH, Sep 11, 2014.

  1. SaraH

    SaraH New Member

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    Hello. I've been learnin French on again off again for a long time. I want to start over and do it right. I saw some threads on French resources, but there are too many. How do I choose?
  2. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    I'm partial to the method I outline here. Personally, I went the Pimsleur/Michel Thomas/French in Action route. But I only kept at it for a year, and only reached B1. Maybe someone else can suggest a more thorough plan?
  3. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    I only studied French for a year in high school, but basically I think you want to choose an introductory course, kind of a pre-course, then a beginners course or two, then more advanced courses.

    Big Dog gave two common intro courses: Pimsleur & Michel Thomas.

    For beginning you could use the free FSI or Assimil or Living Language Ultimate (this is the older series of theirs and not their current one -get from library or buy used). Also FSI has a phonology course.

    A lot of users say that FIA although very effective, is also kind of hard without any previous course as it is total immersion (which is its point), and that you have to used the associated audio tapes and books, which for the tapes may not be as easily findable as the other free/cheap parts. I have looked at it (free on youtube), and it looks very entertaining despite its age. Since you are what some call a "false beginner", perhaps you could just move on to FIA after an intro course.

    After you choose, I find that logging progress by chapter/lesson or parts thereof, in a spreadsheet, helps keep me on track to finish a course.

    You can also search HTLAL for posts by emk on French. It is easier to search HTLAL by a google advanced search on the domain rather than using their own search function as a registered member. Here is a handy link to such a google search (bookmark it): HTLAL google search.

    Big Dog's Synergy method he linked to can be applied to any group of selected courses.
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  4. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    What you should do really depends on what you've done. There's nothing I find less effective than going through the same routine as first time round. Reading absolute beginner explanations of stuff that's only half forgotten is boring, and boredom is the opposite of learning.

    What have you done to date?
  5. SaraH

    SaraH New Member

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    Thanks everybody! I read that bigdog post. It's long but I think it will help. I want a something free that will teach me the individual sounds, so I read another thread on pronunciation. I guess I'll start with FSI, because I see it getting mentioned a lot.

    What did I do to date? Mostly looked for cowboys that can't see very well (I'm kinda big). :oops: I lived far from big cities, but took some French classes at our consolidated high school. I graduated last year. Theres a mess of Germans in Texas, and Mexicans too of course, so I took French because I wanted to try something different. I mostly home schooled. I did a little work in the school textbook, and watched some French TV shows, but mostly Profiling. I didn't understand it real good. I only talked to the teacher a little in French. I want to talk to French people and understand French TV. I was using lingq, but decided I don't like it cause it's down all the time. The articles were boring too.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
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  6. Stelle

    Stelle Active Member VIP member

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    My experience with FSI - keeping in mind that I used it for Spanish and not French - is that it might be overwhelming for an absolute beginner. The FSI audio/text was just one small self-directed part of full-time study with teacher guidance. And the pace of FSI courses definitely left students feeling overwhelmed! I think that FSI is best used at an A2 (or possibly even a low B1) level.

    Give FSI a try, and see how it feels. Definitely check out the pronunciation lessons in the very beginning of FSI. You won't know if FSI will be too hard until you've tried a few lessons. It should be challenging, but it shouldn't feel impossible.

    If it's too hard right now, you could try something else out in the meantime:

    A commercial program: I like Pimsleur quite a lot, and it's available at many public libraries. My French students who started with Pimsleur generally have good pronunciation. Michel Thomas is an interesting course, also available at many libraries. A lot of people go gaga over Assimil, but I've never used it so can't speak to that.

    Free stuff:
    - French In Action - http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html - the videos (free) are part of a larger course (that isn't free), but they can be used on their own. They're charming. They start out very easy and then increase in difficulty, and they're full immersion (ie. no English).
    - BBC French - http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/ - offer free interactive video courses. Check out Talk French if you're an absolute beginner and Ma France if you're beyond beginner.
    - Duolingo - it's not the magic bullet that some (generally inexperienced) language learners claim it to be, but it really is useful for drilling basic sentence structure. And it's surprisingly fun and addictive, considering just how boring each individual drill *should* be.
    - Extr@ - 13-episode sitcom for learners, available on YouTube

    www.conversationexchange.com and www.italki.com - good places to find Skype conversation partners (or paid tutors at italki)

    www.italki.com and www.lang-8.com - post texts that you've written and have them corrected by native speakers

    Oh my gosh, this made me laugh out loud. There were no cowboys where I grew up. I used to look for musicians. My cousin looked for hockey players.

    Let's hope you can find yourself a French-speaking cowboy!

    Bonne chance!
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  7. luke

    luke Member VIP member

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    Assimil's New French with Ease is a good starting point. It has about 2 hours and 15 minutes of pure French and covers a core of about 1500 words. The lessons are short and interesting.
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  8. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

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    I'll second the warning on FSI French. It really just kind of throws you in the deep end. I think I was only able to start there because of my Spanish background. Even so, I don't remember any formal sounds training.

    Fair warning, the familar forms are not even mentioned in FSI French, at least not for the first 2 levels.
    SaraH likes this.
  9. SaraH

    SaraH New Member

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    Ha ha, thank you kindly Stelle. Your advice is really helpful too. I tried FSI a little, and I think I bit off more than I can chew. I think I can get Pimsleur from the library, so I'll mosey on over there soon as I can get a ride.
    SaraH
  10. garyb

    garyb Member

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    I've only skimmed through FSI French (and done the phonology course), but a lot of the language in it seemed a bit formal and old-fashioned. That made me hesitant to spend significant time on it: if I'm going to drill in language then I feel it should at least be current language that will be useful to me.

    I've learnt French to a fairly good level in a way that I don't think has been the most efficient but has done the job. However, I had already studied it at school for a few years, so I wasn't completely starting from scratch as I already knew some vocabulary and had a decent handle on the verbs. I did Michel Thomas, Pimsleur, French in Action, and Assimil, then after that I mostly just focused on conversation and native materials (films, books, radio, websites, etc.).

    Looking back, I would have paid more attention to pronunciation from the start, and I think continuing with some sort of courses/study further along as well as just conversation and native materials would have speeded things up. That's where I think something like FSI would have been useful, as it goes beyond the basics and drills active skills; there are probably similar but more modern courses out there.

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