I have just returned from a trip to Paris last week, which was the culmination of my attempt to practice my French. When we started learning French, I and my wife decided that we will visit Paris when we finish the French courses that we have bought and we are at a reasonable level of fluency. We are nowhere near to completing all the courses that we bought. Anyway, we took the trip to see how much we have really learnt.
It felt so good to be able to talk to people in Paris in French, to ask for directions and to understand what they were saying. To my surprise, a lot of people in Paris spoke English. I was expecting that everyone would talk only French. So, I was a bit disappointed :). My listening comprehension has improved a lot, especially when it comes to listening to answers that pertain to situations in everyday life. I could read most of the materials that were available for travelers in French and to understand them.
Studying Assimil had an unexpected side benefit. Through Assimil lessons, I have gotten to know a few places in Paris already and that knowledge was quite helpful when I was in Paris. Everyday I was in Paris, I was feeling grateful that I have studied Assimil both for the extensive vocabulary that it equipped me with as well as for the local knowledge about Paris.
The last 3 months has helped me to figure out the areas where I need to acquire more vocabulary. Apart from vocabulary, I need more practice in listening to French. Yesterday, I listened to a lecture in French spoken at its normal speed, and I could understand only a little. So,I still have a lot of work to do improve my French comprehension when it is spoken at its normal speed by locals.
Paris trip has left me feeling very good about all the efforts that I have put in the first 6 months of 2012 to learn the language. It is amazing that I could talk and operate using the language without studying grammar formally. This was the key idea that I picked up from the Language Hacker’s Guide book by Benny Lewis. I wanted to try how it feels to learn a new language without following the traditional grammar-based approach. I still have to read 2 more books in French before I open up the French grammar book I bought almost a year ago. Having said that, I actually love studying grammar and I really look forward to studying French grammar.
The next 3 months are going to be ‘back to books’ for me. I plan to use LingQ primarily to improve my vocabulary and I also plan to complete Assimil’s Using French in the next 2 months. See you then in the next update.