Progress Report – 5 Months of French

In my last progress report, I mentioned that I will see  you again with my report of how I have fallen in love with French again. Fortunately, the forecast turned out to be true. Now, I am enjoying learning French all over again. The trick is to keep at it even in the in the face of loss of interest. What goes down comes up and what goes up comes down – this is a fact of life. We have to use the moments of high interest to achieve what we want before our interest wanes, but you can always get it back if you stay at the process for enough time – the key is persistence.

I have completed the Michel Thomas French Total along with 2 hours of Language Builder course. I and my wife went through the Michel Thomas series together and we have nearly taken 5 weeks to complete the 10 hours of audio. This time, our focus was not to finish things, but to make sure that we totally absorb whatever Michel Thomas is teaching. We paused often to build sentences; so listening to 15 minutes of audio used to take easily 30 minutes, sometimes even more time. But the strategy has really paid off.

Now, I and my wife have started talking in French at home as often as we can and we are able to construct most of the sentences we need for every day living. We have been able to talk to people and get our stuff done using French – Michel Thomas course has given us a lot of confidence. Understanding French spoken by natives is still a challenge, but we are able to talk a lot more than we could before the Michel Thomas course. We are starting on the Michel Thomas Perfect today, which is the Intermediate level course.

I have also completed the Assimil ‘French with Ease’ book and started on the next Intermediate Level book called Assimil ‘Using French’. I have started relistening to the audio from Lesson 1 in Assimil ‘French with Ease’ and I have completed around 50 lessons. I plan to continue to listen to all the lessons in the basic course before I listen to the audio of ‘Using French’. When I listened to the audio this time, I was pleasantly surprised – I am able to understand a lot more than what I could in March. There were certain passages and lessons which I really struggled to understand even after listening to it for 30-40 times. This time, those very passages somehow seemed normal – not easy yet, but normal.

I am planning to do the Assimil 2nd book in a different way. For the first book, I read the French text and then looked at the translation. But for this second book, I am planning to do it differently inspired by my wife. My wife opened the first lesson in Assimil ‘Using French’ and read the English text and asked me to say the French translation. It was not that difficult. We did it for a few sentences together and the process was much more engaging and fun than the passive way of studying – this mode really focuses me and I have to apply all that I have learnt to produce the French sentences. But the effort is worth the trouble – when I produce the French translation and look at the actual one given by Assimil, I am able to understand the areas where I need to improve myself better. If I was looking at French and translating, I would have never made these mistakes and hence would have never learnt from them.

I have subscribed to News in Slow French – a wonderful service which delivers free weekly podcasts in French. The french is spoken very slowly and clearly so that I can understand most of what they talk even if I don’t still know the meanings of all the words they use. The transcripts are available on the web site for subscribers. I started listening to this so that I can improve my listening comprehension and vocabulary. The service is fantastic – check it out if you are at an intermediate level in French. The hosts of the show make the podcast very engaging and interesting.

I have also subscribed to LingQ to see whether the service is useful for me to improve my reading comprehension. I like the concept but I have to see how practical it is for me to use it since it requires that I sit in front of a computer to do most of the work. But it is an interesting concept.

Any reading I do, I prefer to read it on Kindle. So, I have bought 1 French book on Kindle and reading through it – I am able to understand some of it, but I had to look up lot of words still.

I had a lot of opportunities to apply what I have learnt. Now, I am able to manage in French in most every-day situations. I had to call my real estate agency on 3 different occasions for doing some house-hold repairs. I was able to convey the issue and then agree on a mutually convenient date for their visit. It was not easy, but I was able to get things done. I went to a butcherie in France and was able to order everything I wanted in French. One time, one of my colleagues’ laptop bag was stolen and I had accompanied him to a police station and I managed to report the entire incident in French, with the help of Google translate on my iPhone to look up some unknown words.

Overall, it is such a great feeling being able to communicate and be understood. There is a long way to go before I become fluent and be able to hold a full-length conversation with a native – but the journey ahead looks very exciting.

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