I have completed reading my first full-length book in French and it feels so good. Based on the advice given by Aaron of Everyday Language Learner in his Guide to Sustaining, I have picked up a book on a topic that I am very interested in reading about. Though there was lot of new vocabulary and there were parts that I could not fully make sense of, I understood most of the contents.
For a while, I was looking up every new word I came across as I wanted to understand 100% of what I was reading, then I decided that it was far more productive to just keep reading and not look up every unknown word. Rather, I tried to use the context to guess the meaning of the word and then I moved on. There were some places where I struggled to understand the meaning of a sentence even though I knew the meaning of every single word in that sentence – this mostly happened with sentences which contained ‘ne’ and ‘que’ in them. These are idiomatic structures which I have not been exposed to so far and over time, I hope I will start understanding them.
I and my wife have completed all the Michel Thomas French courses now – Total (Beginner), Perfect (Advanced) and Masterclasss. Michel Thomas Perfect was so great. It is incredible what Michel Thomas could achieve in 4 hours of audio in his French Perfect course. What other books will take hundreds of pages of complex explanations, even after which the student may not feel totally comfortable, Michel Thomas has been able to achieve in 4 hours and he made us very comfortable with the most complex aspects of the French language like the order of pronouns, imperfect tenses, subjunctive, verbs which take ‘etre’ in their past tense,etc. I have gained so much confidence in some of the most obscure and complex aspects of French language grammar in a very short time. I would attribute my success in reading the French book largely to Michel Thomas. Though Assimil has helped me with lot of vocabulary and a lot of idiomatic structures, Michel Thomas has thoroughly trained me in all the difficult conjugations of the most important irregular verbs.
I have completed listening to all of the audio of Assimil French with ease again. I have also started revising the book from Lesson 1 and I am not done with it yet. On this second trip through the Assimil French with ease course, I am able to see the plan behind each lesson and the way they are introducing certain concepts and repeating them again and gain. It is just brilliant – Kudos to Assimil for coming up with such a wonderful and innovative concept of learning a language. I have finished a few lessons in Assimil Using French, but finishing the revision of the first book is my main focus now. I want to make sure that I assimilate most of the contents of the first book before moving on to the second book.
I have started attending meetings which are conducted in French. In fact, I and my family went for a 2-days outing with a group of people who mostly talk French – that gave us lot of immersion in French and we all enjoyed it. I did accro-branche (look up in Google if you don’t know what it means) and all the instructions were given in French and I was able to understand most of it.
I have subscribed to the Gold package of News in slow french and I have been reading up the French news there almost every day. The articles are at exactly at the level that I need – I can comfortably read and understand most of the content. A lot of the new words are already highlighted in blue and I can see the translation of those words by placing the mouse over that word – this is wonderful as it relieves me from looking up these new words. And it gives me lot of exposure to very good quality spoken French.
I have not been able to use LingQ.com service that much. I have copied and pasted 3 news articles from News in Slow French and then I marked the unknown words, but I realized it was too much work. Given my time constraints, I would rather focus on reading directly on News in slow French site for now. I do acknowledge that the idea behind the LingQ service is great and that is why I have subscribed to it for a full year.
In my last progress report, I said that I and my wife started conversing in French at home. After a while, we stopped it. Old habits die hard – there are times when we switch to English or to our mother tongue, Tamil, without even realizing it. We got into an arrangement to give each other a small sum of money if we catch the other person talking in English, but we both forgot to catch each other :). Switching to another language completely is more of a mind-game. Sometimes, when we have a lot to talk but can’t express it in French, it is very hard to resist switching to the language you are used to. And, I still find it difficult to talk in French fully to my colleagues – I still feel shy. With strangers, I am able to talk comfortably. But I hope I will get over this shyness.