I thought I’d write about my plans for French studies for the next few months in 2022.
I have written lots over the last couple of years of my journey into language learning and I’m chuffed to say that there is nothing more unbelievable than listening to someone speak in French and….YOU UNDERSTAND THEM!
My brain does not compute that.
However, it is such a wonderful feeling when you know you put in the hours to build a new skill that will serve you until your end of days. (Well, I hope it will).
This year I decided to do something different.
I had finished up with the Alliance Francaise last year at a B1.3 level and was ready to move to the new books and upper intermediate BUT I still felt that I wasn’t speaking enough. Sure, I could understand about 90% maybe more of what teachers and people were saying (forget understanding people who constantly pepper the language with slang – I’ve no hope), however, I wanted to speak more.
As such, I used to do all my French classes on Mondays between 6:00-8:30pm so I continued the tradition and over the Christmas break, undertook my own studies doing a mix of:
- Grammar exercises
- Reading and comprehension
- Revisiting the Hatchette French text book we used at the Alliance
- Every Thursday – an hour conversation with French friend Renee
- Every Friday – an hour conversation with French friend Emma
- Asynchronous voice messages with Joelle, Alexie and Aline using HelloTalk app
With the conversations, the way we work together is that we do half hour in French; then half hour in English and we correct each other along the way.
With the asynchronous voice messages: I write in French and my French friends respond in English and we correct each other.
Plans for This Semester
I decided to up my speaking and also the social element. Learning with others is important for me and I like to be part of a group to meet others. Really, learning is meant to be fun especially if you’re going to make this skill part of your life. It means including people and incorporating activities that gets you in front of others to share this passion. If I continued alone for the next few months, I would have missed out on this aspect.
When I first started my French language learning journey, I stumbled upon this YouTube site called Francais Authentique. However, at the time, I remember thinking “it’s too hard! I can’t understand him!” Also as his videos are entirely French (no, no English subtitles), I was in over my head.
However, with classes at the Alliance as well as the conversations with my French friends, little by little, I began understanding these videos!
This week I decided to subscribe to their Academy. For three months, I’ll have access to modularised content that I can explore as well as Zoom chats with teachers and other participants.
The modules are hefty. For example, the most recent one I completed was watching a video 52 minutes in length – all French obviously. I downloaded the 15 page transcript and then read through it all aloud by myself first; then watched it with the tutor talking and then went through it again to translate any words I didn’t know. The topic was on Rituals and Social Behaviours of the French and it was enlightening.
We can then share our thoughts of the topic and write them in the comments below each module and during the Zoom sessions, there are topics to be discussed as well as have fun.
I haven’t yet attended my first Zoom session however, I have booked myself into a couple of them for next week.
These will occur 2 hours every week.
Once you join the Academy, you can also participate in Telegram or Private Facebook communities with people. I’ve joined the Telegram group and already I’ve had some back and forth chats with various participants.
These conversations are scattered throughout the day so at any one time, I’m flitting from writing English to writing French on my phone. So in some way, I’m integrating French into my day to day.
It really blows my mind.
French with Nathalie
The second activity I have signed up for is “French with Nathalie”.
Nathalie is a French tutor who runs social meetups at a local cafe here in my neighbourhood. Every week she sends out a topic sheet and we all read up on it and then gather at the cafe to discuss the subject.
It’s an informal set up but I like meeting other people in person over a coffee and cake.
What I also like is that people are really friendly, welcoming and social. Everyone helps each other out and really, it’s a gathering of people who are passionate about France and all things French.
These are one hour every week.
Conversations with French Friends
By far, the best activities have been chatting with new found friends (one lives just outside Barcelona and the other in Strasbourg). It’s been wonderful chatting with Emma and Renee and learning about each other’s cultures, interests, families and work. When they travel to other countries or even around their town, they’ll make sure to send a photo and then we can talk about our respective lives.
I can’t wait to meet them in person one day.
These conversations take 3 hours every week.
Language learning requires commitment – that’s my biggest lesson I’ve learned so far. In order for you to continually improve and not forget, you’ll need to make time for it every day and look forward to doing it.
(I’m not going to lie – this means it’s been at the expense of learning other things namely anything work-related which now I dedicate to learning only within work hours. However, this was something I decided to do that learning French was more important than learning Microsoft in my own time, sorry!)
It’s also not something that you ‘slot in’ whenever you find the time but you need to incorporate it into your every day life and find joy in it. Otherwise, why are you even doing it?
I don’t know what doing this will help me with my future life. In all honesty, I have no idea. However, I do remember when I was in Strasbourg that I quietly made a pact with myself to learn this beautiful language when I was walking around this beautiful town and butchering French. Now, when I can revisit Strasbourg, not only will I be fluent in the language – but I will have my own friend and tour guide who could show me around.
This is why I want to spend the rest of my life from here on focussed on experiences – and these experiences involving people and culture.
I’d like to go to my death bed having spent the majority of my time learning new things that fill me with joy, wonder, awe (at myself for having done them) and be in a constant state of curiosity, openness and wonder.