Saturday, February 15, 2014

French Language Studies Progress

I've been seeing pretty good progress in my French language studies, and it's really encouraging.  I'm taking classes at Alliance Francaise and really enjoying those.   Every novel I read - and I am always, always reading, every single evening for at least an hour - is in French.  That helps immensely with my vocabulary.  I might add, also, that except for one two-month beginner class in French, many years ago, I had no knowledge of the language at all.  Even then, after taking the single summer two-month class at the University of Wyoming, I began struggling with reading novels in French.  And it was a struggle, too:  I read with my book in one hand and the dictionary in the other.  I didn't even have any comprehension at all of sentence structure, my vocabulary was in the low hundreds of words -- well, you get the picture.  It was bad.  But I really, really wanted to learn the language, and I could at least get the basic gist of whatever it was I was attempting to read.

When I went to live in France the first time, in the 1990's, that's the level at which I was 'NOT' speaking.  In other words, I was completely helpless and pretty much understood nothing and could only say sentences like "my name is . . .," and "where is. .. ." - but I couldn't understand the answers.  So in the very beginning, the person talking to me and I did a lot of hand gestures.  More than one person speaking, forget it; I understood nothing and found my mind wandering elsewhere.  But I kept struggling, and by the time I left, around a year and a half or so later, I was at least slightly communicating -- getting by, in other words.  While there, I studied a French grammar book every evening, kept flash cards with me at all times, very, very shyly tried to speak with people I worked with, and had to speak with service people in shops, etc.  It was tough, tough.

Over the intervening years, my interest in studying French has waxed and waned -- and is fiery hot now, of course.  And I've finally found one thing that really is seeming to work for me now:  at the suggestion of my Alliance Francaise instructor, I subscribed to the French language TV channel (TV 5 Monde), and I've started doing some paintings in my bedroom - where my TV is located - as I've mentioned before.  While I paint, I have the TV going constantly, where I'm totally immersed in hearing the language, even if I'm not really paying attention.  I find myself later, however, telling my daughter about something interesting I heard on the TV during my painting times.

As anyone who has studied another language knows, the last thing to come is speaking, and that's the case with me.  My vocabulary is very extensive now, I hear and understand most everything, but I'm still very hesitant about speaking.  My Alliance Francaise classes help with that a lot because that's what they emphasize, is speaking.  And with that and with hearing the TV French constantly, I'm beginning to speak more freely now, too.  There is hope, in other words.

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