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learning to speak french for fun and profit

World as MythWorld as Myth a breezy way to annoy serious peopleRegistered User regular
edited November 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm heading to france next summer for a couple of weeks, and I made a small wager with my boyfriend that I'd be able to be at least conversant in french by the time we leave. this made have been a foolish wager, but now I'm keen to at least see how far I can get. I have a reallllllly basic foundation in french from middle and high schools, but only the most basic phrases and a light scattering of assorted words. I've always been very adept at learning languages, so I'm confident I can get somewhere with it over the next eight months.

my commute to work prevents me from taking a class, more than likely (I'm gone from 7:15 in the morning till 7:30 at night or so), so I'm interested to know if anyone has had success with any audio programs -- I'd love to have something that I can put on my iphone and listen to on the train.

any advice about useful books/methods would be appreciated too! I skimmed through the results after I did a search for "french" and I saw some good ideas about watching french films and so forth, which I'll probably integrate after a few months of studying.

thank you in advance you are too kind.

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    ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Watching movies helps a ton.

    Basically, just use it as much as you can. If you know anyone who speaks French, make them have conversations with you in French. If you can, play video games in French (lots of American games are distributed throughout here and Canada, so have French language options on them).

    Thanatos on
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    World as MythWorld as Myth a breezy way to annoy serious people Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    even watching a movie like persepolis, the plot of which is very familiar to me, is difficult without subtitles because french spoken rapidly sounds like a lovely but thoroughly incomprehensible mélange of nonsense.

    my dad recommended I check the library to see if they have rosetta stone type audio programs, which is a good idea, and he speaks pretty good french, so I'd be able to practice on him, I think. I was just hoping somebody had actually tried the different audio brands (pimsleur, michael thomas, etc.) and had identified a standout.

    World as Myth on
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    Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I'm currently attempting to pick up a little French.

    Films with good as they get you used to how the language sounds, and picking out words in spoken languages is one of the first hurdles that you need to get over if you are going to get anywhere.

    Other than that there are some good little books which focus entirely on conversation French. And yes, having a French person on hand makes it much easier.

    Mojo_Jojo on
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    ComahawkComahawk Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Other than being in total immersion you will have a lot of difficulty picking up French.

    Your best bet is to pick up one of the Rosetta stone programs and devote an hour or two a night to just learning French. If you know anyone who speaks French, talk to them and get them to have conversations with you mostly in French.

    Also, I'm not sure where you live, but make sure you are learning Parisian French and not Quebecois French... Going to France and speaking like a Quebecer will get you some odd responses, mostly filled with laughter and disgust. And if you want to invest a little more money into it, the Tin Tin series is out on DVD now, I suggest picking it up and watching them in French with subtitles until you can do without. I've heard they are very good for learning the basics.

    Comahawk on
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    World as MythWorld as Myth a breezy way to annoy serious people Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I do have a friend from france who just moved away from here, so I should be able to chat him up on the phone every once in a while.

    thanks for the ideas! hadn't even thought about tin tin, or other french kids stuff. that's a good suggestion.

    World as Myth on
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    TaGuelleTaGuelle Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    How much of your time are you willing to give to learning french? Getting into the habit of talking to yourself in French is really helpful, though you may look like a fool and will be speaking only gibberish, it will get you used to the sounds. Learn to pronounce the language too. Write down the names of house hold things on pieces of paper and tape them on the corresponding thing. Everyone hates on Quebecer French, but unless you're hearing hardcore "tabernakkk de calice, veau shi..." it's pretty good French. The BBC has a French website with a news broadcast that is good for learning and they have I believe a French learners page.

    TaGuelle on
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    DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Comahawk wrote: »
    Other than being in total immersion you will have a lot of difficulty picking up French.

    Your best bet is to pick up one of the Rosetta stone programs and devote an hour or two a night to just learning French. If you know anyone who speaks French, talk to them and get them to have conversations with you mostly in French.

    Also, I'm not sure where you live, but make sure you are learning Parisian French and not Quebecois French... Going to France and speaking like a Quebecer will get you some odd responses, mostly filled with laughter and disgust. And if you want to invest a little more money into it, the Tin Tin series is out on DVD now, I suggest picking it up and watching them in French with subtitles until you can do without. I've heard they are very good for learning the basics.

    Parisian French is just as horrible as Québécois French if you're trying to speak it, let's say, internationally. Speaking French without accent would be the best as both places will recognize it as normal French.

    edit: Tabarnake de câlisse!

    Djiem on
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    World as MythWorld as Myth a breezy way to annoy serious people Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    well two days a week I have about six hours of commuting time roundtrip, so that's lots of time to study

    the rest of the week I work at home and can set aside at least an hour a night to study too

    I like the idea of taping french names on household things too. my housemates are exactly the kind of people who would not think this was weird.

    World as Myth on
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    SpherickSpherick Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I would definately recommend the Pimsluer audio courses for the train ride to and fro work. Not only will you learn useful, conversational phrases, but it will help your ear get used to the native sounds and be able to pick out words.

    I have used Pimsluer for Russian, Chinese, and German and can attest that all of them work if you do 1 lesson a day and actually put some thought into it. It teaches through a combination of rote memorization and cognitive recall.

    Wow, I sound like a plant right now :)

    But I would also recommend getting a basic college level textbook to learn basic grammar and conjucations/various tenses (past, present, future, past perfect, etc)

    Im also going to vote against Rosetta Stone. My friends and I have used it before and was not impressed. Then again, YMMV.

    In addition, listening to French music will also help attune your ear to the sounds.

    Spherick on
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    RecklessReckless Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I'm just starting French in college and I'll second the watching movies bit. Additionally, once a week our campus Spanish station switches over to a French station, and watching the news broadcasts really helps, because I generally know what the headlines are already, so it's easy to piece together.

    There's a couple podcasts on the ITMS that are getting some praise as well.

    Reckless on
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    MeeOkMeeOk Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    As far as listening to French music maybe being helpful (which it may not be, since you mentioned movies being a bit difficult since they speak so rapidly), I can recommend a couple of artists, depending on what you listen to. Kyo does sort of a pop/rock and Mypollux does sort of metal...

    MeeOk on
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    SpherickSpherick Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Spherick on
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    Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    as has been mentioned, in the absence of actual social immersion, other kinds of immersion are critical

    watch movies in french, subtitles on at first to help you associate sounds with words, then off when you feel comfortable or want to push yourself a bit; read books in french, as challenging as you can get, with a dictionary and possibly a bescherelle (verb compendium) beside you; if you know any french speakers, speak it with them. Audio courses I don't know much about, which is weird because I do a lot of second-language teaching, but discussion groups are helpful; if you can find any casual or official french discussion groups, take advantage.

    you are fortunate in that french is very structurally close to english and shares many words that are almost literal translations with the same spellings. your vocabulary already has a foundation, especially with some french education; work on it by specifically looking up unfamiliar words, and learn something like five or ten words a day, getting comfortable with their usage, whether you look up random ones or find them in your practice-immersion.

    whatever practice you do will really really explode into usefulness when you get there, as even subconscious associations and knowledge will really come to light when it's your only means of communication.

    Evil Multifarious on
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    BasarBasar IstanbulRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I haven't any of the replies, cause I need to head out for dinner but http://www.babbel.com has helped me a lot in learning Spanish in the past 2 weeks. I moved here on the last week of October and I can order in restaurants, talk to salespeople, ask how people are, etc. already and I can read basic text.

    I highly recommend it. They got like tens of millions invested in them by VCs, I think you should at least consider it (the service is free).

    Basar on
    i live in a country with a batshit crazy president and no, english is not my first language

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    McVikingMcViking Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I actually just got back from a month in France two weeks ago. You're in for some fun :)

    I would second the opinion that watching films with subtitles is helpful, but I would add that you should be watching films in French with French subtitles, not English ones. Otherwise, you're going to be paying attention to the English subtitles and thinking in English while you watch the film, which isn't what you want. Add to that the fact that the English subtitles aren't going to be a literal translation of the spoken French, and you may as well just be watching a film in English. Watching with French subtitles will help you associate what you hear with what you've read. Yeah, it will be hard, and if you can actually become conversational in French in eight months of living in the U.S., I'll be impressed. But you aren't doing this because it's easy, are you? ;)

    Don't worry overly about Quebecois vs. French vs. Swiss French accents -- you're going to have an American accent (assuming you're American), and you won't be losing that in eight months of study in the U.S. Worry about that once you get there.

    McViking on
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    World as MythWorld as Myth a breezy way to annoy serious people Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Basar wrote: »
    I haven't any of the replies, cause I need to head out for dinner but http://www.babbel.com has helped me a lot in learning Spanish in the past 2 weeks. I moved here on the last week of October and I can order in restaurants, talk to salespeople, ask how people are, etc. already and I can read basic text.

    I highly recommend it. They got like tens of millions invested in them by VCs, I think you should at least consider it (the service is free).
    this is super cool already -- thank you! I had no idea this existed

    thanks to all of you guys, these are great suggestions.

    World as Myth on
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    BasarBasar IstanbulRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Basar wrote: »
    I haven't any of the replies, cause I need to head out for dinner but http://www.babbel.com has helped me a lot in learning Spanish in the past 2 weeks. I moved here on the last week of October and I can order in restaurants, talk to salespeople, ask how people are, etc. already and I can read basic text.

    I highly recommend it. They got like tens of millions invested in them by VCs, I think you should at least consider it (the service is free).
    this is super cool already -- thank you! I had no idea this existed

    thanks to all of you guys, these are great suggestions.

    Je suis heureux qui a aidé. (I am glad that helped) :)

    Basar on
    i live in a country with a batshit crazy president and no, english is not my first language

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    VorusVorus Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I would second kids french stuff, especially kids books and comics

    Tin Tin and Asterix et Obelix are really popular comics that will not only help you with the language, but with some popular culture.

    Also, there is a bilingual movie called Bon Cop Bad Cop about a policeman from ontario working with a policeman from quebec and they constantly switch back and forth between french and engilsh, with subtitles available in both languages. Also, it is a pretty good movie.

    Vorus on
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    RamiRami Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I've used Michel Thomas and I highly recommend that along with watching french tv/films. MT is really easy and you learn a lot quickly, you don't need to actively memorise anything either.

    Rami on
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    shutzshutz Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I second "Bon Cop Bad Cop", as I was about to suggest it myself! Another movie I know of which may help a little is the somewhat old Harrison Ford movie "Frantic" which takes place in Paris. Funny thing: I'm from Québec, so I'm used to seeing american movies dubbed in French, but this one, since it's about 50-50 between the two languages, instead of dubbing, they just put in English subtitles when French is spoken in the English version, and French subs when English is spoken in the French version.

    Bon Cop Bad Cop does the same thing, except you get both versions of the movie on the DVD, plus it's way funnier.

    You should watch either movie in the French version, so you get to hear French when it's spoken, and get the French translation for the English dialogue.

    One more thing: I'm perfectly bilingual (English is actually my second language, even though these days, I think I use it 60% of the time...) and I currently have lots of time on my hands, so if you need someone to practice your French with, coach you on your pronunciation, or if you have any specific questions, just PM me and I'll be glad to help. I can even help you a bit with the France brand of French slang, which you're not going to come across much when using language-learning software or listening to language courses.

    Although, when it comes to slang, the best thing is to know about it and understand it, but not to use it unless you really know what you're doing, otherwise you'll just make a fool of yourself.

    shutz on
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    Seattle ThreadSeattle Thread Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Make sure to ask that French pal of yours to explain the whole goddamn masculine/feminine thing

    Seattle Thread on
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    FireflashFireflash Montreal, QCRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Makershot wrote: »
    Make sure to ask that French pal of yours to explain the whole goddamn masculine/feminine thing

    There's not much to say about that... all nouns have a gender.. and I'm pretty sure there's no rule to what is masculine or feminine. Well if somehow there's one.. I'm french and I don't know it!

    Edit: Well you can sometimes know by how the word ends.

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    CheerfulBearCheerfulBear Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Read, read read. Once you start mastering the basics, you'll really want to work on your vocabulary and you'll also start to notice patterns in syntax and idiomatic expressions. You may not see this as helping you speak the language, but it is incredibly beneficial. If there's a bookstore or a library nearby with some French literature, go check it out. Alternatively, you can read French news sites, like Le Monde (http://www.lemonde.fr).

    CheerfulBear on
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