French Language

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Angry [:@]


I have been trying very very hard to learn French over the past 8 years or so with little success.  Strangely the limited amount of language I learnt at school some 40 years ago has stayed with me but I just can't seem to retain anything I am learning these days. 

I have tried a GSCE French grammer course, Michel Thomas CD's which I've listened to over and over again.  I struggle through dual language books, buy French newspapers (which take me a month to read!) and generally go through the dictionary trying to learn helpful words and phrases.  On our regular visits I practice at every opportunity but I find it difficult to make myself understood and in turn I find understanding the replies impossible.  It is becoming increasingly worrying for me because we are hoping to retire to France in 2 years time and it will be down to me to learn because my OH is rapidly losing his hearing. 

Does anyone have any advice as to what has worked for them.  Does it become easier once you are actually living in the country?  Very few locals speak English so I am not able give up easily - its just very frustrating.  I'm sure some people are just not geared up or intelligent enough to learn a new language and I'm one of them!  Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Re: Hopeless!

I don't believe that language learning is a question of intelligence....even some footballers manage to grunt a version of their native language.
It is simply a question of repetition and habit
I think Chancer is a good example of someone who has made enormous progress in French simply by immersing himself in the language and not using English.
As you are in a couple that will not be so easy.
I found that using an answer-phone and repeatedly listening to messages that I couldn't understand that first time (sometimes as many as 10 times) was a great help with aural comprehension, as was comparing radio/TV news with what I saw written in the newspapers.  That helps you 'put a face ' to the words you hear..
I also bought French translations of detective novels I already knew in English a found out 'oh that is how they say that in French'

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
- Bertrand Russell
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Re: Hopeless!

I find when teaching French to adults that a few things come into play.
- Many people are actually better than they think. It's a question of confidence when it comes to speaking
- Often, our "adult" need to understand every word overrides the reality, which is that we need to understand the gist of what's being said, or read, not every single word. It also inhibits our ability to speak, because we start by thinking what we'd say in English and try to translate that. What we should be doing is accepting that, at least for some time, we're going to be speaking French like a ten year old, and we have to use the vocabulary we've got, rather than the vocabulary we'd like to have!
- If what you remember from school is primarily the basic grammar, you're already well on the way, as long as you can conjugate four basic verbs so well that you could do it in your sleep. Those four verbs are être, avoir, aller and faire. With those, you can make most of the tenses that you need and also conjugate all the other verbs in the basic past and future tenses.

If you can bear it, try listening to the radio in French as much as possible. That'll help you practice listening to French being spoken at normal speed and it's also a "worst case scenario" because listening without physical clues such as body language or facial expression means you have to listen really hard to understand. Something like French Radio London in the UK (available online or on DAB in Greater London) is an option, but other French stations are available online, as are some TV stations.

Also, don't always make learning a chore. Try finding games and things online, check out the BBC languages website, or try, which is probably the least user-friendly website on earth, but persevere and you can find some good stuff.
Another thing worth a look is LCF magazine which has articles you can read and listen to at the same time.

Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.
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Re: Hopeless!

all the above advice is excellent. Another tip, listen to some French radio, if you can get it. Listen to, say, the news every hour. The first time you hear it then it's gobbledy-gook ... an hour later it's still just a stream of language, but continue. The news rarely changes throughout the day so the same key words and phrases keep coming up. By the fourth or fifth time of hearing the same (or pretty much the same) thing you will start to separate the words. You may not understand them, but you are 'hearing' them and getting your ear in. It really is just practice and repetition.

Learning the basic verbs is a must. There's some excellent French language websites and tutorials online. But don't stress yourself, the fact that you are trying to learn is sufficient. Reachng out and trying in French is the first step - people will help you and assist. And asking French people to speak slower is perfectly OK too.

You probably know more French than you think you do. Don't stress on understanding every word ... if you can get the 'gist' of something you're halfway there. But being in the country does make it easier as you are surrounded by the language and better able to immerse yourself in it.

Good luck .. we've all been there. Don't lose your confidence, be prepared to make awful clangers (I've asked a farmer if I could borrow a cabe to trap the prostitute that lives in my loft .. rather than the polecat!). The language will come, eventually - you'll probably never be fluent but just making the effort to 'get by' is cmmendable. Keep going, stay positive!
If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back
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Re: Hopeless!

Betty, big thanks for the link

I'd not heard of this before - it's excellent, really really good to follow words and sounds at the same time. I shall recommend this to others. Meanwhile, thanks for sharing that.
If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back
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Re: Hopeless!

My pleasure. I posted the link some time ago, but it's always worth doing these things more than once, as often people miss them first time around.

Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.
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Re: Hopeless!

Great, great post Betty. If only all those who need it, could and would read and apply it... (not referring to people on this forum, but to some of the non-French speakers I know personally)

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Re: Hopeless!

You can also buy DVDs of French films with English subtitles, which, even though the subtitles are not literal translations, give the sense of what is being said.

You can rewind and listen to bits you didn't understand, or just watch the same film repeatedly if it is a good one.

If you look for older films they are not expensive. For example we just bought a double pack of "Jean de Florette" and "Manon des Sources" for £9.42, including postage, from Amazon.

We bought it from Amazon UK, but it was posted from France, and arrived the following day!



On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H. L. Mencken 1880 - 1956

Some may not like his views, but what a prediction!
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