Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

I Heart French  3

Posted on December 5th, 2008. About French.

I am psyched about learning French.

I briefly mentioned my efforts toward bilingualism in this post some months ago, but things have picked up recently. I initially discovered Podcasts almost a year ago when Evan gave me my Zune, and then intermittently over many months I occasionally listened to Podcasts from two separate French-education programs, Coffee Break French and Learn French By Podcast. Finally, over the summer, I printed the free .pdf guide from the Radio Lingua site (the parent company that created Coffee Break French), and once I could see words combined with listening to the phrases, I was hooked.

Coffee Break French is designed for the person who does not know the language. I knew “bonjour” and “merci” prior to starting the program, and that was about it. My pronunciation was awful to non-existent (I would not even read many of the words aloud for fear of mispronunciation). I did not grow up around French-speakers, and the thought of tackling this language was extremely daunting. I received mixed reviews on my decision to study French. My son is learning it through his nanny, and thus he will never have to face the difficulties in learning it. She was enthusiastic about my attempt. Several colleagues have insisted that it is entirely hopeless unless one lives in the country and is immersed. I’m sure there is modest truth in this, but I believe Coffee Break French gives an excellent start for someone who realistically cannot pick up and move to Paris for a year.

Anyway, the program is well conceived and structured effectively. Mark teaches, and Anna (his student) learns with us, the listeners. He introduces a phrase, or a concept, explains it well, pronounces it several times usually, and then Anna repeats it. If she makes a mistake (which is atypical, as she is quite perceptive), he kindly corrects her. He quizzes both Anna (and thus, the listeners), allowing for time after his question for us to formulate our answers. The first two lessons teach basic greetings (and the .pdf guides offer further phrases, as do special extended audio podcasts that can be downloaded from the website). Then, it is on to telling someone where you are from, where you live, describing members of your family, introducing people, talking about your profession. (To obtain further .pdf guides or extended audio podcasts one must purchase a membership.) By lesson nine there is a ~2 minute dialogue between Mark and Anna encompassing the concepts introduced in the first eight lessons. Much to my delight, I understood approximately 80% of the discussion. This is astounding, because when I was in Paris three years ago, I understood nothing. I might as well have been aphasic. I could not even read phrases aloud from a French-English dictionary because I could not pronounce them so that others could understand me, but rather pointed helplessly to words on a page while Parisians read what I was trying to convey. I honestly did not think it was possible for me to learn this language, and it is definitely happening. I can now even sing two French holiday songs (lesson 10)! 🙂

For anyone out there considering a study of French, but is concerned that it may be too difficult or cumbersome or uninteresting, I would highly recommend the Coffee Break French program. Learn French By Podcast has the potential to be interesting and very useful, but even though it is advertised as being for beginners, I thought it was very difficult and had trouble keeping up, given where I was starting. Coffee Break French takes things more slowly, but simultaneously, teaches a great amount of material. I am eager to start the next unit (the first unit includes lessons 1-10) soon and see what happens next.

I’ll keep you posted. A la prochaine!

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