Thursday, March 17, 2011
Well, it's been rather hard to concentrate on anything this week. The earthquake in Japan has us literally glued to the television, watching each day of the catastrophe unfold. It's amazing to be able to find eyewitness accounts, on-the-spot coverage, and streaming video of the day's events. It seems we often speak of the ills of "technology", but I feel very fortunate to be able to "connect" with others this week. And just very fortunate for everything we have, and all those around us.
One of the several bright spots this week is that the sun is back. After a solid week of rain, which called clearly to mind all of Peter Mayle's writings about the awful Mistral wind, yesterday was the first day we were able to remove our hefty armchair from in front of our terrace doors. Even securely fastened, a large burst of the Mistral sends them flying open. Trust me, this wind really blows.
What's this all got to do with the French language? Well, I've been inside a lot....with nothing but a few pints of Haagen-Dazs & my French homework to keep me company. And let's be honest, I polished off two cartons of Pralines & Cream before I even glanced at a book.
The problem? Well, it's been written of, and seems to be true of all languages, but when you reach a plateau during language learning, it's hard to get motivated to move to the next level. Instead of leaps & bounds improvement, changes are incremental, or sometimes even imperceptible.
I'm there now, stuck on intermediate highway. I'd like to move into the advanced lane, but seem to be stalled by roadblocks like conjunctions of coordination, expressions of concession, & really anything having to do with the past conditional. Zikes!
Here's a few things I've committed to doing in order to get back on the grammar party-bus:
1. Read a short, entertaining, book in French
I added "entertaining" because it's got to be a book you can stick with - not necessary know every word, but be able to press though. Some good candidates are anything from Le Petit Nicolas series & the well-known Le Petit Prince.
2. Take advantage of online, interactive resources
I mentioned several French podcast & learning web sites in a prior post, and there are many online resources worth taking a look at, including: BBC Languages: French, Coffee Break French Learn French by Podcast, and French Pod Class.
Another site I've recently discovered is Teach & Learn French from TV Monde 5. All excellent ways to spice up your grammar lessons.
3. Actually do those pronunciation exercises in the mirror
You know the ones I'm talking about - pursed lips & big smiley face to pronounce des and then a rounded "O-shaped" mouth to pronounce de.
If you haven't studied French, then this is about the point where you think I'm crazy - But, in my defense, it's a bit of a crazy language. But we love it nonetheless...right?
4. Engage, engage, engage
I have loads of opportunities to speak French, but I admit that sometimes I get a little lazy (...gasp). Or sometimes I just wimp out - easier to stay quiet than make a dreaded...ERROR (le gasp!). But I'm not doing anyone any favors, least of all myself. Better to put it out there, take advantage of every opportunity to speak the language, & let les chips fall where they may. Preferably close to the buffet table.
Those are a few of the things I'm doing to take my French to the next level.
What are some of the ways you've developed to help push yourself forward in a language?
Suggestions, comments, & more pints of Haagen-Daz are always welcome.