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Old 16.03.2012, 19:18
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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Having only been in French class six months now, I know that my skills are improving slowly, but I have a long, long way to go. I am frustrated b/c I do better trying to express myself rather than understanding other people who are speaking.

I wondered if those of you who have mastered a second language could tell me at what point you finally stopped "translating" what you read or heard into your mother tongue as you attempted to understand it? I cannot seem to move toward reading or hearing French and understanding without doing this translation thing in my head.

(Apologies to OP as I am not trying to derail; this seemed like a good thread within which to ask this question .)
No, no, you are not derailing! I have been going to school 2 times per week, 2 hours per class, (so, duh, four hours per week), for one year. I'm taking my B1 exam in June. I still translate 80% of everything, both ways, i.e. while speaking and while listening. Certain phrases, which you say over and over again, you will find yourself not translating.

But, for instance, if someone starts speaking to me in the future or past tenses, I still find myself inside me head saying, "OK, appelerai, will speak, ah! they WILL speak to me tomorrow."

I'm no help here for you, unfortunately. I don't know when you stop translating back to English.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:19
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

When I am able to have a chit chat with someone and make jokes.

I am having private Spanish class 3 times per week for 90 minutes each since September. My Spanish went from mostly not much to be able to hold a conversation. I am totally amazed of how good I became and I am totally thankful for my teacher who is doing a wonderful job in pushing me to talk.

Talking is the key, you talk and talk even if it doesn't make sense. When you learn something new, get it into practice in the street right away!

Good luck!



Edit: I should add this is my 3rd foreign language I am learning.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:20
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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I am curious, Anjela. Did you just reach a certain point and say, "OK, I've learned enough to get by" or what? (Please don't take offense, I am truly wondering.)
No offence taken!

I arrived in 1980 smugly thinking I spoke reasonable french (five long years of french classes at school), only to discover that I'd learnt 1950s Parisian french.... which is nothing like the french spoken in Geneva.
Thrown in at the deep end really as I knew absolutely no-one apart from my english-speaking husband and had to learn fast to survive. I spent an awful lot of time on the trams and sitting in parks with my one-year-old just eavesdropping on other peoples conversations.
The TV helped too if I watched something I'd already seen as I could then concentrate on the sounds and not the story-line.

But I seemed to hit a wall at some point, I can certainly hold my own in a converation and my vocabulary is vast. It's the grammar that gets me, especially the gender of words. It's illogical and I just can not remember it.

My sons think it's hilarious, but I get my own back by correcting their english!
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:22
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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No, no, you are not derailing! I have been going to school 2 times per week, 2 hours per class, (so, duh, four hours per week), for one year. I'm taking my B1 exam in June. I still translate 80% of everything, both ways, i.e. while speaking and while listening. Certain phrases, which you say over and over again, you will find yourself not translating.

But, for instance, if someone starts speaking to me in the future or past tenses, I still find myself inside me head saying, "OK, appelerai, will speak, ah! they WILL speak to me tomorrow."

I'm no help here for you, unfortunately. I don't know when you stop translating back to English.
i'm no pro at the french but i found after getting the basics from class. i stopped and just started not to give a damn about tenses. they came much easier when i focused more on what i wanted to say and less on using the correct tense. once i got comfy saying it, i could clue into tense from others or it just came a bit more naturally...
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:23
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

A related question that always pops into my head is always: what language are you thinking in.

I mean, one tends to discuss with oneself how to best formulate a sentence on what one is going to say/state (eg me now typing this message and now my brain is thus switched to English).

Thus, IMHO, if you are conversing with somebody, you know the language your are speaking is skill-wise adequate enough when you are also thinking in that language, and not switching back to one of your more native tongues all the time to figure out what you are going to say next.

For me, my brain thus switches either to English, Dutch or German depending on the subject I am handling and I have even found it being stuck in German after having been speaking that throughout the day.

For French though it takes me a week of continuously being confronted with it for it to warm up enough up there after which it will go okay-ish and my brain will partially switch to thinking in French too, though as my vocabulary lacks too much it can't do it fully.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:23
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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why is this thread about French?
We need to comply with the quota of threads related to the Romandie.
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  #27  
Old 16.03.2012, 19:25
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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Edit: I should add this is my 3rd foreign language I am learning.
mine too but spanish to french and the two are close enough to help but also to really screw with you when you start to use it as a translation!
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  #28  
Old 16.03.2012, 19:25
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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No offence taken!

I arrived in 1980 smugly thinking I spoke reasonable french (five long years of french classes at school), only to discover that I'd learnt 1950s Parisian french.... which is nothing like the french spoken in Geneva.
Thrown in at the deep end really as I knew absolutely no-one apart from my english-speaking husband and had to learn fast to survive. I spent an awful lot of time on the trams and sitting in parks with my one-year-old just eavesdropping on other peoples conversations.
The TV helped too if I watched something I'd already seen as I could then concentrate on the sounds and not the story-line.

But I seemed to hit a wall at some point, I can certainly hold my own in a converation and my vocabulary is vast. It's the grammar that gets me, especially the gender of words. It's illogical and I just can not remember it.

My sons think it's hilarious, but I get my own back by correcting their english!
Yes, I find the grammar mind-numbingly difficult, as well.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:27
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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i'm no pro at the french but i found after getting the basics from class. i stopped and just started not to give a damn about tenses. they came much easier when i focused more on what i wanted to say and less on using the correct tense. once i got comfy saying it, i could clue into tense from others or it just came a bit more naturally...
Amaraya, I've known you since "back in the day" and I have to say that I'm impressed! If people are complimenting you on your French, then you are really doing well! Are you still translating things in your head?
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:29
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

As BokerTov says, if you are in full immersion this can happen quite quickly.
When I went to London aged 19, I made the decision to shun all ex-pat groups, Swiss Clubs, French Clubs, etc. No internet then, no foreign TV and telephone was just too expensive. Getting a Brit BF did the trick though, more than anything else. Took just a few months before I woke up one morning and realised I'd been dreaming in English. As my life nowadays is a constant mixture of French and English - I dream in both - depending on the context and who is involved.
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  #31  
Old 16.03.2012, 19:33
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

you are too sweet--- maybe they're just being nice cuz they know i'll be crushed otherwise!

actually i do still translate sometimes, depending on the situation. what helps is that i have a good group of friends who speak only french so when we go out it's speak up or shut up. in these cases i just go on and on without translating and it's when i do the best. if i am with people i don't know or in official business stuff- i'm translating like a lunatic but i get caught up easily going between spanish, english and french. spouse-y, you are welcome to come for a drink and give it a go- wine loosens the tongue and i'm only friends with people who wouldn't mind a few wrong tenses
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  #32  
Old 16.03.2012, 19:34
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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As BokerTov says, if you are in full immersion this can happen quite quickly.
When I went to London aged 19, I made the decision to shun all ex-pat groups, Swiss Clubs, French Clubs, etc. No internet then, no foreign TV and telephone was just too expensive. Getting a Brit BF did the trick though, more than anything else. Took just a few months before I woke up one morning and realised I'd been dreaming in English. As my life nowadays is a constant mixture of French and English - I dream in both - depending on the context and who is involved.
Jealous! My husband speaks no French. Our TV is a Slingbox, i.e., English only. The only time I can practice is at the shops/restaurants and in my own car when I listen to the radio. It's a hindrance, really. I'm thinking of getting myself a little Swiss boy toy on the side...to help with my language skills only, people! Jeez, get your minds out of the gutter!
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:38
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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Jealous! My husband speaks no French. Our TV is a Slingbox, i.e., English only. The only time I can practice is at the shops/restaurants and in my own car when I listen to the radio. It's a hindrance, really. I'm thinking of getting myself a little Swiss boy toy on the side...to help with my language skills only, people! Jeez, get your minds out of the gutter!
if you want someone to practice with lemme know- that's how i made my bestie swiss friend- we started meeting for a tandem thing and it helped so much!
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:39
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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How do the rest of you measure your improvement?
You can always rephrase other people's statements in your own words and ask them if that (your rephrased sentence) is what they meant. Maybe add a "n'est-ce pas?"
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:39
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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A related question that always pops into my head is always: what language are you thinking in..
I think in English, always! And I spent most of my life only in French. But since 8 years, my life is mostly in English
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:39
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

Personality/character really does make a difference. If you are the sort of person who is afraid to make mistakes, afraid that people will laugh or criticise, and always want everything to be tickety boo, then it is much harder. I accepted that I was going to make loads of mistakes, and that at the end of the day most people would laugh with me rather than at me. I said some absolute clangers, I still blush to think of it - but I survived and learnt fast. Never made the same mistake again (like telling my future father in law that to win a ski race you have to know how to fart (apply wax to base of skis) well. It is still a family joke to this day.

Just go for it - so what if you get your tenses not absolutely spot on. And if anybody laughs, laugh with them

The most difficult thing for me was when I went back to German classes after I'd been in the UK for 5 years. I'd learnt German in school from French, so knew all my vocab and grammar rules from French, so it took me a while to break the triangle translation in my head.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:42
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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Personality/character really does make a difference. If you are the sort of person who is afraid to make mistakes, afraid that people will laugh or criticise, and always want everything to be tickety boo, then it is much harder. I accepted that I was going to make loads of mistakes, and that at the end of the day most people would laugh with me rather than at me. I said some absolute clangers, I still blush to think of it - but I survived and learnt fast. Never made the same mistake again (like telling my future father in law that to win a ski race you have to know how to fart (apply wax to base of skis) well. It is still a family joke to this day.

Just go for it - so what if you get your tenses not absolutely spot on. And if anybody laughs, laugh with them
absolutely! teaching english to little ones for a long time has shown me one reason they learn so quickly- often they have no shame or at least less of making mistakes. i'll never forget when my husband called me (sweetly) a divine beauty and i asked why he was calling me a bottle of wine? i thought it was just french weirdness....
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:42
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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You can always rephrase other people's statements in your own words and ask them if that (your rephrased sentence) is what they meant. Maybe add a "n'est-ce pas?"
Oh, yes, I promise you, I am the Queen of Repeats.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:49
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

LOL, repeats. My students often said that accents on letters were not important, surely, and couldn't make much difference. I used to write the 2 words on the board and asked them if the little missing accents made much difference. 'No Miss, they said, they look just the same'.

Then I explained the difference- and they 'got it'

Répétez SVP

Repétez SVP.

Have you got it?

Last edited by Odile; 17.03.2012 at 12:00.
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Old 16.03.2012, 19:50
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Re: How do YOU measure if your language skills are improving?

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A related question that always pops into my head is always: what language are you thinking in.
Pictures, as there's no grammar involved

The funniest thing happened when I was sitting in the train a couple years back, in mid-snooze, and a conductor walked up to me and asked me to show him my ticket. I gave him a one-sentence answer with three languages in it...
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