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Old 21.06.2008, 10:25
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How did you learn French?

Before I depart to Switzerland I have dedicated my entire summer to learn French. Although I am spending 2-3 hours a day learning (books, workbooks, tutors, and computer software) I definitely won't be fluent by the time I get there.
As a quick poll, how did you learn French (or German, Italian if you would like) before living in Switzerland and after arriving?
Thanks!
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Old 21.06.2008, 10:29
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Re: How did you learn French?

well i only started learning French when i arrived in switzerland. That too because my company was paying for it .
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Old 21.06.2008, 11:25
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Re: How did you learn French?

Well I've been here a year and I have been studying French for a while now. However I'm far from fluent.

There is no real substitute for speaking French with native French speakers and dealing with daily situations. Taking classes is also a good idea.

I find learning most things really easy, most things I can read books, watch videos or go to classes on and then I'm usually done. However with languages I find it requires constant practice, making mistakes and a lot of patience.

Good luck.
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Old 21.06.2008, 11:57
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Re: How did you learn French?

Vocabulary is the thing you have to work on first and the most.

I started by drilling the first 1000 words into my head until I had them. It took me a while to figure out how to get myself to remember new words, but once I did it got easier.

It works out that most people can remember new words easily if they encounter the word repeatedly over a period of time, with the key being that the repetitions should follow a logarithmic curve. In practice this works like this:

1. Make a list of 5-10 words you want to learn. Put them on flashcards or in a computer flashcard program.

2. Drill them once, just try to guess.

3. Drill them again until you get them right. This will take two or three passes.

4. Put the cards down and wait 5 minutes. Use a timer.

5. Drill them again

6. Put the cards down and wait 10 minutes. (math geeks: I said "roughly logarithmic")

7. Drill them again

8. Put the cards down and wait 30 minutes.

9. Drill them again

10. Put the cards down and wait 2 hours.

11. Drill them again

12. Put the cards down and wait half a day

13. Drill them again

14. Put the cards down and wait a full day (after you have slept)

15. Drill them again. It will be a little harder this time.

16. Wait a week.

17. Review.

At this point you will have memorized the words on the list, and will retain them for years provided you see them in print or hear them spoken once in a while. I've found that I can keep 10-15 sets of 5-10 words in this rotation at a time. Given this you can learn something like 50-150 words a week, maybe much more if you are serious. This is the key: the base vocabulary of any human language is about 600-1000 words, and they are all the same across languages: spatial: up, down, left, right, over, under, around; numbers; body parts, etc. etc. etc. There are lists on the web.

Verbs are special because they are grammer. If you have blocks of time to study use them mostly for grammar and for creating your flashcards or whatever.

After you have the basic vocabulary start trying to read the news-paper. The Tribune de Geneve is good for this with 24 heures as a close second choice. The others are either too informal (Matin, Matin Bleu) or too advanced (Le Temps) or both (Le Courrier).
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Old 29.06.2008, 15:09
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Re: How did you learn French?

I'm studying French language.
in my observation, listening is better than studying by reading.
some words, letters are'nt the same with English.
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Old 30.06.2008, 00:01
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Re: How did you learn French?

Learn it in the area that you plan on living.
Dialect and manners vary from place to place.
If you want to fit in that is....
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Old 30.06.2008, 00:23
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Re: How did you learn French?

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Before I depart to Switzerland I have dedicated my entire summer to learn French. Although I am spending 2-3 hours a day learning (books, workbooks, tutors, and computer software) I definitely won't be fluent by the time I get there.
As a quick poll, how did you learn French (or German, Italian if you would like) before living in Switzerland and after arriving?
Thanks!
I would recommend the following:
- regular (or intensive course) - and it's important to speak and receive feedback (corrections)
- self-learning (some grammar - but that's easy, and vocabulary). For vocabulary I would recommend some computer aided methods (like Supermemo)
- listening, you could try these:
* http://www.rfi.fr/lffr/statiques/accueil_apprendre.asp
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/
* http://www.dailyfrenchpod.com/
- finding someone to do the tandem learning - either in real life or via skype
- reading - newspapers, there are also special books for people learning foreign language (lightweight version of normal book with vocabulary and grammar explanations)
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Old 30.06.2008, 09:18
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Re: How did you learn French?

I find that the picture dictionaries for children are useful for learning vocabulary.
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Old 30.06.2008, 10:01
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Re: How did you learn French?

MarkJ's approach is good if you want to build your vocabulary but to really master a language you need to learn the phonetic, morphological and syntactic structures. Otherwise you will not understand whether something is plural or singular, whether it really happened or it was only wishful thinking.

Young children seemingly effortlessly acquire language, but we adults have to work hard to create some kind of system that makes sense to us. Often we learn by trying to match a foreign language with what we know (our mother tongue or another foreign language that we know) and we assmilate quickly the overlaps and then struggle with areas where there are clear differences.

I learned my imperfect English by struggling with grammatical structures and then reading books. I remember that when I started working in English it was incredibly difficult to speak. Even after many years of working in English I still think that my writing skills are stronger than my conversational skills.

When I came to Switzerland I did not speak a word of French. I took courses over 2 years and I think that my grammar and vocabulary are now quite decent, but because I do not work in French I would not consider myself fluent. If you really need French at work, whatever method you follow you will definitely learn quickly because you will practice and your motivation will be very strong.

Just a tip in case you wanted to memorise French nouns as described above. I would suggest trying to memorise them together with their corresponding article and an adjective (eg 'une belle lettre', 'un beau livre'). That way you will learn gender forms (which are very different from English where all inanimate objects are neuter) and correct word order, and will be able to describe an object or person.

Good luck!
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Old 30.06.2008, 10:01
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Re: How did you learn French?

I had three years of French (HS and college) MANY years ago, and continued to use it (whenever possible) and build on my knowledge over the years. So my working knowledge of it is pretty decent and I'm comfortable with it. I only started learning German after moving here (took private lessons for six months) and I still have a long way to go before I feel comfortable with it.

I've also found both French in Action and Fokus Deutsch to be helpful:

http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html

http://www.learner.org/resources/series104.html

Once you arrive, I would recommend using and applying what you've learned in real-life situations as much as possible. Carry a pocket-sized French-English dictionary with you to look up new words. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to ask people to slow down (Parlez lentement, s'il-vous-plait) if they're too fast or saying "Je ne parle pas franšais couramment, juste un petit peu..."(I don't speak French fluently, only a little bit...) You'll learn what's correct soon enough and most people will appreciate that you're making the effort and will be more inclined to try to help or accommodate. That's been my experience anyway

Bonne chance!
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Old 04.07.2008, 00:55
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Re: How did you learn French?

Hi,
I think the Michel Thomas language method offers a very good starting point for getting quickly immersed in the French language. You are actively participating from the very start and you will be amazed at how much you can learn in a very short time (and I mean learn in terms of truly understanding what it is you are saying and hearing and not by mere rote learning). This will give you confidence to continue on after you've finished with his materials.

Check out Amazon.com for the various Michel Thomas French language products: Foundation Course, Language Builder, Advanced Course, and Vocabulary Course. I'm currently using these CD's (ripped the files and loaded them on my iPod). So far, I've done a first run-through of the Foundation Course and Language Builder Course and just started the Advanced Course today and am finding them to be extremely helpful in giving me a feel for how the language sounds and is used. One important thing to note is that this program is predominantly audio -- learning by listening (I like to go for ~ 1 hour interval walks where I am not likely to encounter many people, so I can speak out loud and follow the course without being interrupted). It's important that you have a pause button on your MP3 player or other listening device so that you can pause and think about the answer for yourself before listening to the answer.

I also enjoy using the French in Action series that an earlier poster recommended as well as using Supermemo (on my Palm) for learning vocabulary. I also think it's important to have a good grammar resource, a good dictionary, a beginners "reader", and eventually, a partner with whom you can speak (preferably a native speaker). If there is a chance that you can take an intensive course before coming, then that would certainly give you a good head start. Just remember that it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to learn the language thoroughly -- steady practice in whichever kind of materials suits your learning style best is the key to reaching your goals.

Good luck!
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Old 04.07.2008, 00:56
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Re: How did you learn French?

kindalingers ...............

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