Wednesday, September 20, 2006

French too

The first foreign language I ever studied was French in the 8th grade. Prior to that, I had decided I wasn't going to waste time taking a foreign language class because there was obviously no use for it where I lived. But then I found out that taking a foreign language was a requirement for getting into college so I took French. That was probably the first (and only) class I liked in school. I found it exciting to start understanding something that I could not previously understand any of at all. The next year, I was in a different school system. So I started over with French by taking the beginning course because my eighth grade course was probably half a year's worth of a high school's first year course. I remember the teacher contemplating on the first day, that I might be able to take the second year course, but I was too scared to jump into that! I thought I might miss something if I did that.

So I took French in ninth grade and tenth grade. I also took French in eleventh grade, but after the first quarter I went to a different school. I took third-year French there. While I got high grades in French at my previous school, I nearly bombed it in the new school. So I didn't take French for the second half of eleventh grade. In twelfth grade, I went back to my former high school and took French again.

In college, I took French 102 which is second semester French. The class format was pretty easy with lots of quizzes that made up a good part of your class grade. That was a spring semester class and I got an A minus. A year later, I was at a new college and took French 201. I thought it would be easy for me. It wasn't too bad except for the tests which I seemed to always forget were coming up and also the fact that class participation was part of the grade. There were no quizzes to boost my grade. Again, for the second time in my life, I almost bombed another French class. I got a D minus.

That was my last French class, eleven years ago. Two years ago I met a French business man at work here in Japan. I told him that I had once studied French. Business was conducted in English, but on the way out he said something to me in French. I could catch a few of the words but I was totally lost. I could only reply to him in English.

Just this week, I have started watching the series French in Action. It is a program that teaches French and is taught completely in French. It is available on the internet. There is also a textbook and other accompanying material but I am only using the videos. Each episode is 30 minutes long. The first lesson is just an introduction to the course and it is in English but the following 51 lessons are in French. I am going to try to focus on one lesson per week. I will try to watch it every day. There is a page about it on Wikipedia and there is a blog entry with dozens of comments going on even up to this week, however the latter quarter of the comments turn into bickering and fighting. However, in the comments section, the actor who played the main male character of the French in Action course has posted comments as well, so it's very interesting. Oh, he is not one of the people arguing.

Since French in Action is entirely in French, I think it would scare off anyone who has never studied French before. But it can still be used by complete beginners as long as you realize you have to watch each episode many times. The program repeats words that it wants you to learn. You will learn a lot because it is visual and auditory. When you get bored watching one episode, go onto the next one. When you get to episodes which seem impossible, then go back to earlier episodes. There are 25 hours of audio and video rolled into one. And it's all French. Show me any other language course which gives you over 20 hours of exposure to the target language without interruption.

If I watch each episode at least 7 times in the week, after a year I'll have spent over 175 hours immersed in the target language. Then the next time I meet a French business man, I'll be ready to converse with him in his own language.



  1. I won't use any "naughty" words even though people say "pardon my french" after they say a naughty word.

    I've seen FIA. I speak French. I don't think I could speak French just by watching it, but it will boost your level.

    Some of your language ideas are wild and I frankly disagree with them, but there is room for diversity in language learning.

    I thought your interview with ZF was quite clever though, you were quiet and let him talk.

  2. Thank you for commenting (I think).

    French in Action would be perfect for someone who doesn't want to translate, but instead wants to more naturally acquire the language.

    It's OK to disagree with my wild ideas. None of my ideas have been proven yet. But a lot of conventional wisdom has been proven wrong.

    Unfortunately for me, I have a bit of difficulty injecting myself into a conversation. That could also be why I'm slow at developing speaking skills. I could listen to another person speak to me without me saying anything for a long time and I'd be quite happy.


No profanity. Please be considerate of others. Thank you.