Sunday, January 26, 2014

So much for posting regularly...Now, about French.

So much for my fantasy of posting on my blog regularly. Sigh.

You know what? I'm going to yammer about French. Because that has been one of those things actively honing in on my free time lately.

Why am I learning French? Well, it's one of the Big Three I want to learn in terms of languages (the other two being Spanish and German), but more notably, there's an after-hours French class that meets at my work once a week. As to why I'm learning a language, period, well...I'm not getting any bloody younger and if I'm going to learn another language in my lifetime I should get started.

French is...interesting. I feel like I'm having to learn two languages: the written and the oral, because if French ever heard of phonetics it promptly drowned the idea and went back to it's standard form of not mentioning the consonants that come at the end of words. I have a hard enough time understanding oral English, so yea, transcribing spoken French is proving a challenge.

I also discovered a couple of websites that seem to be much more helpful than the curriculum we were using in class. These sites also have Kindle apps, which I find helpful. I'm going to talk about both, briefly, because it's my blog, I'm running out of whiskey and cherry Pepsi, and I got a good forty minutes for ships to come in (Virtual ships. Carrying virtual goods. It's a minigame in a game).

Memrise is by far my favorite of the two sites. It uses the simile of a garden, where it "plants" words or phrases and then you come back at regular intervals to "water" them. Remembering has been my weak spot in the past, so having regular intervals to go over Previously Learned Material is proving super helpful. Also, you get practice writing out the words, which can be helpful if you're making a serious effort to learn the accents and ^ and hyphens.

Duolingo has you write down translations of the phrase in either (in this case) French or English. I find this site a bit more helpful for sentence structure because it severely dings you on incorrect verb tenses. On any given lesson, you have three "hearts" or lives, and you lose one each time you make an error. Lose them all, and you have to retry the lesson. This is the one where "transcribing spoken French" gets me so very, very often.

I actually find these two sites to be useful together - Memrise for the vocabulary and Duolingo for the sentence structure. Also, with the mobile app, it's easy enough to whip them out and do five minutes of review or learning new things at random intervals. Memrise's app has an offline mode, so you could use it without an Internet connection, and it will update your online account next time you connect. is the site we've been using for class. I haven't tried any of their other courses besides French, but it's nice that there's all these classes online for free. Their French lesson seems more classic class-learning, which does not work so well for me.

Another site I've used in the past is LiveMocha. LiveMocha has you actively interacting with people around the world, and might be good if you want to speak with real, actual people.

All of these sites are (mostly) free, which amazes me. Well, I'm still amazed by the Internet. People produce and give away so much useful content for free...I don't think I could spend money on Rosetta Stone or any other program when there's so much out there to be learned for free. These sites are for the most part slick and easy to use, and it seems like you'd be able to find anything to suit your personal learning style. At least, they'd be worth trying before you spend money on something else.

One last thing: please don't try French on me yet. I've only really got je ne sais pas mastered for quick use.

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