Learning French

I’m going to France for the next two weeks and thought it would be good to try to learn some of the language. When I was a kid, I had three years of French instruction in school, but it was by far my worst subject.

I got some French language instruction CD’s, which I am listening to in my car as I commute. They’re called “Michel Thomas Method French for Beginners”. I was afraid that these would be just as boring. In fact, they’re great fun to listen to and practice with.

The format is that there’s a French man teaching two students. After teaching a few words and a bit of grammar, he gives them a sentence to say, and I can try to formulate it before they do (or pause the CD), and then I get the immediate feedback.

When I was a kid learning French in school, we had to recite conjugations (“er”, “ir”, and “re” verbs, in many tenses), which was totally boring. Well, it turns out that you can say a whole lot of useful stuff without any of that. You can just use infinitives for all kinds of things (“je voudari manger”). So you only need to learn the present-tense conjugations of a few verbs and you can say all kinds of useful things.

And you don’t need to use the future tense at all, since, just as in English you can say “I am going to eat”, in French you can say literally the same thing, “je vais manger”. Cool.

Now, whether I’ll be able to construct sentences on the fly while someone is standing there waiting for me and evaluating whether I’m right, is another question. I can easily imagine myself being embarrassed; maybe under pressure I’ll forget it all.

Also, whether I can understand what’s spoken to me is yet another issue.

I downloaded some French-English apps for the Android phone, but so far haven’t found any free apps better than Google’s own Translate. I’d rather have one that doesn’t depend on network access, though. I’m still looking.

Anyway, doing this is fun, which is perhaps what really matters. So if you had the same negative language-learning experience as I did, try out doing it this way.