It seems like the New Year has crept up on me rather fast. So it is the First of a New Year. Time to start all over again.
I’ve recently read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I highly recommend it along with the book, “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.
“Talent is Overrated” takes a look at the science behind getting things done. It looks at people like Mozart and Tiger Woods whom everyone assumes to be born talented but were in fact born into families with fathers who were really good coaches. Geoff Colvin looks at different groups of high achievers and how often it is the case that the Highest achievers are just the ones that practice more while also practicing on their weakest areas. The full name of the book is; “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“.
It is a kind of feel good book. I never really thought that I was gifted. But now knowing that all it takes is practice and focusing on my weakest areas I am given new hope.
“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is all about the power of setting up regular habits for greater achievement. The full name of the book is; “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business“. (Wow all these self-improvement books have such long titles these days.)
These books were recommended to me by the very successful self-publishing author Chris Fox. I wasn’t really going to write about self-improvement in this blog, as this is a French language learning blog, however, these are the things that I am thinking about on the first day of 2017.
This time last year I was interested in setting up new and better habits but didn’t know where to start. I did make myself type out the page from my French Living Language Calendar and do a daily session on Duolingo.com. I am currently on day 362 on Duolingo. So habits do work. However, I realize now that I was just doing fun habits, which is an important way to start, but do really reach French fluency I need to start working on my weaker areas. Grammar rules.
I hated Grammar rules in English (as invented by Grammar-Nazis) however I need to mix them into my regular learning. I can really feel that I am not too far from fluency.
I found the video that I posted of Carrie Fisher speaking French very helpful. I could mostly understand her, although the subtitles helped. But it was also nice to see a fellow American struggling and succeeding with the language. It just goes to show that she was a real princess as princesses were often expected to understand a number of different languages.
I had a boss at one time who was German, her father had been a Count but her mother was Jewish and the family was forced to flee, leaving her families title and castle behind. She always told me that it was important when traveling to at least try and start the conversation in the local language.
My goals for 2017
(Subject to Change)
Learn French Grammar: I will work on the how later.
Speak more French. I know a number of French-owned cafes and restaurants in my area. I am going to go in and make my orders in French. I’ve been a bit shy about this in the past. Put I’m really going to push it. What have I got to lose?
Read more French books. – an Hour a day. Polyglot – Steve Kaufmann recommends reading in a new language. Even if it means going over and over again on the same page.
Rocket French: – I am currently working my way through the Rocket French website. I am going to do a lesson a day.
Duolingo: I ran out of new French content in October last year. But I am just going to continue to do review lessons every day until the language becomes second nature.
Goal: I want to be able to watch French movies and or French TV programs and understand the content. (I’m at a strange point right now where I can kind of follow bits of the conversation and pick up a word or a phrase here and there.)
In this segment, I will be testing different French learning systems. It is important to realize that what works for me may not work for others. The goal of my French learning is to speak and read French I want to be a “practical” French speaker that retains the language and not someone that passes a test on it to get a grade in school.
I’ve done a number of reviews on this page of different learning systems. You can find them in my past posts.
My two current systems that I use daily are; Duolingo French. (I have completed the Duolingo French system a few months ago, so currently I use it as a daily review.)
French Living Language calendar
I have a process where I review the French word and phrase of the day. This is a fun part of my day.
I will be starting my own French word of the day (Word du jour) mailing list very soon.
If you are interested in buying a Living Language calendar here is a link. Full disclosure I do make some money from affiliate links (in theory anyway) it does help me to keep this blog going. Thanks for your support.
Today I’m looking at a new system called Rocket French. I found the Rocket French site online and they appear interesting.
The main presenter of the course is Paul who has a charming English accent. Paul introduces himself as having lived in France as a child. Paul claims to speak fluent French. (This is important. I’ll talk about French accents a little later.)
The other presenter is Claire. Claire is a native French speaker and she does most of the French speaking on the sight. Claire has a lovely and strong French accent when she speaks Engish and demostraight how to say things in both perfect French as well as in “street French” which can be a bit harder to understand.
So far so good. It’s important to learn from a native speaker, or at least someone who has known the language since they were a child. This course appears to have both.
Pardon me while I digress here for a moment.
Why is it that someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have lived most of his life in the United States still has such a strong Austrian accent?
It’s because when we learn a language as a child we learn to listen for and make the little sounds that collectively create the language. I have lived in Australia for many years and yet still have an American accent.
I found out recently that the French have difficulty with the “Th” sound in “Thistle” although a French speaker can quickly learn to make the sound perfectly, it takes a bit longer for the sound to connect with the language center in their mind so that when they make the “th” sound it registers as important meaningful sound and now just a random noise.
There are sounds in French that English speakers have difficulty making. I’ll see if I can find more on this later.
I saw an interview once where Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he had accent reduction classes for years. His accent has been somewhat diminished however it is still quite strong. It should be pointed out that Arnold hasn’t let his accent get in the way of his success, and neither should you.
I must confess that I use to be a little impatient with people who spoke English badly. But now that I’ve seen how difficult it can be to learn a new language I feel a bit of admiration and even kinship with someone that speaks broken English. I can only imagine what I sound like when I speak French.
Rocket French offers a free seven-day sample of the course. So I’m am going to test it out for seven days and see what I think.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve already tried the Pimsleur French (which was presented with American accents) which I tried very early in my French learning undertaking.
Pimsleur was one of the first courses that I bought online, however it was just an audio CD, (I also have the Audible version) and there was no written version of what I was saying.
I found myself wanting to see what the words look like. I think that I would do better with Pimsleur now that I have done Duolingo French for almost two years.
Duolingo is my favorite learning system so far. I started on 10 January 2015. But I think Duolingo has taken me as far as it can go. I’m out of vocabulary and am searching for a new system to take me to the next level.
Targets are important
I graduated high school hating the word “Goals” as I had a teacher that overused the word way too much. So we can replace it with “Targets”.
My Targets French Learning Target
(I stole this from TED talks. I am grateful. I think this ia great way of measuring personal improvement.)
In a hypothetical French Restaurant
Be able to read the menu (in French).
Be able to order from the menu in French.
Be able to understand the waiter when he/she speaks to me in French.
Be able to answer the waiter in return in French.
Be able to listen to French conversation of the people around me.
To be able to join in on the French conversations.
(My own targets)
To be able to read Tintin in French
To be able to read French Newspapers (online) in French.
To be able to read a French book.
To be able to watch French news and movies and understand them.
To be able to hold a conversation in French with native French speakers.
I am starting this seven-day test and will report back on this post with my results.
This is the first language course road test I will have started (I plan to do more in the future) so I am not really sure on what criteria I will be judging the course on.
The real test will be if I like the course or not.
Will it work for me?
Is it something I can do daily and not get bored or frustrated with?
I hope that it’s something that I will look forward to, or at least not dread.
So there will be a Scale of “Dread” to “look forward to”.
“Dread” being Zero.
“Look forward to” being Ten.
Day one – 21 November 2016
I like the sound of both Paul’s and Claire’s voices. There is a written thing version of everything they say so it is possible to follow them.
There is a written thing version of everything they say so it is possible to follow them.
Paul who is the narrator tries to keep the feeling of the lesson light and positive. (I know this may put some people off, but his he was cynical and uncaring no one would listen to him.)
I’m listening to the first lesson a few times and I’m saying the words with them. (I was listening on my laptop in a public place – down at the gym- so I’m pretending that I having a Skype conversation.) Not that I care what people think of me. I just think people will tune me out and leave me alone if they think I’m on a call. So I am repeating most of the dialog to myself in a mumble. The lady next to me is chatting away in her loudest tone of voice.
I’m looking forward to my next lesson.
Day Two – 22 November 2016
Today I looked at Rocket Lingo’s lesson dealt mainly with the Alphabet. This is something that I’ve been working on for some time. It’s not really covered in Duolingo. Knowing the French Alphabet is extremely important. The inner snob in me scoffs when thinking that I have to learn the alphabet again. However learning the alphabet teaches you all sounds that you need to make in learning French. It’s a good facial exercise as it helps you to develop the different facial muscles that you need to speak French. It also helps you develop an ear for the language.
The inner snob in me scoffs when thinking that I have to learn the alphabet again. However learning the alphabet teaches you all sounds that you need to make in learning French. It’s a good facial exercise as it helps you to develop the different facial muscles that you need to speak French. It also helps you develop an ear for the language.
Tip: The French use the same Roman Latin Alphabet that the English do. Most of the French letters are pronounce the same as they are in English. There are a handful of exceptions. The Vowels “e”, “i” have exchanged names in French for some reason. Also “g” and “j” have also exchanged names.
As a child I always thought that the “w” looked more like two “v’s” than two “u’s”. The French seem to agree with this and the “w” is called = “dooble vay”.
I didn’t know this before put the letter “y” was borrowed from the Greek alphabet. The French call it “ee-grayk” meaning the “i of the Greeks”.
The French an the British both call the letter “z” = zed.
Day four – 24 November 2016
I’m sorry I have been busy. I have kept up the language learning. I am quite enjoying Rocket French.
The creators of Rocket French seem to have thought of a number of things that have frustrated me with other courses in the past.
Often I get long conversations and then they are broken down. Rocket French does this as well. But then it has each part of the conversation on a separate line, where you are able to listen to the parts that you choose and play them separately without having to replay the whole conversation.
This is handy as often I find it’s only a few parts of a sentence that I need to work on.