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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

French Lessons

French Lessons

After years and years of heartless neglect I have finally decided to bring my French down from the attic—or up from the basement, I don’t even know where I put it—dust it off, and see if I can apply the same rigor I have been using to learn Spanish to improve a language that I studied back in my university days. My main motivation will be to improve my reading ability in order to finally read all of the books written by my great uncle, Marc Bernard. The second reason is that if I ever get a chance to live in France, I don’t want to arrive knowing as little about French as I did about Spanish when I arrived in Spain. If I have learned one thing from my stay here in Valencia it is that you cannot be too well prepared before making the move.

My spoken French is pretty terrible but I am able to read it somewhat. I am adopting the same learning methods I have been using here in Spain. I dove right in and began reading a book by Marc Bernard called Vacances. I had read parts of it before but now I am doing a more thorough job of it. I must say that it is kicking my ass, or I should say that reading it is kicking my dictionary’s ass as I am forced to look up a lot of words. Vocabulary is the most essential element in learning another language. You can get by with only a tiny bit of grammar but without the vocabulary you just won’t understand anything. As far as I have found, there is no easy way to learn new words other than looking them up and committing them to memorization. If anyone knows of another, easier method, please let me know.

Another essential ingredient in learning another language is sustaining an acceptable level of motivation to continue studying. I don’t lack that motivation in Spanish because I use it every single day from the moment I wake up in the morning until I sign off at night. When you are studying a foreign language that you aren’t really using it can get pretty tedious. It becomes this abstract concept instead of a living, breathing organism which is what a language should be. I started doing a language exchange where I advertised for on a local internet bulletin board for someone wanting to swap an hour of French for an hour of English on a weekly basis. Just knowing that I will use French once a week should be enough motivation to study a bit every day.

It’s not like I don’t have a long way to go in studying Spanish. I just feel like I have reached a certain point where I am feeling pretty comfortable and I won’t feel guilty spending an hour a day reading in French. After just one class I already feel more committed to this endeavor. Now I need to start planning a trip to France for the summer.