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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Les Mercredis Français (French Wednesdays, at least I think that's what it says)

It looks like I have settled into a groove and Wednesdays will be my day for French class.  I have class at 10:00 and I always ride my bike at least a half hour early to Cabanyal so that I can study before class. I read out loud for a bit so that when I begin class I sort of hit the ground running—if you can call my present level of French “running.” It’s more like crawling through the mud but at least I’m trying. I can’t wait to travel to France again as I am feeling pretty comfortable with the language. I understand almost everything my teacher says in class and we rarely resort to speaking Spanish. If I do eventually move to France I don’t want to start off with the language as slowly as I did here in Spain.   

If there is a better way to learn foreign languages than the way I am doing it these days then someone needs to speak up. As I have said before, I mostly just read a lot. Of course, I also speak Spanish all day long but I still feel that reading is the best way to build new vocabulary.  My trick is to underline unfamiliar words in red pen as I am reading and then later look them up on wordreference and write the definition in the margin. My latest book in Spanish, James Elroy’s Réquiem por Brown, has few signs of my linguistic vandalism and the words I do need to look up are pretty obscure as many of my Spanish friends were miffed by them. After something like a month of reading I am only on page 318 of Alex Garland’s La Plage but I am enjoying it and I feel that my French is improving rapidly. That little paperback is pretty scarred up from my red pen.

I read about 100 pages of the Elroy book at a single sitting but since then it has been languishing in second place in my book bag pecking order. I had three occasions to sit in a café yesterday to read and each time I chose to read in French. More than anything I want to get this first book in French behind me and move on to something else.

The most important thing in learning another language, I think, is consistency. You have to make some sort of an effort every day. That’s pretty easy if you already live in the country but quite another thing if you don’t.  Reading is about as close to full immersion as you can get when learning a foreign language. When I read I am 100% inside the language. Reading may be a bit passive when compared to conversation but you can’t always find another person to talk with during the course of your day. You can always pull out a book.

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