I may not be able to carry a musical note to save my life but I’m sure no one could have such a terrible ear for languages as Joey did in this F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode (which by the way cracks me up hard EACH time I watch it!)
I am going to be a walking cliché right now and admit like millions of other French-language lovers how ‘sexy’ (as Rachel calls it) I find the language. Can’t help it. It certainly has a nice ring to it.
It has been far too many years than I can remember when I started taking an interest in French. The fact that I had amazing French-speaking colleagues from various parts of the world who would occasionally teach me a phrase or two at work just added fuel to the fire. But, as a certified procrastinator, I never did anything more about it. So far, this is the extent of my conversational French after which there are some very long pauses and awkward silences:
Bonjour, ça va?
Ça va, bien. Merci. Et toi?
Ça va très bien. Merci.
After living in the U.A.E all my life and studying Arabic for 8 years in school, I am ashamed to say I never picked it up. Even after all this time, I still cannot say, “Where’s the bathroom?” in Arabic. I can read and write the language, but I cannot understand or speak it. One of the reasons is because everyone here speaks English all the time due to the large number of expatriate population from all parts of the world. Hence, a huge majority have no idea of simple Arabic conversational phrases even though they’ve lived here for many years and studied it in school. Learning a language academically never seems to do the trick.
But this post is not about my failures as an Arabic speaker. This is about me on a quest to learn French, one of the most ‘romantic’ yet seemingly difficult languages. I’d started and stopped and re-started this mission so many times but always gave up after just one YouTube lesson or two because I didn’t have a proper plan or the right motivation.
Ever heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” In the past few days, I’ve read so many resources on the best ways to tackle learning a language and all of them said the same things: Set a specific goal, make mini-goals to tackle the language, speak from Day 1, don’t focus on grammar immediately and make mistakes!
Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot, even goes ahead and says in a TEDx talk about how he declared to everyone he knew that he was learning a language, because that motivated him to pick it up faster. I’m wired the same way so here’s a public declaration of my goal:
To be able to speak (and read) a conversational level of French in 6 months by November 20th 2015.
Bite-sized goals for the first month:
1. Learn 5 new French words daily with their gender and write them down on old-fashioned flashcards and post-it notes using this technique. This is to be able to recognise everyday surrounding things, places and people. I might even try Anki, a flashcard program which so many rave about.
2. Watch one conversational video daily for everyday phrases. A popular YouTube resource is Learn French with Alexa. Here are some particularly hilarious situational videos to learn French.
3. At least thrice a week, watch a French film or an English film that I have already watched – in French. Or watch a short TV series everyday to absorb the sounds of the language.
4. Start using Duolingo again from the top. The site has more explanations than the app.
5. Ask one of my French-speaking friends if she could help me by speaking to me only in French for about 15-20 minutes everyday.
I was very inspired by these other amazing polyglots – Sid Efromovich and Chris Lonsdale, as well as found some very cool language learning tips from these two YouTube channels – COOLifeDesign an ivymuse.
Here are some great blogs and websites for lots of valuable lessons, tips and resources for learning French as well as other languages:
2. Fluent in 3 Months
3. French Together
4. The Everyday Language Learner – This has a great free email course called The Ten Week Journey that will help you to start pursuing the language you want to speak.
Wow, it all seems like an impossible feat to me even as I write this post. But, I am more prepared now to start learning it actively instead of just wishing about it. I am also not delusional about French grammar. From what I’ve read, it can be quite daunting (and I’ve never been strong with grammar rules anyway!) But I’ll cross that bridge when it comes. For now, let’s get started! And as Joey would say, “Dude c’mon, French it uuuup!”
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Have you picked up a language recently? I would love to hear your tips and suggestions to help me on this quest. 🙂
How have you been inspired this week? Participate in Take-A-Step Thursday by following the steps mentioned in this post.