Immersion French language learning for an intermediate speaker
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Nov 23, 2012 11:03 AM Last Post By: ZenKyuMaestro
Nov 11, 2012 12:18 AM
Immersion French language learning for an intermediate speakerI speak French. Often incorrectly, but communicatively. I can certainly make myself understood and I can understand those who care to let me understand. I am pretty terrible at writing and make many grammar mistakes, particularly with regards to verb tenses and gender. My accent is all over the place: Swiss, West African, Central African, American.
I use French for work these days, in sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti, and am learning lots of useful terms like "bailleur de fond," "fosse septique" and "beton armé.". I have some lovely new illustrated construction dictionaries, which are great for vocabulary.
What I think I lack most is the ability to follow French conversations (particularly where more than one person is speaking in a group, I can't shift form one person to another or hear two things at the same time at all) so meetings are really difficult as is watching movies only in French. Speaking on the telephone is torture. Particularly with French speakers from France. Belgians are the easiest for me to understand.
I am finishing up my job (not in a francophone country) and will be moving back to the US soon. I intend to study at the alliance française which will be good, but I feel that without a level of comfort and ease in speaking for pleasure, I will always be just a student of French and not really bilingual. By that I mean that I still revert to English because it is easier or certainly if the French speaking person speaks English better than I speak French. That is natural. But I'd like to get to the point where I am used enough to speaking French that I don't just switch.
I imagine having French-speaking couchsurfers who will continue to speak in French with me, even in the US... There is a line I imagine which I would like to cross it; one more language plateau I'd like to ascend. I am ALMOST there. I can spend a week speaking only French for work and it is exhausting, but good.
I have always wanted to spend a month just studying French and speaking in a francophone environment. I'm approaching fifty years old and can imagine that if I don't do it now, it will never happen. I will become someone who does speak French, but never actually speaks in French...
So, to my question. Where could I go to study French for maybe six or eight hours a day and speak only French the rest of the time? I'm thinking it should be France since they speak fast and grammatically correctly and those are things I find difficult. Much as I love Paris, I wonder if it is less of a good choice because it is so difficult to get Parisians NOT to switch to English these days, just as soon as I open my mouth and am obviously not a native speaker.
On the other hand I am not looking for tourist French or beginning French or even maybe intermediate French. Maybe remedial French,, business french, or technical French. If that were in Paris, I think I could just refuse to speak English if I had to. Technical French for mid-career, semi-bilingual people with a month off... Who teaches that?
what i am finding on the Internet is holiday schools with 15 hours a week of lessons, with nice field trips to lavender farms, and optional cooking lessons. Generally geared to twenty-somethings. That sort of makes Paris more interesting too; not sure I want to spend a month in a village with a dozen people half my age, but also I love Paris!
Merci beaucoup en avance.
Nov 11, 2012 9:37 AM
1From the US, if you can't travel, you might be able to get radio or TV stations from Québec, especially online, for your listening skills. TV news is a good place to start because at least some of it will be about world events with cues like maps and photographs. If you live near a university there may be a French club open to the community, in addition to the Alliance.
Is there a francophone emigré community near you? Does it have shops or restaurants where you can speak French for an immediate purpose? Bonne chance.
Nov 11, 2012 1:30 PM
Amen. When I traveled to Argentina for the first time to see relatives who speak no English, my Spanish was rudimentary. One day they had some neighbors over to meet me, and one of them asked what I heard as "¿Qué te parece San Francisco?" (How do you like San Francisco?) My struggling response was that I had been there only once, and that although it was summer the city was cold and foggy. One of my cousins tugged at my sleeve and told me that his neighbor had asked "¿Qué te parece lo que pasó en San Francisco?" (What do you think of what happened in San Francisco?) This was October 1989, and an earthquake in San Francisco was on all the TV news shows down there. I missed a couple of important syllables.
You have some good advice above on how to improve your French. Keep in mind, though, that people can deal with less than fluent French, but they won't know how to respond if you aren't talking about the same subject as they are.
Edited by NorthAmerican.
Nov 11, 2012 11:17 PM
Nov 11, 2012 11:22 PM
Anyone had any experience with the Sorbonne? I understand it is very formal, not conversation based. And that the Alliance Francaise is just the opposite...
Thanks for the advice,
Nov 11, 2012 11:39 PM
5Immersion is without doubt one of the best ways to learn. However you need to develop a thicker skin, if you find yourself fearing interaction. Without putting yourself out there, it will be hard to get the hours of practice you need. Start with simple things like talking to a shopkeeper, and while you are waiting in line, listen in. Ask for directions ( to the same place from different places). :-) As long as you ask different people, no one will care how many times you ask Go to shops and ask for the toilet etc etc. Think of easy conversations you can have. And build up from there by asking more questions.
By developing your listening ability you can improve your language learning ability, without ANY doubt. So put all your energy into that, and you will reap the rewards. Hire a DVD you love in the language you are learning and watch it numerous times till you can get the meaning...work on the sounds, the gestures, the facial expressions, the intonation. Have fun with it. That is another key, find the things that are a little challenge and are a bit of fun. Treat language learning like going on a quest....you look for a key, which opens up the next part of the journey. if you treat it like a mission...that you you want to succeed in, then the obstacles will become like little hurdles. Once you get over a hurdle, celebrate a little....
Enjoy!!! then you will want to keep going!
If what I have said has tickled your interest go to SILL for more ideas out of the box!
Edited by: AndrewWeiler
Nov 12, 2012 12:06 AM
6If you can afford it, go on a package tour from France with a bunch of middle-aged French people. Their knowledge of English will not be that great, they will spend their time talking, you will have a French-speaking guide. Don't pay the single supplement and you will have to share a room with someone.
Given that they are going abroad, they will be a bit more open-minded that what you would find in a small town. And it's easy to talk with either one or several people on a trip like that. Just be prepared for complaints about the food!
Another thing to do is indeed watch movies in French. If you don't understand the first time, rewatch with French subtitles so you can read the words you missed. Then watch again.
The Sorbonne is a university in Paris. I don't know that they have French classes for foreigners interested in conversation. Another option is to go to Paris or another French city and look for language exchange with an individual who wants to improve his/her English. You do an hour of French and then an hour of English, for example.
On the internet, watch France24 -- the French equivalent of CNN or BBC. They have 24 hour a day programming in English, French and Arabic. Just choose the French version.
From the States, you can also easily go either to St Pierre & Miquelon (off the coast of Newfoundland) or Martinique or Guadeloupe.
Nov 19, 2012 11:50 PM
I think I must have mis-represented the level of my French. I can do everything I need to do in French quite easily. getting around, asking for the toilet. I have sometimes worked entirely in French for a few days at a time, finding out what my clients needs are for a building I am designing or how their construction contracting is going. What I have never done is simply speak French a lot for the pleasure of it.
Writing and reading this thread has helped me put my finger on the issue much better. Thank you all for your responses.
BJD, the Sorbonne does indeed teach intensive French courses for foreigners: two months or a semester and 20-25 hours a week of classroom instruction. On further reflection though, I think this very formal method of teaching didn't work so well for me in High School when I was much more focused and my brain was plastic. It would be good for work, but I think I would rather speak a lot and make mistakes at the Alliance Francaise.
I do think I need some formal routine because while I am not shy about speaking, I know that just on my own, when I get tired, I will stop and I think I need to get really tired in French day after day to get up to the next level. It does have to be a quest. I know I need structure for it.
I think the bus tour is an excellent idea! I don't think it would be more expensive than a language course. But can I bear a tour...?
Movies are good. I have been trying to listen to RFI and that is helping, so is Harry Potter read out in French. I don't know if my internet connection is good enough for France24, but I will try it.
Language exchange is always a good option for those living in a country I think; it takes a while to meet people and get started. I don't want to speak English though; I'm going to try for immersion. Only French TV, newspapers, conversation and food!
Nov 23, 2012 11:03 AM
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