This post is a collection of thoughts on my year of improving my French. I wanted to get these out of the way since I'm probably going to start Dutch fairly intensively soon and I don't want to get distracted with older thoughts and "unfinished business".
I did very well in the "French for Professional Communication" course -- an A- (~82 I think). However, I also worked _very_ hard so it was quite tiring on top of my actual full-time job. However, even though I didn't enjoy the biz-speak aspect of the course, I think my confidence/comfort level managed to take a huge jump. I now have no problem speaking French on the phone (something I used to hate), or even having longer more complicated conversations. I just kind of speak French if I need to without all the hassle and stress and mind games I used to put myself through. I chicken out of speaking French less too.
Another thing I discovered during the course is that I don't trust myself to learn through immersion, which is odd considering how much I like Assimil and other dialog-based courses. I think it might also only work for me at lower levels -- I reached a point in my French studies where the things I was learning weren't common enough for me to discern a pattern, and that it was only through rules and descriptions that I could fill in the missing holes.
This lines up with something else I just read recently. I need rules to help me define my mental model of The System. That's probably why I spent so much time studying grammar and stuff on my own. I was trying to reach the point where I understood all the rules, and _then_ I would be able to "Speak French". (read "The Nerd Handbook" for more on this). Unfortunately, language learning doesn't work like that. It's much more of an organic process. I'm curious to see how this will play out with my Dutch.
Finally, I need to figure out a way to keep my French up while I'm studying Dutch. My strategy will probably be to try to move _more_ of my Internet activities to French. I know I tried this previously with my blogs and ran into the problem that a lot of the news I want is originally in English, and so reading French versions of things just makes me feel as though I'm behind the curve a bit. I think my plan is more reading in French (non-fiction, probably) and podcasts. I haven't fully figured that out yet, but hopefully this will become more obvious. I just need French to be my default language instead of English. Easier said than done, I think.