samedi 5 juin 2010

French and Italian

I've been spending all my time doing Dutch I've sort of been neglecting my French. I'm still reading French news sites but that's actually a small fraction of my input these days. The conversation exchanges are going well but I'm really hitting the limit of my French when trying to talk about technical topics I just don't have the words for. (Interestingly, the conversations on linguistics/language learning/accents have been fine, it's just the ones on computers/internet/privacy that have found me struggling for vocabulary. I guess I know what I need to work on.) The conversation course I did a year go got me over my fear of speaking but I still feel really stupid when I struggle over grammar. Not having a vocabulary word is "ok" somehow, but making a grammar mistake at this point really makes me feel "Gah, I should have known that."

Since moving to Amsterdam I've really been focussing on my Dutch. I've done some French input and some French output, but I don't feel like I'm improving. I really don't want to lose the momentum I had in Montreal.

I need to sit down and come up with a study plan for my French. I keep having vague thoughts of youtube videos or Cinch podcasts, but both of these are unlikely to actually happen. I more consistent level of French lang8 seems more likely and more doable. Also, reading more French would also no doubt help. I only have a single French podcast right now (Utopod), so it might not hurt to find more.

One of my constant problems for lang8 posts has always been what to write about. In order to solve both the reading and the writing, I might reread my French books (only 3 here in A'dam: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and H2G2) and then write book reports and use what I'm reading as a source of discussion points.

I read an interesting academic paper that was talking about improving foreign language writing skills and it make the distinction between "writing for fluency" and "writing for accuracy." Part of the course consisted of "quickwrite" sessions, 5 minutes where students wrote without a dictionary, eraser, and instead focussed on fluency and flow of ideas. In addition there were weekly "accuracy journals' which were written carefully and strove for correct grammar/spelling etc. over speed. There were also "quickread" and "quickspeak" exercises. I had never seen that distinction before, and although it intellectually seems like a good idea I'm not sure how easy it will be for me to integrate this into my studies. Obviously training ones ability to 'skim' in the foreign language is good. However, iBut it's hard for me to get accuracy off the top of my list, especially for writing. That really is something I'm struggling with.

In order to increase my technical vocabulary, I've started to try to take my notes in work in French. We'll see how that goes.

I'm also thinking of re-doing the vocabulary course I tried last year but failed. I think my different view on flash cards is certainly a big point: I find myself wanting to create French cards with vocabulary items on them. If I did more reading and writing I'm sure I'd similarly have other things for cards.

... and ITALIAN
We have a short vacation to Italy planned, and I'm trying to figure out how much Italian to learn. My goal will basically be tourist-level Italian in about a month. I found another academic paper with a syllabus for "survival" level communication that I will use as my base. Even though I ditched TY for Dutch, I think it's Ok as a grammar supplement to phrase book. However, since TY recording have too much English, that's where Assimil Italian will come in. (Bonus: use Assimil Italian with a French base!)

I'm giving myself July to learn my 200 vocabulary units and basic restaurant speaking. I need to give myself well-defined, realistic short term goals to prevent myself from totally geeking out.

1 commentaire:

Bakunin a dit...

If you're looking for French podcasts, RFI ( has quite a few. I can recommend Accents d'Europe and Grand Reportage for short daily features on a wide variety of international topics, and Débat du Jour for pro or con discussions on issues mainly specific to contemporary France. But this just reflects my own interests, and you might want to look for something more technical or scientific like Nouvelles Technologies etc.

Switzerland's Radio Suisse Romande ( has also many podcasts worth checking out, and some of the large international broadcasters (BBC, ABC, NHK etc.) might also have French podcasts on offer.