Help, s'il vous plait!
July 8, 2009 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm a student who is in the process of teaching herself French. As much as I would love to take the French I course through my university, the course conflicts with a class I am taking Fall semester for my major. What I need? Practice.

I am basically working with as much immersion as I can throw at myself. If it's not Michel Thomas on my ipod, it's Pimsleur. Rosetta Stone drills every night before bed. If I can't listen and respond with the Michel Thomas or Pimsleur, I'm listening to French audiobooks (right now it's Harry Potter a l'Ecole des Sorcieres!) to attempt to hone tone and speaking patterns.

I'm approaching this as a child approaches reading. I work at a library, and have about 5 hours when I'm not on desk to listen to all this material, which has been great. I also have access to a wonderful library system, and have ordered children's books in French, picture dictionaries- even dvds of "5, rue Sesame", the French version of Sesame street. What I am hoping for is enough fluency to move into French II or higher come next Spring. Eventually, of course, I want to be fully fluent. I even purchased the French textbook our school uses, and am working with the videos of that series (Capretz).

Is there anything else I can do? I came here seeking a way to practice what I'm learning: either a pen pal or e-mail pal or IM pal... someone who is native or fluent enough to pass as native in French that I can converse with and practice with. That someone would need to be patient, but hopefully realize that I am determined! What do you suggest, Mefites?
posted by thatbrunette to Education (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Portland Francophones / Weekly Chat Groups
Seattle Francophones

You might try reading Bandes dessinées for teens and adults as well as the children's books. I'm a fan of Gaston Lagaffe, Bilal, and Schuiten.

Quite a lot of manga is translated into french as well, both scanlations and dead tree.

Finally, and this may be silly, you could play console RPGs in French, since many of them are multilingual.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:26 PM on July 8, 2009

See if you can get tutoring from a French major or TA. Does your school have a French Club? If I were you, I would go to office hours to meet with the French I prof and see what he/she recommends. If the French I class has a study session outside of class, attend that throughout the semester and you can get a good sense of what'll be expected of you in French II. Oh, talk to your study abroad department and see if there are any French students currently studying at your university.

I am not a native French speaker, but I did major in French and I would be happy to IM with you or answer any questions.
posted by jschu at 7:38 PM on July 8, 2009

seconding the recommendation to go see a French professor at your university. even if you aren't taking a class, they might be able to suggest a speaking group or some kind of regular social event in the area. a lot of the language courses at my university had weekly socials so students could practice. i found them very useful, and more than one or two people who weren't in my class attended.
posted by gursky at 7:47 PM on July 8, 2009

Best answer: I used to try a lot of French chat rooms (which are hard to keep up with) and French web sites.
What seemed to help the most for me, even more than trying to decipher books, was print French news articles out, read them, then define the words I didn't know and read them again. And read them out loud.
I feel like you're definitely on the right path already; the speaking/understanding part I think is hardest.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:05 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Reading books and correspondence is great, but make sure to work on your pronunciation. If you don't learn proper pronunciation early on, your accent can "fossilize" and it'll be difficult to correct later on.
posted by pravit at 8:20 PM on July 8, 2009

Capucine is great.

Also, I would be up for having a french pen pal. Qu'est-ce que tu as fait aujourd'hui? :)
posted by metastability at 8:30 PM on July 8, 2009

here are a few more videos online. I'm sure there are lots more like this!
posted by metastability at 8:48 PM on July 8, 2009

Listening to French is a great step, but you should be speaking, too. Is there a community college near you? It might fit into your schedule, and it'll be much cheaper than the university.
posted by zompist at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2009

Best answer:
posted by quodlibet at 9:26 PM on July 8, 2009

For grammar reference in English, check out Tex's French Grammar from UT Austin. They've got online worksheets and a variety of other resources. Really helped me out when I was studying!
posted by mdonley at 4:49 AM on July 9, 2009

Which also goes with their "First Year French" site.
posted by mdonley at 4:50 AM on July 9, 2009

Hey, I was in France all last year and I'd describe myself as on the escalator to fluency (just don't ask me questions about car repair). I would be happy to email with you so you can practice! You can send me a MeFi mail with your email if you like.
posted by fantine at 6:48 AM on July 9, 2009

Movies, movies, movies, watch them first with subtitles and then without.

Can you find a French person in your area who would like to improve their English? You could trade. Speaking comes before writing.

And get some French music, sing along. Apparently singing uses a different part of the brain than speaking.

My francais is rouille (rusty) and je ne sais pas comment faire the stupid accents on this keyboard.
posted by mareli at 7:26 AM on July 9, 2009

My college would have weekly roundtable conversations for people studying languages, but native speakers and people not taking language courses would come, too.

I bet your university/college has something similar where you can get an hour's worth of practice each week.
posted by zizzle at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2009

For oral comprehension, a lot of stuff is available online. (I'm a big fan of Les Guignols de l'info, as well as repetitive news broadcasts such as France Info.)

The trick, as you note, is in practicing what you learn. The Alliance Française has a chapter in Portland and another in Seattle. Does your university have a French language interest group or residence hall? If so, they might have events you can attend. Or does the French department (or program) have a weekly lunch or coffee meeting for conversation? In short, since you can't take the formal course, find out what informal resources your university offers. Plus, if you participate regularly in such informal events, the faculty who will decide whether you're ready to enroll in French II, without having taken French I, will have a good sense of your abilities.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:37 PM on July 9, 2009

Adding my voice to the idea of french chat rooms, where, even if you can't keep up, you will be hearing current french slang.
posted by QuakerMel at 1:23 PM on July 12, 2009

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