Learn me some French.
July 9, 2011 1:09 PM   Subscribe

What is the most reasonable way to try and autodidact your way into reading French well and speaking it passably?

Specific resources (books, programs, progressively more difficult reading lists) would be very welcome.

Also: is one hour every day a reasonable time commitment? Two hours?
posted by jsturgill to Education (5 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I recently read "How to Learn Any Language Quickly, Easily, and On Your Own" by Barry Farber. I strongly recommend you pick up a copy, there are many cheap copies available on Amazon. He has a very good program for self-teaching a language.
posted by jayder at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought the Michel Thomas French audio lessons were fantastic. I studied Spanish for so long, and could read very well but I've always been shy about speaking. Within a week of the Michel Thomas lessons I was confidently forming sentences out loud at a party (alcohol may have helped a bit too.)

Besides that, you'll probably want a French-English dictionary, a good grammar book (sorry, can't think of any) and a method for learning vocabulary. For vocab, I'd recommend some spaced repetition software like Anki - it runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, everything. Then download a publicly available French flashcard deck and get started. Later as you encounter new French words in the wild that you want to remember, you can manually add them to your deck.
posted by MrFTBN at 1:56 PM on July 9, 2011

I can heartily recommend livemocha.com. I've been teaching myself Greek for a couple years and my progress and comprehension accelerated rapidly once I started spending 40 minutes a day or so with their program. It's free. Part of it is lessons, and part of it is using what you've learned to complete writing and speaking exercises that are then given feedback from native speakers of that language in the community. To unlock all the free courses, you'll need to offer a certain small amount of feedback to people trying to learn your language.
posted by droomoord at 7:49 PM on July 9, 2011

I will second the Michel Thomas audio lessons as the best place to start with any language. Do the Foundation and the Advanced courses (an hour a day) once or twice through before anything else. I find it gives you a good overview of some of the key structural ideas and some basic vocabulary and importantly a sense of bravado to try and talk too people (in a good way).

Then I'd start on language course style learning books. Well thats what i'm doing with German at the moment and I"m finding it quite useful. I also found that doing the Michel Thomas I could then take a Level 3 class and be at much the same level as those who came through from 1,2 which is just rote boring stuff like verb conjugations. - although it does help with pronunciation.. which is the hard thing via the Autodidact route. You need to get your pronunciation right at the start or you will learn bad habits. Hence starting with Michel Thomas.

This is my german system at the moment (I had a pretty good routine for a while - but I've been a littel slack last two weeks) but i'm trying to get fluent by the end of the year.

- Morning ~ 30 mins before work - Vocabulary or Grammar exercises / drills from a language course style book. Schaums outlinesm, Hueber or other.. via Amazon.
- whilst riding to work and back I listen to either german news podcasts, or German versions of Audio Books (curerntly listening to Die Strasse (the Road byCormac McCarthy) 2 x 25 mins.
- lunch break - spend probably 30 mins of it reading German Easy Reader books (or doing more drills or Homework from German class)
- Home from work, 30 mins - 1 hour of Vocab or Grammar exercises.

so about 2hours a day oh + the daily passive listening to podcasts / books.

I also made up these 'Vocab key sentences' that I take from the course-style books that I can read whilst making coffee in the morning or showering (yes sounds absurd but it works!)

oh and I also made these sheets of random numbers (in stages 1-100, 10, 10,000 etc,,) that I would then read aloud while making coffee each morning for a few weeks, just reading out the numbers in German and it has really helped with getting the numbers 'locked in'. Particularly as numbers are rather important but really boring to do. this makes it a bit effortless.

So yes I say try and do SOMETHING with French every single day and I find that its better to do 2 separate sessions of 1 hour spaced during the day instead of 1 big session of 2-3 hours - where you can get too overloaded with rules and ideas.

Particularly I'm finding the passive listening is good as it really helps with etching the vocab in there, cause you will keep hearing these phrases everyday. Oh and good luck! I'm hoping to move into French next year after I get this German shenanigans nailed.
posted by mary8nne at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I meant the passive listening is good for etching in the vocabulary that you have learnt from other sources. - I think on its own it would be a bit pointless, but if you are learning vocab elsewhere then while listening you slowly pick out more and more words and the repetition really helps to cement the meanings in your mind.
posted by mary8nne at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2011

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