Best way to do a language crash course
January 17, 2022 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Do any language courses focus on quickly *returning you* to decent language skills? I took years of French in high school and would love to prepare for a French fluency exam as quickly as possible. I need to review everything but I don't need to spend hours on "bonjour, ça va?" if that makes sense. Any recommendations would be welcome!
posted by slidell to Education (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Babbel's language courses have a "Refresher" course if you want to get back up to speed quickly, and you can go from there to the intermediate courses.
posted by dis_integration at 1:16 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Duolingo also has a proficiency check, although I can't say how _good_ it is - my Spanish and German are both really really out of practice, but at least the Spanish one bumped me through the first unit entirely.
posted by Kyol at 1:29 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I recently started a French class at my local Alliance Française and the placement interview was super-useful!

I hadn't studied French formally since high school (i.e. 25 years ago) but I've done some Duolingo, I watch/read a bit of French media, follow some Francophone social media, and when I'm thrust into the rare situation where the people I'm talking to understand my French better than my English I will attempt to communicate (and I often succeed - I once retrieved a rental car from the impound lot in Arles, which was a vacation fail but a language win).

The teacher who did my oral placement exam/interview noted that I had a lot of vocabulary but I wasn't using any tenses other than present (she was 100% correct - I'm AWARE of other tenses, but when I'm actually trying to communicate I jettison them in favor of attempting to get my point across). She suggested a specific course starting soon that would maybe be a bit of a stretch but she thought it would work out.

So I guess if you're at all considering an in-person or real-time virtual class I suggest that you talk to someone about your goals and your current level of proficiency and I bet they will have great and specific recommendations (like maybe, "sign up for the B1.1 class and also buy the A2 textbook to refer back to").
posted by mskyle at 1:45 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

I found Duolingo kinda painfully slow for refreshing my language skills, though it's still a fine place to start (the problem is even with their placement test, it's a) not very precise and b) it doesn't actually determine the speed from where you start).

If you are looking for proper classes, perhaps look for classes for heritage learners - not sure how many for French there will be, but these go faster. My partner taught a heritage Spanish class at the college level, and it went twice as fast as a regular class.
posted by coffeecat at 1:50 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

If you could do this in person the best way would be through a multi week immersion program like Middlebury’s language school. If virtual I have been using duolingo for French and while the proficiency check did put me behind on some things, by and large I feel like it was good at recognizing the earliest thing I was rusty on. That said, I would not tout it as fast. I’ve been at it a year on duolingo plus and I’m pretty sure I would have made way faster progress in an immersion program. Duolingo does have class like discussion events but I haven’t tried them.

In addition outside of duolingo I recommend the rfi podcast journal en français facile as well as the podcast Français authentique which also has a class thing that I haven’t waded into. But if you want fastest possible, immersion is the way to go followed by an in person or virtual class through a structured program like a local college or alliance française.
posted by donut_princess at 2:06 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I would buy a grammar refresher book and then work through it with an online tutor on (where I’ve been refreshing my Spanish).
posted by hungrytiger at 2:34 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I too did the Alliance Française via taking the placement test 20+ years after my high school French class. Took classes there for about 2-3 years and it was great.
posted by matildaben at 3:36 PM on January 17

What level of fluency are you going for? Do you know what level you're at now? I recommend seeing what level you have now by taking an informal test. Once you know where you are, you can focus your learning on what you're lacking in order to pass the fluency test at the level you require.

I wish I could find the blog post I read about becoming fluent in less than a year with very little money because it had some really good resources for learning French online like RFI, TV5, newspapers, etc. I'm basically following the method they wrote about with an app (Mango, from the library), a book (Ultimate French Review), the comprehension and vocab quizzes from RFI and TV5, and French TV and music. At this point I've spent no money since I bought the book years ago, already subscribe to Netflix (for TV/movies) and my library provides the Mango app for free. I aim for 30min to an hour every day. I think I've gone from A2 to B1 in about 2 months of self-instruction. I had previous French instruction many years ago, so I'm not starting from nothing however.

If you need to pass an exam for a specific level, you can see how long it might take for you to get there. No matter what the # is, the only way to get fluent quick is to spend a lot more time immersed in French. Like hours a day for several weeks.

I should also mention French in Action .
posted by fiercekitten at 5:56 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

I thought Duolingo was a perfectly fine (and very easy) way to refresh both my very good Spanish (7 years of good school classes, a year abroad, lots and lots of travel) and my less good Portuguese.
posted by vunder at 7:20 PM on January 17

Duolingo is utterly useless for anything above beginner level language learning and is painfully slow at all levels. It's great for learning a language from nothing but I absolutely would not recommend it for this.
posted by turkeyphant at 10:55 PM on January 17

Another vote against DuoLingo which just goes at an absolute snail's pace.

I had people recommend the app italki for conversation practice and would pass this recommendation along because, though I'm not positive this will generalize, the first teacher I talked to definitely wanted to do lessons and not just unstructured conversation. I suspect you could work with someone to find the right trajectory of lessons to conversation.
posted by less-of-course at 11:13 PM on January 17

When I took a French reading class for graduate school, what I'd learned in high school was most helpful. These courses skip the travel and greeting sections that form the first parts of spoken language courses. Taking such a course is probably more than you want to do right now, but using one of the textbooks could be worthwhile.
posted by Francolin at 7:37 AM on January 18

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