Earlier this year I stumbled upon a video of a guy calling himself Benny the Irish Polyglot that got me realizing that I was making a lot of excuses about my progress with the French language, and wrote about it. Benny was cool enough to repost my blog on his site (which is a great resource for anyone trying to learn another language, so check it out, here), and I figured I owed it to anyone who stopped by to post something about my progress.Although Benny is impressive enough to accomplish fluency in three months, I haven’t been. I could give you some more excuses, but let’s just say I haven’t had the chance to focus on French as much as I would have wanted, especially in the last quarter of 2012.
That being said, a few notable things have happened lately that have me giving myself a small pat on the back. Not only have I had friends and co-workers telling me that they have noticed my progress (well, not all of my co-workers, but you can’t force someone to be encouraging), but I actually had my first French phone call the other day, and both parties were understood. Sounds like a small accomplishment, and maybe it is, but it’s one I wasn’t able to do not so long ago (plus, I find phone conversations, especially when they are unexpected, to be particularly difficult as hearing, tone and other communication signals are less clear). Needless to say, compared to where I was at when I wrote that fateful post, in my mind I’ve come a long way.
So what did I do to make my self-proclaimed drastic improvement? Just a few simple things:
- Duolingo. So you don’t want to pay a million bucks for the yellow box promising you fluency? Me either. Other expats turned me on to the online language learning program at Duolingo, which is a great tool, and happens to be free. I’ve also recently downloaded their mobile app, which helps to keep practicing even when you’re on the go.
- Reading. My I equipped my trusty Kindle with a children’s book in French (the first Harry Potter) and a lovely French-English dictionary. The reading is slow, the book isn’t as easy as I was going for (plus I’ve never read any of the books in English so I can’t cheat by remembering what they say), and there are a lot of made-up words, but I have to say that it has definitely helped me to learn a lot of new words, and in a usable context.
- Speaking. When I had the opportunity, I just spoke. I made mistakes, I got corrected, and I improved. It’s not easy, and I think you may have heard this before, but… practice makes perfect (or conversational). 😉
Thanks, again, to Benny for giving me the swift kick in the butt that I needed, and chin up to any fellow language learners out there. I’m looking forward to making even more progress in 2013, and I’ve got lots of ideas about how to do it! Stay tuned… 🙂
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