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Learning Languages Archive
I saw a great French coming-of-age movie called MaRock over the weekend. It’s the story of a teenage Moroccan Arab girl who falls deeply in love with a Jewish boy and although it was billed as a Romeo and Juliet story it really isn’t.
It has plenty to recommend it as a version of the classic star-crossed lovers: Jews versus Arabs, street car racing through Casablanca instead of public duelling, a radicalised Muslim brother who would make a very good Tybalt, nightclubs, a guy whose homosexuality is an open secret who makes a perfect Friar Lawrence and post-sundown family feasting […]
Ever since I achieved my DELF B1 certificate more than a year ago, I’ve allowed my French to slip. I just haven’t used it. I’m trying to correct this sorry state of affairs. Here’s how.
First, as always for me, is listening practice. If you can’t understand what’s being said, there’s not much point. Living languages are all about conversing, gossipping and chatting. Only dead languages, such as Latin and Anglo-Saxon (which I also understand) centre on reading. I used to listen to a wide range of podcasts but I find, this time around, that I’ve limited myself to the […]
You may remember some months ago I posted enthusiastically about teaching myself Italian with the help of a couple of friends and some online resources. Here’s the result:
I studied. I tried. I failed.
I can’t teach myself Italian. Sure, I’ve picked up a few words and phrases – and probably enough to keep out of trouble when I finally make it to Italy – but I can’t say I’ve really learned or understood anything about the language.
I came across a number of specific difficulties. I may have been able to solve them if I’d put in more effort […]
The thing which annoys me most at the moment is that I’m losing my French. After approximately 10 years of off-and-on study and achieving a DELF B1 certificate, I speak it passably well. But French and Quebequois friends are still correcting me (thanks!) for making dumb mistakes.
The problem: I don’t think there’s much I can do about it. If you have any ideas, I’m desperate to hear them.
I reason it out like this:
In language acquisition, there comes a point of diminishing returns where the amount you learn from private study, attending classes, doing homework, etc falls well […]
The next language on the must learn list is Italian: the language of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch and the Renaissance. My problem is that I don’t have time right now for organised classes. How then will I learn it?
The shotgun approach, I think, will suffice – at least until some time frees up for classes. This involves attacking and voraciously devouring all the language learning resources I can get my hands on: from podcasts to phrase books to academic text books. As long as I can devote 30-60 minutes a day, I’m learning something. In fact, 30-60 minutes a day […]
Regardless of how often I encounter them, there are a bunch of commonly used French words that I can never quite manage to remember. Every time I hear them or read them I’ve got to look them up in a dictionary. They’re all in one place here.Prepositions and Conjuctions
Check out the Les Conjonctions lesson on french.about.com.
- autant : en même quantité, au même degré, egalement, as much, as many, in proportion (d’autant)
- cependant : pendant ce temps, il signifie plus fréquemment néanmoins ou toutefois, while, meanwhile, nevertheless
- d’ailleurs : d’autre part, en outre, more over, besides
- jadis :
Last Wednesday I sat my first French exam. It’s a first in that it’s the first time I’ve sat an exam in many, many years rather than it being the first of several. It’s also the first exam I’ve sat for a language which has been spoken anytime in the last 1000 years. And let me just say right now: it was tough, damed tough, and quite unlike any previous language exam I’ve sat for.
The exam is comprised of four parts: oral comprehension (listening, in other words), written comprehension (reading), written production (writing) and oral production (speaking and interacting […]
On 17 March, I’ll be sitting the DELF exam for level B1. Whether I pass or not, I reckon that this will mark the end of my formal studies of French. While I’ll not claim to speak the language well, I can be understood and I can understand others as long as they speak clearly. I’ll still read French history in French and watch french cinema. But the only way to become fluent from this point is to spend a significant amount of time in a French-speaking country — and I can’t see that happening in the near future.
I could only see five films again at this year’s French Film Festival because there’s so much going on at the moment. Hopefully, things will quieten down a bit in a month or so.
The festival was pretty good and from what I hear there’s a few movies which I really should have seen. I think the festival organisers need to look at how they bill the films. Both this year and last year suffered for woefully inadequate and in some cases completely misleading film blurbs.
Here’s the low-down of my festival:
Coupable (Guilty): Complete rubbish. There is […]
Lately I’ve been bemoaning the fact I’ve so little opportunities to interact with people in French. Oh, sure, I’ve several french-speaking friends on instant messenger and facebook and I’ve made quiet a few friends through the Alliance Francaise but it’s not enough. Conversations on IM are generally short and talking to the people at the Alliance is generally hindered by also having people in the gathering who don’t speak the language — it’s just rude to jabber on when others around you cannot participate. Watching French movies is always a cool way to listen to French (and is one of […]
Saturday, Peter Ball and I saw Nouvelle Vague at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Wow! Does the awesomeness ever stop! If you ever get a chance to see these guys, do it.
For those who don’t know, Nouvelle Vague are a French band who take punk and new wave songs (early 1980) and re-interpret them as bossa nova, the dominant hip style of the French new wave (early 1960s). “New Wave” in French is “nouvelle vague.” Geddit?
Among the classics that got the bossa nova treatment were:
- Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
- Guns Of Brixton (The Clash)
- Making Plans For
Today's language rant involves the confusing and (to my anglophonic mind) illogical double meanings that many French words can have. While I understand, for example, that in English 'pet' can mean both a domesticated animal companion and what you do to them to show them affection, I can see a sense of connection between these two definitions. Likewise for 'cook'. One meaning is the action of (in my case) burning perfectly good food before eating it. The other is the name of the person who performs this function. These two definitions are again logically linked in my mind.
French Oddity […]
Je retrouve une nouvelle groupe de rock française s'appelle Mickey 3D. Il joint ma collection de groupes avec Superbus et Noir Désir. Mickey 3D joue un bon melange de chanson traditionnelle et rock anglophone – tout en français. J'adore en particulière ces videos Matador et Respire.
Hier soir, dans ma leçon française, je vois dans ma texte la question là:
“Completez cette phrase: je irais au concert de Mickey 3D avec toi si ….
Eh?!?! J'ai deux de leur CDs dans mon joueur numérique. Je suis au courant! […]
Last night my French teacher at the Alliance Française said that she learned every English largely from listening to Elvis Presley. While this seemed dopey at the time, I now realise that I’m learning everyday French from a murderer. Bertrand Cantat, lead singer of Noir Désir, writes some of the best emotionally intense lyrics that I've ever come across in either language – all written with a very everyday diction and grammar. He was also jailed in 2004 for beating to death his girlfriend and one of France’s most famous new actresses, Marie Trintignant.
(I could have said I was […]
Yesterday was filled with cinematic awesomeness. First up was a pair of short kids films from the Fifties which have won pretty much every prize and award going at the time and are often proclaimed as classics of French cinema. let me say here and now that The Red Balloon and White Mane could never be made today. Both show a world view and an attitude to children that is just not allowed any more. These films owe much more to the un-sugar-coated tales of the Brothers Grimm and the fact that they were made within ten years of the […]