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 the reasons I started learning the language in the first place) but you’ve got to be engaged with the story, it’s hard to start and stop, the language is often too colloquial to easily understand, etc.
A friend (who shall remain nameless because the MPAA owns the Echelon network) has just downloaded a DVD two-pack on his and my other favourite hobby at the moment, painting wargaming figures. Unfortunately for him, they’re both in French. Yay me! Now I have a series of short “lessons” on miniature figure painting in French. I’ve only watched a bit over half an hour of the first DVD and I’m dead impressed at my ability to pick up words I’ve never known before – either because they are technical figure painting terms or just manners of expression that don’t occur often in the conversation of non-gamers such as shading and highlighting, paint and ink washing techniques, and – best of all – I now know that a scabbard is le fourreau. There’s an awful lot of learning that will happen watching these DVDs.
The DVDs are put out by Kraken Editions, a French gaming company who create figures and skirmish-level combat rules for a fantasy world not dissimilar to that of another company involving battles and carpentry tools (hint, hint). The French game is called Alkemy and the rules and a bunch of play-aids are available as a (legal) download from their site in various languages including French and English. The figures look dead cool. I’ve got to explore this world as a possible new black hole into which I can throw away my hard-earned cash.
I guess the lesson here is that you should look for ways of engaging in other pursuits that you enjoy that just happen to use the language you are trying to learn. In this way, you pick up the language almost as a by-product of furthering your other hobbies.