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Help learning french


Jim

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Hi my wife and I wish to learn how to speak at least a good level of basic french before taking the plunge and buying a home in France.

We purchased the Michel thomas cd set which for the first few minutes seamed ideal until we got well and truely annoyed by the woman on the course.

This has made it so annoying having to listen to her that we find we can't concentrate fully on what else is being said.

Can anyone suggest a similiar or better french language course without the annoying distractions.

Cheers Jim & Bev  

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The best advice that I can give you is to find a native french teacher who can give you lessons. I appreciate that this isn't always the cheapest of options, but it could well save you an awful lot of money and trouble in the long run. I might be wrong, but I've never met anyone who's learnt any language to any decent level by using this type of method.

What advice would you give to a french couple thinking of moving to the UK, with regards to learning the language?
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Ther have been times when I have wanted to seek and destroy, as far as that woman is concerned. AAAAAAHHHHHH, hee,  hhee, oooohhh!

Not least because, at one point, I thought I might be a bit like her, but not quite as stupid. I love it when he gets cross with her - not half as much as I would, my teaching career would have come to a sudden and violent end with her as a pupil.

What I have found though, is that as the course goes on, she is in it less and less, so if you already have the full (8cd?) set then stick with it, you will develop a sort of 'that woman' filter.

People have recently recommended Pimsleur as a similar (method), and in some ways better, alternative.

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I had weekly lessons for six months in England and then went to language school for 10 months. I sold my car to pay for these lessons and don't regret it one bit. Learning the language is not easy and requires a lot of hard work. If it took me that long (with a French wife) so imagine how long it can take for others without such a ready source of help.

Many people move to France to take advantage of cheaper property. I firmly believe that when budgeting for such a move, the cost of language lessons needs to be given serious consideration.

A partner is not always the best person to learn the language from. It's a bit like having your parents teach you to drive. Learning a language is frustrating and for that reason I decided to pay for lessons rather than jeopardize our relationship!!

Yes, there are cheaper alternatives, but not speaking the language can prove yet more costly.

At the end of the day this is merely my advice and of course everyone is free to do as they so wish.
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Thanks for the speedy replies guys

As you say Cjb learning from a native french speaker would be the best option (but I dont think my wife would be to happy for with me if I married anyone else)

Tresco yes we have got the 8cd set so might give it another try (I have even thought of copying it on to the computer then editing her voice out of it, if I can work out how to do it)

We have just been reading about the Pimsleur cds will have to see if the local library can get hold of them.

Cheers Jim & Bev  

 

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Fully agree with CJB, I've never met anyone either who has achieved a competent level of any language fluency through self-teaching be it with cassettes or books as an aid.  Unless you have already studied a language(s) to an advanced level in a formal setting, are already completely fluent in a related language and extremely motivated - self teaching requires enormous discipline - you aren't going to pick up more than the basics and you risk even picking up those incorrectly.  You really must enrol for proper classes as CJB says, preferably with a native French teacher.  If you're in a big city, scan your local papers or even advertise.  But ultimately I would suggest that any qualified individual (French or British native) is better than none.  

Incidentally, one would like to think that there's been an increase in the number of French courses being run in the UK in the light of the last couple of years' let's-all-move-to-France craze.  In fact, I'm surprised no entrepreneur has cashed in on what I know from experience can be a very lucrative business. 

M

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Why does everybody presume that the best person to teach French is a "native"? For a start that rules out Monsieur Thomas who from Poland.

Indeed one of Michel Thomas' strengths is that he has had to learn the language himself.

I'm involved in teaching French to Brits, Americans and Dutch, both adults and children and what all my pupils need is to refer their learning back to their native tongue. Especially when looking at the use of tenses which is remarkedly different in French.

Although I am English by birth (and French in my heart), I feel much more "useful" when teaching French (rather than English) as I have struggled with mastering it myself; it's not just something I can do.

One of my philosophies of teaching is "to make language memorable" which often involves plays on words, liking the new word back to somethng the pupil is familiar with. For example the word for a head light is "phare" because you hope to see "far" enough ahead. Is this something a "native" even with a decent command of English could do?

Michel Thomas CD's are a good "warm up" for tuning in the ear and getting you started before you move out here for good. But once you are living in France full time, you need to be able to adapt your French to your own personal needs, which involves learning the structure and rules of the language. Step by step guidance is the way to make solid, confident progress.

Would you feel confident teaching someone English? Just because you can speak a language doesn't automatically mean you will be any good at teaching it.

Quantum

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My wife has just made enquiries about a French language course from the Chambre de Commerce. She was invited along to a class free of charge to see if was her cup of tea.

I think something making her nervous of signing up to the course is that the teacher speaks no English. Everthing is explained in French. Now maybe we are missing the point but when learning any language is it not necessay to have explanations of the subject in a languauge you do understand.

The course is for beginners and Amanda has some understanding but has difficulty with speaking. The course is not cheap but that is not the point if it is value and worth doing. I would be interested to hear others thoughts on this particularly CJb as you have done courses yourself and have a French wife.

Whilst my French is reasonably good and we have French friends I am unsure if we are the correct people to help Amanda. As was stated earlier it is bit like having driving lessons from a family member - often ending in heated debate.

 

 

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[quote]Why does everybody presume that the best person to teach French is a "native"? For a start that rules out Monsieur Thomas who from Poland.Indeed one of Michel Thomas' strengths is that he has had to l...[/quote]

Completely agree with that statement. 

I have been going to a native French teacher for several months now and whilst I understand the subjunctive and its use in French grammar, and my vocabulary has increased considerably there were gaps occurring in my understanding which gave me cause for concern.  I had a lot of unconnected knowledge which required tidying up.  (This was in part as a result of her explaining complicated grammar rules to me in French and not in English)

So into the picture came my husband.  Someone I had previously avoided as my teacher due to the usual heated debates etc.  He took me back to basics and is teaching me that first of all I must thoroughly understand the grammar rules.  I no longer do much written work but reply to him in French after learning a chapter of whatever book we have chosen to study that day. Currently we are working our way through three books.  All these books he has had for years and two of them are still available today as teaching aids.

Having had weekly lessons with my French teacher I've got into the habit of learning so the lessons now with my husband are really quite formal and during the hour or so that he is teaching me we rarely disagree.

I prefer to have a teacher who speaks both French and English.  And although my previous teacher could, she was racing me along and throwing work at me that was too advanced for my level so the fear factor set in.  Hopefully the present arrangement will give me more confidence and it's cheaper too!  

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"I'm involved in teaching French to Brits, Americans and Dutch, both adults and children and what all my pupils need is to refer their learning back to their native tongue. Especially when looking at the use of tenses which is remarkedly different in French."

Quantum, absolutely no offence intended here, I'm merely making an observation and extending the debate.  Is it really such a good idea to "refer back to one's native tongue" when learning a language? As you go on to say, use of certain tenses is quite different in French so surely this isn't always possible.  As a teacher, don't you feel students should never translate?  I know we all do but isn't it a dangerous habit and one that we should try to avoid wherever possible?  Almost all my French language learning has been undertaken in France in groups of mixed nationalities where there invariably wasn't anyone available to help me the English speaker "translate".  And the teachers I met felt this was by the far the best, although I accept not necessarily the easiest, method.

Margaret

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The old grammar translation method has generally been discarded for only using the language being learned in the classroom and is an aspect of audio-lingual  and communitive methodology and others that have been/are being used. 

As an EFL teacher I found that if a student was truly having difficulties understanding explanations it was best not to waste time and explain in the student's language - but don't tell the admin!  One of the supposed advantages is that you  develop some guesswork ability for language you have not learned and will hear outside the classroom.  I suspect that the teachers mentioned on this thread are being a little inflexible, not grasping that everyone has a different way of learning, and 'toeing the party line'. 

I am now studying French, working with cds, but I have also dug out my old (very!)GCE grammar books and the teacher I get when I am in France is going to be faced with a barrage of questions.  I don't learn easily by hearing only.

Coral - soon to be in the Ariege - I hope!

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Margaret,

I think this idea of learning a language without reference to one's native tongue, could only work if one is totally immersed in the target language.  In that case, you would learn as a baby/ child does, by a kind of osmosis.  However, if one is to make any sense of the world in a second language, firstly the older one is, and seconldy the less exposed to the target language one is, the more one would be dependant on one's native tongue.

Does that make sense? Having a bit of trouble expressing myself in said native tongue! :laugh:

 

 

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[quote]Margaret, I think this idea of learning a language without reference to one's native tongue, could only work if one is totally immersed in the target language. In that case, you would learn as a...[/quote]

Immersion in the language will only really be successful if you continue to use the French you have learned on a fairly regular basis soon after the course has ended. If not then presumbably a lot of that knowledge will be lost.

Learning tenses is not a problem. After a while one begins to see the pattern and learning by the dual use of english and french is not really an issue. In fact so many french words are related to english ones and rather than hindering the learning process actually help to increase one's vocabulary and understanding.

This is my experience anyway, and as someone else remarked, each individual has their preferred route towards learning the language. I too, reached for my trusty grammar book on arriving in France and know that if my first French teacher had used their methods, one which I was familiar with, my understanding would have been incremental rather than scatter gun style.

Ultimately it is all down to who is actually teaching you and although a native French teacher might seem the best there are, as in anything, good and bad ones. So choose a teacher who understands you and how you learn best.

J.
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2nd attempt, hopefully won't be "timed out" this time.

Teejay is right when he highlights the advantage English speakers have when learning French, something the non-English speakers in a multi-lingual class never fail to point out!

And I also agree with Teejay's comment in reply to Musicmonkey that the full immersion route works best if you're living in France and using the language daily.  But I would still argue it is the best method for anyone learning the language.  For if you rely on translation you will remain forever rooted in your mother tongue when you should be freeing yourself of this and exploring fully your new one. 

M

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[quote]2nd attempt, hopefully won't be "timed out" this time. Teejay is right when he highlights the advantage English speakers have when learning French, something the non-English speakers in a multi-lingu...[/quote]

I agree total immersion probably would be the ideal way to learn how to speak french.

unfortunately we are not yet in the situation where we are able to do this

As for taking lessons yes they are a good idea if finances allow but its finding a good teacher in the first place to warrant the expense.

I am glad that my original question has raised so much response and discussion but can anyone give me any info reguarding my question  can any one recommend a similiar learning course to the Michel thomas CDs  but with out the infuriating woman.

Cheers Jim

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[quote]I agree total immersion probably would be the ideal way to learn how to speak french. unfortunately we are not yet in the situation where we are able to do this As for taking lessons yes they are a...[/quote]

Hi Jim,

I have just read through the thread and I was not surprised to hear you come back at the end with your original question.

No offence to all the other posts, the ideas are all good, but Jim, like me before we moved over, is trying to get into the general feel of the language and as he is not yet over in France will not be able to use it on a daily basis. I am a terrible learner with a bad memory for words, too blasted old I suppose.

Before we came over we used to tune into French radio on the long wave. It helps to 'tune in' your hearing to the French language. It's really easy to find on LW frequency 162 and another above Radio 4 on 18something?

But back to Michel Thomas, we have the 8 CD course, also a 2 CD Michel Thomas French Language Builder (only him, no silly distractions) and, when we get a copy that isn't damaged in transit, his new course with two new students on it. We also have the Pimsler and it is good, but different The original 8 CD course is on in the background a great deal of the time in our house, annoying at times, but it's incredible just how much goes in and when I go to say something to our French neighbours, Frances, my friend, mentor and wife askes where I had picked it up from. We also only have French TV and radio here in the Aude and, apart from the Metio who get paid by the word and earn a fortune, we are picking up a lot from there.

Taking lessons in the U.K. We enrolled in a course at the local colledge evening classes for 2 years. They weren't too dear and apart from the learning they were good fun with everyone very frightened of making a fool of themselves at the beginning. By the end of a few lessons the fear had subsided and each of us realesed that it wasn't foolish what we were doing, but it remained fun. I learn by fun and I'm sure that I am not alone. I don't learn easily!  We ere taught by an English lady with an honours degree in French. Believe me she learned with us too.

Try playing the Michel Tomas CDs in the background, grit your teeth with our Amirican friend and listen to the French radio. At first the radio washed over us and we thought b****y hell, but it got better. If I can learn, then you can.

Good listening and learning

John.

 

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Sorry to reply so late (I'm not yet on half term, flags will be out this Friday!)

To adress Margaret's point, referring back the the native tongue is not the same as translation. My pupils are told from their very first lesson that as soon as they stop thinking in English, this will make their French more fluent as there are many traps involved in finding each word from the English base. This seems like an impossible task for beginners but after a few lessons they get into the swing of things.

I feel that there is only a limmited value to be gained from immersion lessons once one is living in France full time. There is mass of French out there, everybody can become as immersed as they choose.

I recall with great fondness my year 7 (11 and 12 year olds) from the school in Bath where I used to teach. Not one single word of English was spoken during our French lessons. They weren't a particularly gifted class, but they could all follow with mimes and over the top gestures what was going on.

Trouble is the more you progress in a language, the more questions one is bound to have, especially when living out here. Otherwise it will be impossible to understand the nuances of language which are so delicate. I feel that it is a very valuable part of a lesson to be able to discuss what you are learning in your own language - this is where the referring back comes into it. If not you are unable to "label" concepts and rules and will require constant prompting when reproducing language outside the classroom.

The more practice the better, with guided correction, mistakes are ok, but we have to learn from them.

Quantum
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