Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to learn French

Since the inception of this blog I have written about languages that I have never studied, like Armenian, Polish and Hungarian. I write about the philosophy and science of language learning. I have also given some great pointers about how to effectively take notes and study. Today, I decided to share with you how I came to learn French.

First, let me just say that I did not want to learn French in high school. My school only offered French and Spanish - I was interested in neither. I wanted to learn Italian. I thought Italian was much cooler and sexier than French or Spanish. Being the impractical person that I was, I chose French because it was more exotic than Spanish. I thought speaking Spanish did not make me ´special´enough. Yeah, I know what you must be thinking. How vain! I have to admit that you are right. I was mostly concerned with being unique and different than being practical. The only redeeming thing I can say about that, is that I was true to myself. I did not do things just because others did it. I followed what made me happy.

I took two years of high school French and always earned straight A´s. However, when I graduated high school I could not carry any basic French conversation. I moved to Texas and enrolled into French 101 at Austin Community college. The class and professor were wonderful. It was literally the best class that I have ever taken. We had so much fun. We took the assignments and made them hilarious. At the end of the class, the teacher also said that we were the best, and funnest class that she ever taught. I have taken many language classes since then, but none of them were nearly as great as this one.

Anyway, this blog is about how I learned French. It is a tough topic to discuss because it is like asking a person, ¨when did you grow up?.¨ Which I would answer - I grew up over a period of several years.

I learned French by doing the following:

1. I did my homework. - Ta Da! That is right, just do your homework If the teacher assigns something, do it! I did not do my homework all at once, but rather, I sat myself down a few times per week and completed my homework.

2. In the first year, I took the time to conjugate new verbs several times over again. Remember the Latin phrase: Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit. Constant practice to one subject often outdoes both intelligence and skill.

3. I regularly practiced French. Another latin phrase: difficile est tenere quae acceperis nisi exerceas. It is difficult to retain what you may have learned unless you should practice it. There were many times that my French went into remission. I did not fret. I just took another class and jumped right back in. It all came back to me.

I could write a lot more about how I learned French. I went on to a four year University and completed all of my upper level courses in French studies. The classes were conducted entirely in French. I read the works of Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Diderot and many others. Literature is a wonderful thing. It is more than just stories, but also philosophy. Literature teaches one how to think. French literature truly opened my mind and made me a more intelligent person.

Anyway, that is the end of this blog. I eventually started learning other languages, but if there is any one piece of advice I could give that is to make sure that you have passion for your language. If you do not want to learn it, you will not learn it.

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