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Learning French for free on the internet

It all started when a friend of mine happened to mention the language-learning site Duolingo (www.duolingo.com). I was immediately drawn to how addictive it was, how fun it was, and how free it was. Ironically, I first wanted to improve my Spanish, as that is the foreign language I had been using (trying to use) the most. But I also took French in high school, and soon I couldn't resist using Duolingo to find out how much French I remembered. I quickly discovered that I had lost a lot of it -- in fact, Duolingo's test took me right back to the beginning, "Basics 1" -- but I also discovered that it started to come back to me, and the more I progressed through Duolingo's lessons, the more lessons I was able to test out of. I am now two lessons away from completing all of Duolingo's French lessons, and I am at least as good at French as when I took it in high school, and possibly even better.

Besides Duolingo, I have been able to practice my French with lots of other free resources on the internet. In fact, it's amazing how many resources are out there if you go and look. Here are my favorites so far:

-- Watching episodes of a French anime series, "Les Aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir" (The Adventures of Ladybug and Black Cat). I have [personal profile] primsong to thank for this; she recommended this show and it is both charming and addictive to watch. I watch in French with English subtitles, although I sometimes watch without the subtitles just to gauge how good I am at picking up the French without the translation. (Not too good yet, but improving.) The episodes can be found on youtube.

-- A site that has you watch French music videos and fill in pieces of the lyrics. Sometimes there are technological hiccups (asking for the word before the video played the word; not allowing you to type in apostrophes while requiring apostrophes for the correct answer), but it's so much fun, I have to list it here. Also, the site has introduced me to the French musical group "Carrousel," and I now love their music, especially the song "Le Manque De Place." Here's the site: http://www.bonjourdefrance.com/karaoke-fle/index.php/fr

-- Reading fanfic in French on AO3. So far, I have read several French Doctor Who fanfics and a few Marvelous Ladybug fanfics (i.e., Les Aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir). I have also managed to comment on the fics in French, although you'll have to ask the authors how comprehensible I was. Anyway, it's another great way to strengthen my reading comprehension with material that I'm actually interested in reading.

This entry was also posted at http://dbskyler.dreamwidth.org/256227.html.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 22nd, 2017 09:12 am (UTC)
Yay you! Congrats!

I probably told this story before, but reading (Stargate) fanfictions is how I basically learnt all my English. I did had some lessons at school but they were more for conversation (and also boring grammar which I never got), so the words used to read the descriptions in a story are very much differently. I basically started from scratch. But after you have looked up the same word three times in the dictionary, it kinda sticks with you! Now I rarely have to look up a word, and mostly I do for pronunciation as I often made it up in my head and it was not always right. Like when I asked poor Sean Pertwee to do the “thumb in pocket” pose for me but nobody had told me that you are not supposed to pronounce the b so it came out as something totally different ;)
But yeah, watching or reading something you like anyway, you don’t realize how you learn along the way.

Maybe I should look how much of my Russian is still there!
Jun. 22nd, 2017 09:56 am (UTC)
Wow, that's impressive, because your English is wonderful! I can't imagine learning French solely through fanfic -- I didn't have the patience for it until I got to the point where I could mostly read a sentence and get the gist of it. But I agree that it's a great way to learn, because you see how words are naturally used, and you get exposed to figures of speech and lots of vocabulary. And yes, reading something you like anyway is very helpful! I've tried newspapers and things like that, but they just don't motivate me to keep looking up words at Google Translate the way a good fanfic does.

And yes, you should check out Duolingo and test yourself on your Russian!
Jun. 22nd, 2017 11:47 am (UTC)
A friend had sent me this particular fiction (my first in English) and said I should read it, it was so good. I never would have searched for one on my own. I wasn’t too keen at first but after the first sentence I just wanted to know what had happened. It was a whumping fic ;) The most trouble I actually had when I thought I KNEW what a word meant but it did not make sense in the context. And then I found out that there was another meaning.

Watching Stargate DVDs in original language with English subtitles helped too. Just to listen to how they pronounce stuff. It was a revelation that American English is easier to understand for me, but now I do also love the British kind with which I had struggled before. And of course the internet in general, the fan forums and Facebook groups I am a member of, it’s English everywhere, sometimes I forget my German! You wouldn’t have that same exposure unless you joined a French fan group.

But yeah, it’s often that my brother asks what a particular word means and I couldn’t tell the exact translation or expression (sometimes there isn’t any), but I can tell him in which context it is used and what it means in general. And I love proverbs and idioms! And comparing them to German ones. Latest addition: Proud as a punch.

I often think if my English teacher could see me now, writing my own fanfictions! And getting better and better with them. My beta only has to point out minor things. That’s something to be proud of. Or me going to London to see David Tennant doing Shakespeare!

I have a co-worker that speaks Russian and sometime when she’s on the phone I understand some words. But I couldn’t hold a conversation.
Jun. 23rd, 2017 01:27 am (UTC)
The most trouble I actually had when I thought I KNEW what a word meant but it did not make sense in the context. And then I found out that there was another meaning.

That just happened to me! I couldn't figure out why the words in a song were about "the fish of money," and then it suddenly clicked that they meant "the fish of silver," aka the silver fish, because "argent" means both money and silver.

Watching Stargate DVDs in original language with English subtitles helped too.

I need to do this! I wish I could find something I want to watch that's in French with French subtitles. All I can find so far is French with English subtitles, or English with French subtitles. Very frustrating. I'm sure a French fan group would be helpful too, but I haven't found any yet, not even for "Ladybug et Chat Noir," which must have a French fan group somewhere since it's a French show.

It was a revelation that American English is easier to understand for me

LOL, we Americans sometimes can't understand British English, either! But it does get easier with time and exposure. It also depends on the accent involved. Classic Who, with everyone speaking Received Pronunciation, was always easy for me to understand, but New Who can be a little dicey sometimes depending on a character's accent. Then there was the time I had to use subtitles to watch David Tennant in "Broadchurch." He was using some ultra-Scottish accent that I just could not understand, even though I have absolutely no trouble understanding his real Scottish accent. It drove me crazy!

Psst -- the correct idiom is "proud as punch," not "proud as a punch." You inspired me to go look up the phrase's origin, and apparently it's based on old Punch and Judy puppet shows, and being as proud as the puppet Punch. But I am so impressed that you know it!

In fact, congratulations on all your work and progress! You should definitely be very proud of yourself. I only hope to someday be half as fluent with French as you are with English.

Jun. 23rd, 2017 06:22 am (UTC)
I used to read a German author named Karl May back then (stories set in the Wild West) and the main character's horse was named Swallow. I knew that it was the name of a bird. So imagine my confusion when I first came about a "he swallowed" in a fic ;)

Yes, I once had a bunch of friends over, American, British and from the Netherlands. And I had repeatedly to ask the British to slow down or pronounce better and then the American said "Don't worry, we don't understand her either" LOL Also at a con in Birmingham with Richard Dean Anderson, he always needed translation for the questions the Brits asked ;)

Classic Who, with everyone speaking Received Pronunciation, was always easy for me to understand

Yes! I watched a couple of those and you clearly can hear that they are coming from the theatre. Love it. I call this the "Professor Higgins English". Actually I have the same trouble with German actors on TV. You have the old trained actors, who know how to use their voice and make the right breaks, and you have the young ones who did not learn it and mumble all the time, and then there is loud music...

It's the same with accents in the US of course. I happened to catch a Bernie Sanders speech on CNN a few days ago (when he talked about the guy that shot the senator) and without paying much attention I easily understood every single word. But there was a guy in "Stargate" that had a Texan accent and he really sounded as if he had a potato in his mouth ;) I met him later at a convention here and thankfully by then I understood him.

I always watch shows like "Sherlock", "Doctor Who", "Broadchurch" or "Call The Midwife" (do you know that? Highly recommended!) with subtitles. I would miss too much without them. Especially when Sherlock goes on one of his fast speaking sprees. But over the years I have my ears tuned to certain persons, so David Tennant is fine now, even in theatre. He also spoke Scottish in "Much Ado About Nothing". I certainly did not understand every play of the Shakespeare word there either, but he is just so great with intonation, that you still get it somehow. And then I bought the script and read it and the second time was better.

I just love his voice. I have many radio plays with him. There is a page where you can download them for free, if you are interested.

Sean Pertwee used the phrase on Instagram or Twitter, but he mixed it up (surely on purpose, he often does that) and wrote "pleased as punch". My Canadian friend wondered what it meant but I had heard about Punch and Judy before and so guessed right.

If you want to hear my thick German accent, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G42TEhfbHo

I made that three years ago, a photoalbum about a travel to California that happened in 1994. And for some odd reason I constantly use "from" instead of "of" ;) I know better of course.

Jun. 24th, 2017 06:20 pm (UTC)
Shakespearean English isn't the same as modern English, and native English speakers don't get all the word play (unless they've studied Shakespeare), so don't judge yourself based on that! But I too got to see David Tennant in Much Ado, and he has a gift for conveying the sense of the Shakespeare even when you don't quite understand the phrases. I too love David's voice.

I've heard "pleased as punch" before, so Sean didn't invent it. In fact, it might be a little more common here than "proud as punch," but both are around.

I love your video! I'm from California, so I really enjoyed watching what you did on your trip here. And I had no trouble at all understanding your accent. Your spoken English is great. (And I know it's harder to speak than write a foreign language!)
Jun. 22nd, 2017 02:07 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to re-learn French on Duolingo, since I did it at school and it would be useful if I make it across the English Channel at some point. Your post has given me the incentive to get on with doing it. And I've bookmarked this for the resources.
Jun. 23rd, 2017 01:30 am (UTC)
Good for you! Let me know how you like it. For me, the "game" aspect of it was really fun.
Jun. 24th, 2017 08:52 am (UTC)
amazing stuff - i love that you've commented on fics. i hope the writers liked them :)
Jun. 24th, 2017 06:26 pm (UTC)
One of the writers very sweetly thanked me for taking the time to read a fic in a foreign language (I explained that I was learning French in my comment). I commented on two of her fics, and she replied in French to me on both. The other author where I actually wrote something of substance in my comment hasn't responded yet, but they may not check AO3 that often.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )