Category Archives: Learning French

Learn French and Spanish Together

Learn French and Spanish Together

Do you want to learn French and Spanish at the same time (or Spanish and French together)?

I have started creating videos to help you learn these two languages at the same time.

I plan to create a comparative tutorial similar to French & Italian and French & German, but for now I am concentrating on Youtube videos. If you’d like to learn four Romance languages together, I’ve also created a basic phrases video and you can check out the Romance Languages Vocabulary Lists or Verb Conjugation Lists.

I am also planning to convert some of the mp3s from various language tutorials into Youtube videos for easier learning on mobile devices. So far, I’ve created a video on learning the Spanish alphabet:

And a few on conjugating verbs in the present and preterite tenses:

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Youtube channel so you’ll be notified when I upload new videos!

MOOCs for learning French

MOOCs for Learning French at France Université Numerique

Using Free MOOCs for Learning French

France Université Numerique (or FUN) is finally offering MOOCs for learning French as a foreign language!

For those who have reached A1 level, Cours de français langue étrangère by Alliance Française runs October 5 to November 22, 2015, and requires 2 hours of work each week.

For those at level B1, Université de Nantes is offering Paroles de FLE (Français langue étrangère) from November 2 to December 18, 2015, and requires 2.5 hours of work each week.

For those who have a higher level in French, the MOOCs offered by FUN are also a great way to improve or maintain your level as well as learn about new subjects from programming and public health to eco-tourism and history. There are even some courses offered in both French and English so you can compare the content if your level is too low to understand everything in French.

Text to Speech Websites for Pronunciation Practice

Listening and speaking skills can be difficult to gain for beginning language students, especially if their textbooks provide very little audio-visual resources and they are too intimidated to use authentic resources online which tend to be completely in the target language. Most of the time my students want to work on pronunciation of isolated words and phrases so I advise them to use Larousse or Forvo if they want to hear a word pronounced. For longer texts, submitting a request to Rhinospike is also an option but there’s no guarantee that someone will record it.

Computer-generated voices can also be of help, especially in the cases of new or informal words, or even brand names and proper nouns, that are not found in dictionaries. Google Translate offers a text to speech function for some languages – just choose the language, type your text, and a speaker icon will appear if it’s available for that language.

Text to Speech Websites for Pronunciation Practice

However, if you want the option to slow down the speech, switch between a male or female voice, or hear a different accent, there are other text to speech demo websites that you can try:

www.acapela-group.com

www.ivona.com

www.ispeech.org/text.to.speech

www.naturalreaders.com

text-to-speech.imtranslator.net

Acapela Group even has From Afar, Up Close, Happy and Sad voices in European French, which are quite fun to test out.

Since my students are required to do a recording in French every week, and there’s not enough time for me to help each student individually with their pronunciation before they push record, I let them use these websites to practice. It may not be actual human beings saying the words, but it is better than nothing and it helps them remember to not pronounce final consonants which always seems to be their biggest problem in the first semester class.

Pythagora Educational Videos in French

Pythagora is a French-language video platform with the slogan “Apprenez, découvrez et révisez comme vous voulez” (Learn, discover and review as you want). You can create an account and test out the beta version for free right now, but the regular subscription will be 5,99€ per month. In addition to the videos, there are also multiple choice questions and some “fiches” of information. Since the videos tend to be study materials for the Bac and Brevet, they are mostly designed for native or advanced speakers in the French education system.

The videos are grouped into the “chaînes” of Bac Français, Maths Brevet, Histoire Bac, Education média, Philosophie, Economie, Histoire des arts, Géographie Brevet, Histoire Brevet, Géographie Bac as well as two channels for learning English. The Bac Français channel has several videos on literature, but also a series on Les fautes qui tuent which explains common mistakes.

Pythagora Educational Videos in FrenchUnfortunately there are no subtitles for the videos so they may be difficult to follow if you struggle to understand spoken French.

C’est what? 75 mini lessons in conversational Québécois French

Today’s guest post is by Felix Polesello who lives in Montreal. He runs the excellent blog OffQc.com which features examples of authentic Québécois French from television, advertisements, signs, and even conversations he’s overheard on the street. If you’re interested in learning the spoken language of Quebec, Felix has just written an e-book about conversational Québécois French:

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If you’re learning French but need to understand the Québécois, it can be difficult to know where to begin. The most important thing you can do, of course, is speak with the Québécois and listen to large amounts of spoken French. But, even then, learners sometimes comment that spoken Québécois French feels impenetrable in the beginning stages.

Challenge is great when learning a language, but it shouldn’t seem impossible. The great news is that it really isn’t impossible – learning to understand spoken Québécois French is most definitely something you can achieve. There’s nothing strange or mysterious about the French used in Québec. It’s just a lack of exposure to it that makes it seem difficult at first.

We can make a considerable improvement in how much spoken language we understand by not only listening extensively, but by becoming familiar with the frequently occurring features of spoken language.

Did you know that a question like t’as vu ça? might be asked spontaneously in Québécois French as t’as-tu vu ça? Or that c’est bon? might be asked as c’est-tu bon? What’s going on here? Why does c’est-tu bon? use the word tu?

Did you know that je suis can contract in spoken language to what sounds like chu? Do you know how tu es and tu as contract? What about il est, il a and il y a? In spoken Québécois French, even sur la and dans la can contract. Do you know how? Without knowledge of these and other contractions, it’s difficult to understand what’s being said in regular conversations.

When you listen to the Québécois speak casually, you’ll hear words like pogner, niaiser, plate and poche. You’ll hear a lot too! What do these words mean?

Did you know that the Québécois pronounce patte and pâte differently? And that the letter d in dimanche doesn’t sound like the letter d in doux?

I’ve written a guide to get you started: C’est what? 75 mini lessons in conversational Québécois French. It’s a PDF written in English. It’ll give you a solid overview of the main features you need to know to become a better listener of French, and of Québécois French in particular.

Each mini lesson revolves around a sample sentence taken from the conversational level of French. You’ll explore each sentence for important features of spoken language.

The mini lessons also include usage or pronunciation notes, and more example sentences to help further your knowledge. In addition to the 75 example sentences that each mini lesson in based on, there are about 200 more example sentences throughout the guide. Exercises and an answer key at the end will help you test what you’ve discovered.

Take a look at the sample pages: table of contents, two sample mini lessons and an exercise from the end of the guide.

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The language used in this guide is normal, everyday language. It’s the language you’ll hear all the time in conversations. Once you’ve worked through the mini lessons, you’ll begin to notice the language described in them very frequently. I’ve written this guide so that it raises your awareness just enough that it helps to break down barriers and gives you the base you need to continue on your own with more confidence.

Combine your reading of this guide with extensive listening practice, and you’ll make a big difference in your understanding of spoken Québécois French. You can buy and download it immediately to start improving your understanding right away!

You can buy C’est what? here.

Australian Society for French Studies Conference 2014

Last week I was in Melbourne for the annual Australian Society for French Studies conference, held at RMIT. I hadn’t been to this conference since 2011 since it’s usually held in December when I am often traveling. Thanks to my frequent flyer points and no registration fee for full-time students, it ended up being a very inexpensive conference trip for me.

Australian Society for French Studies Conference

The first plenary speech, De l’aventure napoléonienne au malaise européen actuel, was given by former prime minister of France, Lionel Jospin. He gave the same talk in English, From the Napoleonic venture to the current European malaise, at a public forum the same night.

Most of the presentations I attended were on teaching or translation. One that was particularly interesting, especially for the purposes of teaching French conversation, was La discussion française comme conflit ludique: lien entre atmosphère sonore et réussite de l’échange. Conversations that were considered the most réussi by native French speakers (from France) were those that included more concessions, overlaps, refutations, questions and brouhaha as well as less silence and fewer instances of “saving face.”

A talk on Variétés du français en Louisiane: tensions sociolinguistiques d’hier à aujourd’hui was also quite interesting and made me really want to visit Louisiana the next time I’m in the US.

Next year’s conference will be at Newcastle (north of Sydney).

Bescherelle Le Jeu and Other French Language Games

If you are looking for games to buy for learning French or to use in French classes, I recommend the following: Bescherelle Le Jeu, Jeu de 7 Familles, Tam Tam Safari, and Apples to Apples.

Bescherelle Le Jeu: Le défi des conjugaisons et de la langue française is a very cool and nerdy game about the French language, mostly focusing on verb conjugations. (Click on images below for full size.)

Bescherelle Le Jeu Board

The board is supposed to simulate the French school year, beginning with la rentrée and ending with les vacances d’été. You can read the rules online at the official site, but essentially the spaces you land on are either pronouns (conjugation questions) or Bescherelle (other grammar questions). If you land on a pronoun, you also have to spin the spinner to find out which verb tense you need to conjugate for.

Bescherelle Conjugation Cards

The conjugations are mostly indicative tenses (including passé simple). Some questions on imperative, present subjunctive, and imperfect subjunctive can be found in levels two and three of the langue française cards; however, conditional is not included at all. The langue française cards also include questions on gender, plural nouns, spelling, homonyms, paronyms, etc.

Bescherelle Niveau 2 Cards

Le jeu de 7 familles, or Happy Families, is a great game for learning family members and the question do you have…? I bought several decks on amazon.fr and had students play in groups of 4. Most decks I found online use animals for the families, but I’ve also come across professions, nationalities, etc. There are also some free pdfs online if you’d like to print/laminate your own cards for different vocabulary topics.

Jeu de 7 familles / Happy Families

Tam Tam Safari is a deck of cards that I came across when I was last in France. There are actually many ways to play with the cards, which include both words and pictures. The deck I have is CP level 1, but there are other levels available as well.

Various ways to play Tam Tam Safari

I haven’t yet had a chance to use these cards in my classes, but I imagine you would need a few decks so that students could play in groups of 4 or 5.

Tam Tam cards

Lastly, there is a French version of Apples to Apples! I had trouble getting my hands on it since Canadian Toys R Us wouldn’t ship outside Canada and sellers on amazon.fr wouldn’t ship outside France. I bought it ages ago but picked it up when I was in France in June. My students really enjoyed playing this, even if the first years couldn’t understand some of the red cultural cards. The green adjective cards have four synonyms though, so it’s great for learning more vocabulary.

Apples to Apples in French cards


EMMA: European Multiple MOOC Aggregator

If you’re looking for MOOCs in languages other than English, EMMA (European Multiple MOOC Aggregator) currently offers courses in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and English, with courses in French, Catalan and Estonian coming soon.  Some videos don’t have subtitles (in any language), while some do so it’s a bit hit and miss at the moment. Spanish and Italian tend to have subtitles in their own language as well as English, but unfortunately the Portuguese ones do not.

EMMA MOOCs

For courses in (European) French and Spanish, other options include FUN and Miríada X (as well as Coursera which has a few courses from Mexico.) For German, there are a few courses on iversity.

The platform is in beta so there are still some bugs and I can’t seem to turn off e-mail notifications for class messages. Hopefully it will grow to include more languages and courses over time.

Do you know of other MOOC platforms with courses in languages other than English? I’d be really interested in finding some courses in Brazilian Portuguese (spoken and subtitles, not just subtitles alone.)

EuRom5 - Learn to read five Romance languages

Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

EuRom5 is a multilingual book and accompanying website for learning to read and understand five Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and French). It is written for a native or advanced speaker of one of these languages, so there are no English translations. The book is divided into three main sections: the introduction that explains the theoretical background and research on comprehension of multiple languages, 20 short articles for each of the five languages with some words and phrases glossed in the other languages, and a grammar section with tables to show the main differences in structures among the languages. The texts are not translated into the other languages so there are 100 articles total from various European newspapers and news websites.

EuRom5 Cover

The major selling point for this book is the website which offers recordings of all of the articles that you can listen to online or download. You will need to register for an account by answering a question about the book (something like, what is the third word in the fourth Italian text?). Even though you can choose any one of the five languages for the website interface, some parts are still left in Italian. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, click on Matériel didactique or go directly to the Textes page from here. (Signing in through the Description and Textes links seems to put you in a loop that keeps telling you to log in when you are already logged in.)

You can also turn on or off various notes and translations so that when you mouse over a word, you can see translations in the other languages. If you listen to the recording online, each phrase will be highlighted in yellow so you can follow along while reading.

For some grammatical structures (in pink), you can also click on the word(s) to open a PDF of the grammar tables from the back of the book.

Since this is a European project, the articles and accents are obviously European as well. You can buy the book on amazon.fr, dicoland.com, or through the publisher hoepli.it for 25€ to 40€ (plus shipping).

If you’re interested in other multilingual books, check out a previous post on Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Languages Simultaneously that I continue to update.

Peace Corps Language Learning Materials

Free Peace Corps Language Learning Materials: Over 100 Languages Available

Peace Corps Language Learning Materials

If you love free public domain language learning resources as much as I do, then check out the Peace Corps Language Courses Archive. Live Lingua has a large collection of Peace Corps manuals teaching languages ranging from Acholi to Zarma (over 100 languages are available!) and some also include audio resources in addition to the language manuals. If you have other PC manuals to share, please let Live Lingua know and they will add them to their site.

The Peace Corps does have their own Digital Library of Technical and Training Manuals if you are also interested in learning more about the work that PC Volunteers do. Although this library doesn’t seem to offer language courses, some of the manuals are written in French and Spanish so they can still be used as language learning resources.