What would you like to see on ielanguages.com?

Now that I have more free time, I plan on working on ielanguages.com full time until at least Christmas. I have a lot of ideas and plans for improving and adding to the content, and of course I’d also like your input on what to add. What would you like to see on the site? What do you find most helpful?

Google Analytics tells me that the French, Spanish, ESL Lesson Plans, German, Italian and Swedish pages are the most visited on the site. Obviously it is easiest for me to create more French and ESL content, but I’d rather have direct input from site users instead of relying on statistics to tell me what people want most. I’m particularly looking for feedback from beginning learners of French. I tend to forget what it’s like to be at a beginning level, so remind me of what’s difficult and confusing and what works best for you.

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30 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    I don’t doubt you’ve got a large portion of people who are specifically interested in learning French, but I suspect the majority of your readers are language-nerds who are interested in multiple languages, so I wouldn’t actually focus on just one language to the exclusion of others. The only reason my site is focused on Spanish is because that’s the language I’m currently learning right now, when I move onto Japanese full-time in 6 months or a year or so I’ll start a blog on learning Japanese, and even then I still do a good number of posts that aren’t Spanish-specific.

    Do stuff that’s useful to language learners in general, as opposed to something that’s only for people learning French. Also, people LOVE learning about foreign culture and they love stories, so I’d maybe even get away from language-learning completely every now and then and do a post on what you’ve learned by living in a different culture, specifically talk about things that are different from Anglo culture, things that would be interesting or useful to someone visiting France.

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  2. Anna says:

    I would suggest to ramp up your mission to provide examples of language as it’s really used. I would suggest posting clips of TV shows, films, music, news, etc that are really salient for francophones that French learners wouldn’t necessarily know about and pulling out some linguistic points (like examples of spoken vs written French, some key expressions and puns they may be making using key expressions) and also some of the cultural references that are necessary to understand to make someone culturally fluent in French to be able to follow native newscycles and make interesting ‘watercooler’-type conversation with French people (ie ‘buzzwords’, important personalities, pop culture phenomenons, etc). Comedy could be a good source since it can be especially hard to understand without knowing the context.

    Before my year abroad I took a course in current French civilization/society (which was the only French class with space that fit into my schedule) and it turned out to be the most useful class I could have taken from a language standpoint. We learned the basics of French geography and administration (how France is referred to as “l’hexagone” for example), some important relevant history, politics and the structure of the government, the welfare state, trends in society, business, etc. While it wasn’t a language class specifically I realized all of this societal and cultural knowledge about France is essential for being able to understand a basic news article or broadcast. It made me realize how much cultural knowledge an English-learner would need to acquire to understand our native media.

  3. Jen says:

    I’m answering because it’s rude not to since I visit your blog often, but I am probably not worth including as I come because I love hearing about the area where you live.

  4. judyb says:

    As a fledgling French teacher using your book as her textbook this year, i would love to see a few more exercises and quizzes available that go along with the tutorials.

  5. rachel says:

    I have to echo what Andrew said and say that I really enjoy when you post stuff on multiple languages, not just French. That being said, I really do like the videos you’ve done on informal spoken speech in French. I learned them the hard way..oh how they would’ve helped me when I first moved here! While I’m here commenting, I just thought of an interesting little tidbit that I’ve been meaning to ask you. It’s a “phenomenon” I hear often–a noticeably loud(ish) inward breath when speaking. I definitely hear ‘oui’ like this, especially when the person is agreeing with me and nodding their head. I also feel like the French kind of suck in through their mouth more..if that makes sense? This sounds weird typing but you must know what I mean, at least I hope! If you know what this is called, or somewhere to direct me, I’d definitely be interested. I haven’t seen it in books since it’s non-verbal, but I hear it across different groups of people, young and old, and I’m kind of interested to know what it’d be classified as linguistically.

    Cheers
    Rachel

  6. keri says:

    As someone who is intermediateish at French (but has lost a lot of skill due to not practicing for a few years), I really appreciated the slang section, but was kind of hoping to find swears. I’ve been trying to improve my skills by watching movies and reading blogs and so on, and I often feel that I’m not quite understanding where something is a swear, or the severity of it. I mean, I know there’s “merde”, and I think I’ve heard “foutre” used in a few swear phrases, but I don’t really know… as I regain my lost fluency, I’m sure that I’ll start to pick up on it, but it’d be helpful to have a guide on the site to refer to until I get used to it.

    And everyone likes to know how to swear in a different language (and especially to know which swear is appropriate for which context – kind of like how “bugger” is quite different which side of the Atlantic you’re on!).

  7. Mattholomew III, Esquire says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with the suggestion that you post general, multi-language material and posts about culture. There is tons of cultural and general information on the internet, but there is a massive void when it comes to actual language as it’s actually used. Things like handing your boyfriend a newspaper and recording him read it out loud, or taping a conversation with friends, really any source of native (not scripted for learners) audio + a transcript is like stumbling on a friggin gold mine.

  8. Mattholomew III, Esquire says:

    Oh, I thought of a helpful one: you could suggest native French media that learners could watch. Apparently French television is just awful, but surely there must be something watchable, right? Hopefully?

  9. de Virginie says:

    I am one of those people who are continually looking at the German and Swedish Sections. I would love to see an expansion of both, especially more audio recordings ( particularly Swedish).

    I also think it would be tremendously helpful to have podcasts for Languages outside of French (though more French podcasts are always welcome). I find it hard to find recordings of people in everyday life, that also amazing, include a transcript.

    I also love your posts about day-to-day life in France. Even if its about getting a bed from IKEA in Geneva, or how the KFCs don’t have biscuits (I don’t understand how they still can call themselves KFC without them). Even if you feel the post is trivial I have been able to glean so much more out of your posts about French culture than I have learned anywhere else. The small things can be fascinating.

    It would also nice to see some resources for some of the more obscure languages in Europe, like Gealic, Welsh, or even Hungarian (not that I really want to learn Hungarian as much as I would like to get a feel for what it sounds like).

    Also sorry about the over use of parentheses (they’re contagious)!

  10. Duffie says:

    If the comparative tutorials are still doing it for you, I’d love to collaborate with you in building them up. Something like, French for Spanish speakers. They’re one thing in particular that I geek out about, and I think they could grow to being more brief-lesson-based like the rest of the language tutorials. They’re also great for passive reinforcement of the originating language, which is always a bonus.

  11. Gwan says:

    At work, so no time to read this thoroughly, but I stumbled across a free site for learning Luxembourgish (of all things) and thought of you (which is a bit weird)! Haven’t looked at it, but it’s been developed with the assistance of the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture & University & is available in French and English versions, so if anyone’s been itching to learn Luxembourgish, here’s your chance http://www.quattropole.org/fr/e-learning

  12. Yay for Luxembourgish!

  13. Yes, definitely! The comparative tutorials will be my major focus soon, after I finish an update of the French tutorial e-book. I’m particularly interested in doing French-Spanish and French-Italian.

  14. I tend to focus most on French since I live in France and it’s my best language, but of course I love all languages. It’s hard to focus on many languages though because then I fall into the trap of talking about languages or how to learn languages (which so many other language sites do well) instead of actually teaching the language(s) by giving actual words and phrases and cultural info that I find helpful. I don’t know if that makes sense the way I’m explaining it but I do plan on expanding on the multilingual aspect next year.

    For the first 3 years I was here, my blog was pretty much just an expat blog talking about cultural differences, but I’ve gotten away from that because the culture shock is gone and nothing really seems as surprising anymore. I think it’s just that I’m not really noticing it as much anymore, or when I do talk about France, I’m mostly just complaining about it and don’t feel like I should be putting that on my site.

  15. Hi Anna! I agree that learning language and culture cannot be separated because culture influences the language so much. I had started a project on doing exactly what you said about clips of shows, movies, etc. but I ran into royalty issues because the companies who create them do not want them to be used freely on the internet. Teachers can create materials for use in their classrooms of course (because how would the companies know?) but putting them on personal websites, especially commercial ones like mine, is usually illegal. That’s why I started the French Listening podcast – it’s all my own work so I can do whatever I want with it. I’m still looking into using clips from Youtube or something, but I can’t make any promises.

  16. Already working on it, my dear. :)

  17. Hi Rachel!
    That sound that French people make is called an ingressive pulmonic airflow in linguistics. The opposite is egressive, when you push air out instead of suck it in. Anyway, when they say oui with an ingressive airflow, it usually means a reluctant yes, but not always.

  18. Ah yes, I do intend to add swear words and what is slightly inappropriate, really vulgar, etc. The only reason I never added it before was that high school teachers e-mailed me and said they could not use my site in their classes or link to it if I had any “questionable” material on it, so I said ok. But I do think it’s extremely important to understand swearing and insults, so hopefully those high school kids will just access my site at home. :)

  19. I would love recordings in other languages too. I’m having a hard enough time with recordings in French though and I live among French people. lol And yes, transcripts are definitely a must to go along with the audio. I’ve been contacting native speakers to see if I can hire them to create some authentic materials, but I don’t have anything set up yet.

    I used to post a lot about life in France when I first moved here. I switched the format of the blog to language learning last year though, because I felt like I didn’t have much more to say on cultural differences. I spend most days studying languages and in front of my computer, so that’s probably also why I have less to say about life in France. I don’t get out as much as before now that I work at home, but I should probably work on that. ;)

  20. I completely agree that unscripted audio is the most useful resource for understanding a language since that is what happens in most interactions with humans anyway. Why don’t textbooks realize that? I will definitely continue the French Listening podcast and try to do more eavesdropping on French people. :)

    For French TV, I will really have to think about it. Almost everything is American or German dubbed into French nowadays. I can probably come up with movies though. Though again, finding the script or even subtitles can be a challenge since France is still not all that deaf-friendly.

  21. Hi Keith, I do not have any French lit info on my site (not yet anyway) because my focus has always been on linguistics, second language acquisition and phonetics/phonology. I’ve never seriously studied literature since I prefer the spoken language but I do see the value in it for those who learned the written language. And of course more contemporary literature (like Anna Gavalda) includes examples of informal spoken language that is useful for French learners. I will have to think about that! :)

  22. Hi Jen, my friend Cynthia has a great blog about the Alps if you want to see photos and videos of this area: http://www.american-in-france.com/

  23. D Jackson says:

    Hey Jennifer!
    I appreciate all that you do on this site and I thoroughly enjoy it. In regard to this blog entry, I think it would be neat if there was some Catalan or Basque (or both). I understand that there is probably a lot that you have planned to do so whatever you put up for any language I will appreciate. I was just throwing the Catalan/Basque idea out there since you asked. Merci!

  24. Margaret says:

    I’m working on improving my French these days, and for me the most useful thing has been to have someone to write to. I made a French friend over the internet and she has been such a blessing. It’s like a homework assignment on a self-chosen topic each day, plus a friend into the bargain. (I find our exchanges so interesting that I’ve created a blog to post our emails to each other, in fact!) My idea, which may not be feasible, is that you could facilitate to meeting of language learners with native speakers through your website. (Or maybe such a thing exists already?) Pen-pals would each be learning each others’ languages, ie a Spanish-speaking French learner paired with a French-speaking Spanish learner, and they could decide themselves how to work it; alternating languages each week or each writing in their new language, whatever. The main thing is to exchange email addresses. People could match themselves by age and/or interests too, to would make it more fun, because feeling connected with the other person has got to help. It takes it out of the theoretical and into the real world – much more interesting and motivating than any exercise. That’s my 2 cents, if it’s of any use to you. Thanks for all that you do!

  25. Anna says:

    There are the official video clips on the channel websites themselves, which have all the facebook/twitter sharing options. The major pitfall is most of them tend not be be available outside of France but some are. Looks like everything at canalplus.fr is, at tf1.fr I could view Confessions Intimes and Koh-Lanta (reality shows would be good for unscripted audio) but not Masterchef or Qui Veut Epouser Mon Fils or any of the dubbed American shows. At france2.fr out of what I tried I could only see Vivement Dimanche and that site is part of a group of other channels so I figure it’s similar for them.

    As for audio transcripts that can’t be found – I wonder if voice recognition software would be at all reliable. If it’s anything like grammar and spell check in French there’d be a lot to correct but maybe it could work…

  26. Anna says:

    There are the official video clips on the channel websites themselves, which have all the facebook/twitter sharing options. The major pitfall is most of them tend not be be available outside of France but some are. Looks like everything at canalplus.fr is, at tf1.fr I could view Confessions Intimes and Koh-Lanta (reality shows would be good for unscripted audio) but not Masterchef or Qui Veut Epouser Mon Fils or any of the dubbed American shows. At france2.fr out of what I tried I could only see Vivement Dimanche and that site is part of a group of other channels so I figure it’s similar for them.

    As for audio transcripts that can’t be found – I wonder if voice recognition software would be at all reliable. If it’s anything like grammar and spell check in French there’d be a lot to correct but maybe it could work…

  27. Gem says:

    There are a lot of interesting shows you could use to learn French that are actually French, not American/British/Spanish/etc dubbed into French. France 5 has some really good daytime shows, like “Les Maternelles,” which is a show focused on (as you may have guessed) everyday life for French mothers, or “L’Oeil et la main,” which is a show targeted at the deaf community (I love this show because it has French sign language, subtitled). Finally, I always recommend Arte’s “Karambolage.”. This is a show that I imagine you would really like, Jennie, as it has both German and French broadcasts and talks about the similarities and differences between French and German culture and language. A great (and interesting) resource. I realize that these are all non-fiction and non-dramatic, but I think they are very good programs.

    As for fiction, I know that you like “Kaamelot,” and there is always “Un Gars une fille” – short (as in 2-5 minutes) vignettes.

  28. It sounds like you might like http://lang-8.com .

  29. Jackie says:

    Hi, in answer to your question what I’d like to see is a regular blog entry in basic French. I know it’s harder to write sticking to just the common words, but for those of us looking to practise at a beginning level that would be helpful. I also like the suggestion below for French for Spanish speakers.

  30. TJ Sham says:

    Hi there I’m from South Africa and I’ve noticed you want to visit South Africa. A suggestion for the site would be to improve the Dutch section to have exercises as well, and additionally if you do visit you can add Afrikaans and create a comparative section between the two, I’m not sure of the differences but perhaps you can add Flemish as well as well. Afrikaans is from Dutch. I think this is a great site and offers introduction to a variety of languages. I’m glad the Croatian section has been updated, however can I request Croatian be updated more often?

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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