Category Archives: Learning French

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Free Learning How to Learn MOOC on Coursera

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Learning How to Learn is a free MOOC available through Coursera. It is a self-paced course which just started January 4, 2016, and I highly recommend it if you have trouble studying or remembering what you study. It includes valuable information about how your brain and memory work, and offers advice on how to study, take notes, conquer procrastination, etc. as well as what is NOT good for learning, i.e. constant re-reading and too much highlighting, for example.

This course is actually one of the most popular courses on Coursera, and the instructors deliver the content in a great way. While this course is broad enough to encompass learning material for various subjects, they do mention learning languages and the techniques are just as valid for learning languages as for learning math or science. One technique is the Pomodoro technique. Basically, you should study for 25 minutes (set a timer), and then take a 5 minute break – to stretch, exercise, have a snack, or just relax – and then do another 25 minute session, followed by another 5 minute break, and so on.

They also mention spaced repetition, which you are probably familiar with if you use Anki, Memrise, and other online study websites. The idea is to space out your learning and study over time rather than trying to cram and memorize everything at once. It is better to let your brain rest for a day or two and then repeat the material in order to really learn it.

The course is only 4 weeks long and new sessions start often if aren’t able to keep up with the quizzes this time around. The course is based on the book A Mind for Numbers, written by one of the instructors, Dr. Barbara Oakley. It is not required for the course, but it does delve deeper into the topic of learning math and science.

Learning How to Learn is based on the book A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Let me know if you’ve taken this MOOC and what your thoughts are on it.

Learn the Romance Languages Together: Resources You Need

Learn the Romance Languages Together: Resources You Need

If you want to learn the Romance languages together, you need to use resources that compare the languages.

Romance language books written in English

One of the oldest books intended to help you learn the Romance languages together is Comparative Grammar of French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese Languages by Edwin A. Notley. This book was published in 1868 so it’s in the public domain and you can download a PDF that I created. Since it is so old, however, there are few spellings and words that are no longer used in the contemporary languages, so you will need to augment your study with more recent materials. Some copies show up on amazon.com every once in a while, but at a ridiculous price ($1,500!)

The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages by Frederick Bodmer actually compares four Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) as well as four Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Swedish and Danish), and offers advice on how to study multiple languages at the same time. Though a bit outdated, it is still my favorite book. You can get a copy at amazon.com for a relatively cheap price. I previously posted a review of this book if you’d like to know more.

Learn the Romance Languages Together - The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages

The Seven Sieves: How to read all the Romance languages right away by EuroCom is a new initiative to promote intercomprehension of Romance languages. You can buy the book in PDF or paperback through Shaker Verlag (site in German) and the paperback through amazon.com.

Another great book is Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian by O.H. Heatwole. The main drawback is that there are only three languages, and since it’s out of print, it can be a bit difficult to find online. Third-party sellers do sell it on Amazon but it’s usually rather expensive.

Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian

 

Romance language books not written in English

EuRom5 (2011) is the most recent multilingual book I’ve seen yet. It focuses on learning to read and comprehend five Romance languages. The book is written in French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese (so it is designed for native/advanced users of any of those languages) with texts and audio files available on the website. You can buy it from dicoland.com or hoepli.it for under 30€. Amazon.fr also sells it for 30-40€ and a few copies are available on amazon.com. This book is not quite as “comparative” as the other books in the list since it offers 20 articles in one language with some words glossed in the other 4 languages (i.e. the entire articles are not translated in the other languages). You can also read my summary/review.

One of my multilingual books: EuRom5 - Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

Comprendre les langues romanes: Du français à l’espagnol, au portugais, à l’italien & au roumain. Méthode d’intercompréhension by Paul Teyssier (2004) is obviously written in French for French-speakers to learn to comprehend Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. A new edition came out in 2012, but I don’t know if/how it is different from the 2004 edition, which is what I bought. Both editions are available via amazon.com or amazon.fr or you can order it from Librairie Portugaise & Brésilienne in Paris for 29€, and they do ship worldwide. I believe translations of this book in the other languages exist, but I’m not sure where to buy them.

One of my multilingual books: Comprendre les langues romanes - Understand the Romance languages

 

Romance language resources at ielanguages.com

If you want to study vocabulary lists to learn the Romance languages, I have many lists available at Romance Languages Vocabulary Lists as well as some verb conjugations. The tables are set up so that English is first, followed by French, Italian, Spanish and then Portuguese. I chose this order due to how similar the languages are to each other. However, this may not be the order that you want to study the Romance languages in. Luckily, you can drag the columns in any order that you like! Simply click on the name of the language in the first column and drag it left or right. You can also hide/show languages that you are not studying or when you want to quickly test your memory. A few topics also have fill-in-the-blank exercises, such as days of the week:

Multilingual vocabulary lists - Days in the Romance languages available at ielanguages.com

Lastly, I’ve been creating videos that teach French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese together. (I have also created a few videos to teach French and Spanish together.) Subscribe to the Youtube channel to be notified when any new videos are available.

I am really interested in finding other books, websites, or videos that help you learn the Romance languages together. Has anyone found other useful resources?

Intercomprehension of Romance Languages

Intercomprehension of Romance Languages

Learning to Comprehend the Romance Languages

If you understand French and are interested in learning other Romance languages, the MOOC Enseigner l’intercompréhension en langues romanes à un jeune public might be helpful. This MOOC, or CLOM in French, begins November 10, 2015, and lasts 4 weeks. It is designed for language teachers and students or anyone who is interested in multilingualism.

The concept of intercomprehension refers to the ability of users of closely related languages to understand each other thanks to linguistic similarities. It appears that this particular MOOC will focus on the six main Romance languages of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Romanian. Since it is developed by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the language used to teach about intercompréhension is French.

You can sign up now to join the MOOC.

 

Related:

Comparative Vocabulary and Verb Lists: Romance and Germanic Languages

Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Languages Simultaneously

Comparative Grammar of French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese Available as PDF

FluentU Review

FluentU Review: Language Learning with Authentic Videos

FluentU Review: Great site for authentic videos

If you haven’t been using authentic videos with transcripts to learn languages, you are missing out on an effective way to increase your comprehension of spoken language as well as your knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical patterns. One website that offers many authentic videos and that I highly recommend is FluentU.

FluentU currently offers videos in French, Spanish, German, English, Chinese and Japanese, with Italian coming soon. As you can see in the screenshots, you can easily choose the difficulty level as well as the format of videos you are interested in: clips, movie trailers, commercials, etc.

The transcript and translation appears below the video and hovering over a word also shows the translation of that word. FluentU recently released their iPad app if you are a mobile learner, with an Android app also in development.

There is currently a free option if you’d like to create an account to check out the videos and captions. The Basic plan, which includes unlimited watching and listening with interactive captions, only costs $15 per month or $120 per year. The Plus plan costs $30 per month or $240 per year and also includes unlimited personalized learn mode, courses, flashcard sets and PDF printouts of the transcripts. Also note that you have access to ALL languages on FluentU rather than only one language so it is great for learners of multiple languages. You can change languages in Settings under Study Settings.

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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ie-cest-what-lesson-1

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ie-cest-what-exercise

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).