In Search Of My French Groove

A momentous travel decision in my life has finally been made. In anticipation of our one week stay in Paris, next week, I am overjoyed that I finally have decided to “bite the bullet” and learn to speak a bit of French. Conditioning myself to spend an hour or two each day for several months now, I have appeared to accomplish this goal by obtaining a decent grasp of French vocabulary. Such efforts are thus described as follows:


Duolingo Free App

Using Duolingo as a game strategy keeps me motivated from a learning perspective. Each lesson contains visual cues, audio pronunciations, and ample opportunities to earn (instead of buy) valued gems” for prolonged playing time. Formidable challenges, however, are built into the program as one progresses from simple to more complex phrases. In particular, too many errors made on a given lesson results in an immediate cut off from free access for the remainder of a given day. For the most part, spelling for accuracy presents the greatest challenge for me as I attempt to move ahead to longer French phrases ( eg. Qu’est-ce que c’est).To alleviate my stress, I also use the Duolingo website option which offers a similar format as the app with “unlimited” completion time. As a result of these efforts , Duolingo reports that I have achieved 48% proficiency in French.

Duolingo Tiny Cards

Flipping cards in fast pace fashion to learn meanings and pronounce sets of words helps me immensely. I enjoy the pleasant pings and happy smiles that appear every time I get a word or phrase correct. Such required memory for detail required here reminds of my childhood passion to recite hitting/pitching statistics on the back of my beloved baseball cards. As a side note, I would recommend using Tiny Cards on occasions when the app version disqualifies one from further playing time.


Learn The Culture

To learn a new language, it makes sense to immerse oneself in real, cultural situations. In watching foreign films, I have thus become a captive observer of time/place for dialogue cues in street scenes , cafe seatings, and times of confrontation. For example, the character portrayed by Julie Delpy in the touching dramas “Before Midnight” and “Before Sunrise” seemed helpful for me to understand Parisian norms of when and how to speak formally or informally to convey a growing friendship accompanied by times of dissatisfaction.


Color Coded Cheat Sheets

The convenient app, Google Translate, enables me to instantly convert my English to French as needed. Finding a need to stimulate my memory more actively, however, I also write my own paper translations of such online provided phrases. In color coding my lists by category, I can take quick peeks at the appropriate phrase on my cheat sheet list in language challenged situations.

To feel the passion yet sophistication of the French language seems wonderfully empowering to this independent traveler. To know that awkward silence in the face of French interaction challenges in the past can be replaced by intuitive understanding and proactive conversation on my part is equally exciting. It might feel right then to say: “J’aime apprendre comme je cherche la bonne vie à l’étranger.”


7 thoughts on “In Search Of My French Groove

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  1. The most important thing you could learn for your trip to France might be local customs. As you mentioned, it’s extremely helpful to know what to do in certain situations, like at a restaurant.

    But depending on where you go, you might not need to be that well-versed in the French language. Years ago, my geography teacher said that she learned French and traveled to France. However, the family that took her in as a guest wanted to speak English much of the time.

    Still, it is a good thing to have some knowledge of the French language in your back pocket. I hope you have a wonderful time.


  2. I agree with you that speaking French is not a mandatory option to enjoy the visit. Yet having some facility to converse in French unlocks my desire to study French culture more as possibly a way to act more wisely in my own country.


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