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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Qu'est-ce que c'est? (Learning French: Part Two)

For part one, click here

The title of this blog simply means, "what is this?" Though I first heard the phrase coming from the Talking Heads in this song. (Skip to 1:20 for the start of the song.)

When we last spoke (meaning, when I last wrote and you last read), I had just finished my first lesson using Rosetta Stone. I have just finished the first unit and thought I would give you a bit of an update on how things are progressing. Plus, this helps to keep me accountable on my learning.

As you can see the next few lessons are, unsurprisingly, more difficult than lesson one. The software is very helpful in getting you to learn these new words and phrases. In fact, my guess is that by looking at the picture above, you can decipher what everything means there. Except maybe that last panel, due to size, it's not quite clear. (It's rice.)

Another feature I really enjoyed were the pronunciation lessons. They take a word or phrase and break it down by syllable. This is helpful for words that I struggled with previously or wasn't clear on what exact sound each syllable made. This is also good for helping to instill the knowledge that these syllables sound the same no matter the word.

Speaking of features that I enjoy, this is perhaps my favorite. If you reach a word or phrase you are having trouble speaking, you can take a time-out from your lesson and practice it until you get it right. The software plays the phrase for you, slowly so that you can hear each syllable, and then asks you to say it. You can then compare the two tracks. If you aren't saying things properly, the software is quick to let you know. You can say the word or phrase as many times as you like until you get comfortable with it. And you can keep up to four of your recordings to compare with the software's correct version. It took me at least twenty time to be able to properly say "deux" which means "two." It was very frustrating.

Quick pet peeve about French. They don't seem to fully pronounce the letters at the end of words. Take the word, "conduit." English says it's pronounced as con-doo-it. French drops off that final "t" sound to be con-due-ee.  It makes spelling a bit difficult. Which brings me to my next point.

Grammar is my worst subject. Too often I have trouble remembering the end of phrases or the proper verb form. 76% was my worst score (so far) for any of the lessons. If you don't hit at least 90%, you typically can't get a check mark for the lesson and the software encourages you to repeat it. Eventually I did get over 90%, but it took me a few times. If I was ever going to quit and pack it in, it was then. But I kept going.

And that's right! I got through all four lessons! USA! USA! USA! (Sorry. I'm still getting over the Olympics being done.) Now it's on to the Milestone program. I had no idea what I was in for.

What is going on? You're shown a slideshow of somebody walking through a forest with his/her dog. Suddenly you come upon a couple's campsite. You then must converse with them in French.

I totally blanked. It's one thing to have a flash card style setup where you know what you're supposed to be saying. It's another to be expected to conversing. The first time through I failed. I asked the wrong questions, didn't answer fully went prompted and even blanked on the question that is the title of this blog. It was a bit embarrassing. However, my second attempt was much stronger. And I rocked that shit! (USA! USA! USA!) You know what you get for completing the Milestone? You get to join your new French friends and go backpacking with them.

I am now 1/4th of the way through this software. Now onto unit two.

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