Learning French makes you think…

… as does everything else, if you’re a kind of person who thinks.
But anyway, I’m trying to learn French and I have a couple of random thoughts about that:

1. I had long resented French, because of the artsy-fartsy snobbish aura around it.  It was only recently that I realized that disdain for doing what snobs do is itself a form of snobism. 

2. It’s a strange feeling to learn a language with lots of resources around. No more bending over backwards to find the three websites dedicated to a language I’m learning. No desperate fishing for opportunities to actually use it. On the other hand it is a bit overwhelming. What to choose from such a wide palette?

3. Read the entry above and think about it for a sec. Haven’t I just write it in English? English, as in “another language I had to learn with more than adequate resources”. What’s the big deal about French then? What’s the difference? The difference is – I don’t remember learning English anymore, only using it and expanding my vocabulary (at first by reading AD&D manuals). What I do remember (fondly) is learning dozens of languages afterwards and having to hunt for resources in almost every single case.

4. It’s never good to learn a language just for the sake of learning. You have to find some use for it as soon as you can.  I am already using my French – a Lezgi friend studying in Paris has just sent me her thesis written on her native dialect (thanks Ayten!). A truly win-win situation – reading it I’m learning about very interesting phenomena, improving my French comprehension at the same time . And on top of that the stuff Ayten writes about hasn’t been previously described in any language I know. That is the only path to that knowledge leads through French – so I’m not making my task more difficult for the sake of learning. 

5. As a consequence of the learning material availability expect more from me on Tamazight or Wolof (just to name two of the languages I’m interested in).

If you would like to suggest any interesting (you have to guess what could interest me) reading in French freely available on the Internet, you now have an excellent opportunity to do so.

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  • eskandarj  On March 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I can relate, most especially with #2! I’m having a tough time getting into French because I’m overwhelmed with materials and don’t know where to start. In particular, I want to make use of my Spanish and not have to waste time relearning features that are common to the Romance languages. I wish they would make something like “Com licença!” (a great Brazilian Portuguese textbook written in English for Spanish-speakers!) for French. I think your method is best – I’ll have to find something written in French that I’m really interested in, to force myself to translate and learn.

    When I have a chance, I can send you some French PDFs that you might like. Some of Henry Corbin’s work on Iran and Islam remains untranslated; I don’t know how interested you are in him, but I hope to try reading some of his untranslated “En Islam Iranien,” which can be found for free on e-book websites.

    • peterlin  On March 16, 2009 at 6:58 pm

      Re not wasting time on Spanish-French similarities: Why not using a course/website designed for Spaniards? There should be plenty of them around.
      That “Com licença!” thing sounds weird. The closest thing I’ve seen here is every other Ancient Greek textbook which assumes you already know Latin. But then I’m used to learning languages via a foreign language. Or a relay of foreign languages. Once I joined a mailing list with Tupi lessons written in Portuguese. I didn’t really knew Portuguese (neither I do now) and my only Pt textbook was in German (which I didn’t knew either). I dropped after three or four lessons, but checking the vocabulary along the chain Tupi-Portuguese-German-Polish was fun.

  • kasia89  On March 17, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I wanna know what else could interest you… after having put my thinking cap I deduced that it might be the following, but still I’m wondering if I’m right.

    Some websites about Iran and Iranian diplomacy:
    http://blog.mondediplo.net/-Nouvelles-d-Orient (blog of someone who probably you know, though he publishes rather in French, he’s connected with the diplomatic world, especially with the Middle East)

    a bit about languages:
    (… with a history of French language :) http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/francophonie/histlngfrn.htm )

    Eating dachshunds… Stop it, please ;)
    They’re so cute… http://www.chien.com/clubdesamateursdeteckels/

    Indonesia – just a sort of guide in French:

    Well, I’m rather reading now the texts of the original French literature, which I borrow from the library or just copy some pages to concentrate on improving the language. But those websites I found rather good, though sometimes searching for something that could be interesting for you, I was also absorbed in checking the grammatical correctness in the different texts, so as you don’t learn it wrong at the beginning (afterwards it’s rather hard to correct, isn’t it?)…And I’m really horrified how some French don’t bother about their language at all! Anyway, what I suggested you above is rather trustworthy.

    For everybody who wants to improve a bit of French grammar (or just understand it ;) ) I strongly recommend “Exercisier” (published by Presses Universitaires de Grenoble) as after 7 years of learning French it’s the only one I still use sometimes if I have any gnawing doubts and it’s always helpful. At the beginning it seemed to me dull (especially the exercises) but after some time I appreciated it for all the grammar rules collected there. It’s really worth attention. Of course, for some basic grammar (up to the level B2), because now I’m searching for something else…

    As for the conjugation, the most helpful is “Bescherelle” – the small book with all possible forms :) and with an index that indicates to which example other words should be classified.

    Enjoy! ;)

  • eskandarj  On March 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    RE: Re: not wasting time on Spanish-French similarities
    Because I’m lazy :) Though I think I will just give in and do that, if I’m to get serious about French. (grumble grumble)

  • lingolyrics  On March 21, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Salut Peterlin!

    We found that listening to French music and learning to sing along really helped our comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation. So much so that we decided to share the idea with our own language learning ezine at:

    http://www.learnfrenchwithsong.com .

    We added cool French music videos (something for every taste – the music really is amazing and addictive!), and included transcribed lyrics as well as translations in English.

    It really works – and it’s hardly a chore listening to amazing French music – the likes of CARLA BRUNI-SARKOZI, LOUISY JOSEPH, EDITH PIAF… and even JESSE McCARTNEY sings songs in French!

    Hope this helps ;D
    – Venetia & Bianca @ LingoLyrics.com
    Learn to SING in FRENCH – and you’ll learn to SPEAK it!

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