March 10, 2011 | French

Flashcards Are Awesome

I am cramming.

Regarding the title of this entry: I don’t normally say “awesome.” I just felt like it.

I have been doing flashcards for the past couple of days. I love flashcards. There are 1,000 study cards in this SparkNotes box, and I just keep going through the cards I don’t know over and over until I get them right. The first time through the box I knew/remembered only about 40%, but the number keeps going up.

Flashcards: You Can Use These on the Subway (Métro)

Flashcards: You Can Use These on the Subway (Métro)

It is impossible to speak a language well with a minuscule vocabulary. I realized earlier this week that I could not remember “knife,” “fork,” or “spoon”—all critical to basic functioning in society. In fact, I still can’t remember “knife” and “spoon,” but at least I can now ask for a fork (fourchette).

As of tonight, I am several lessons into Level III of Pimsleur, so I have finished 30-something lessons so far and have about 45 lessons left. My French strategy is to get through my grammar books, flashcards, and Pimsleur lessons as quickly as possible, then roam New York with some reanimated French skills.

I am at my best with sentences with very few r’s. Trying to pronounce words like pour and arbre is doing me in.

One thing that has been fun is that I can enjoy Pimsleur lessons and flashcards with Brandt. Before we met, he had a romantic relationship in French, and although he is rusty, he is definitely more advanced than I am. But just you wait, husband, is what I say.

Large numbers in French have always confused me. Although “million” in English translates into million in French, “billion” is milliard and “trillion” is billion. How did that happen?

I forgot to say previously how I did on my French tests, administered through a company called Alta. I took an oral test (via telephone) on March 1 and a written test on March 2, and I received 7’s on both. This is considered an “intermediate plus”; the maximum one can get is a 12. As I expected, the score was noticeably lower than my initial Spanish and German scores.

On my writing test, accompanying my score was the following (maybe not perfectly written) explanation:

  • Comprehension: The candidate is able to understand all of the questions prompts and render most forms and styles of writing.
  • Mechanics: 5 - 10% of the written texts contain errors in grammar and spelling.
  • Expression: The candidate’s vocabulary is good in areas of frequent usage but cannot use language structures to effectively express his/her ideas.
  • Overall: The candidate writes using basic language structures to convey meaning but almost no advanced or formal structures used correctly. Understands basic grammar, spelling, and vocabulary but mistakes are present in advanced areas.

Harsh! On the oral exam, my scores were explained in this way:

  • Comprehension: The candidate understands the main ideas and some details of common subjects; repeating and rephrasing are often needed.
  • Communication: The candidate can participate in social conversations and express general ideas; hesitates often.
  • Grammar: The candidate uses the language’s basic structures with control, but demonstrates weaknesses with common structures, word order, and subject-verb agreement.
  • Vocabulary: The candidate’s vocabulary is strong in areas of frequent usage, but limited in more advanced areas.

I am in a competition with myself to see how much better I can do on April 30 when I retest. I am shooting for at least 9’s, though secretly I have more ambitious dreams.

Comments (6)

Donna • Posted on Sun, March 13, 2011 - 5:50 am EST

Large numbers in German are the same as French.  Had you noticed?  Probably you don’t read about the deficit in German or French.

Katherine • Posted on Mon, March 21, 2011 - 10:27 am EST

Do you have a system for how many words you do in a day?  I had an Arabic teacher tell me once that we should learn (memorize) twenty words per day.  I find that to be almost impossible.  There are times where you get a group of words that are not so difficult and can absorb them pretty quickly, but that is rare.  There are time when I take a week to learn twenty words if they don’t seem to stick.  In general, I find I do better when I start with a small group of words and review them over and over for just a few minutes at a time several times a day.  Seems like you do a lot of words at once?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, March 21, 2011 - 8:42 pm EST

Hi, Katherine. I am pretty unsystematic about vocabulary. With French, at this point I am still mostly reviving vocabulary I once knew but then forgot, so I can do a lot in one day. I really don’t know how many new words I was absorbing a day for languages that were totally unfamiliar to me. Far fewer, for sure!

Rick Garcia • Posted on Wed, March 23, 2011 - 2:02 am EST

Hi Ellen, you are amazing. I may have asked you before, do you ever use the rocket courses for languages, such as rocket chinese, japanese? Enjoy following your progress, updates.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, March 23, 2011 - 11:56 am EST

Donna, I had forgotten about German numbers. Similar things happen with Italian and Spanish, too. I definitely have trouble keeping large numbers straight in other languages; it’s better for me if I can cap my quantitative discussions at three digits.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, March 23, 2011 - 12:02 pm EST

Rick, thank you! I was intending to try Rocket for Japanese, but I ran out of time. I am disappointed about that. Have you tried Rocket? If so, I would love to know what you think. I will see if I can look at it for French…

Post a Comment