March 1, 2011 | French
French Recovery Efforts Underway
I look forward to reviving some dead language skills.
I was very excited about Day 1 of French when I woke up. For one thing, French will be like a relaxing beach vacation after the rigors of Japanese! (Though actually, I am not all that big on relaxing beach vacations.)
By 8 a.m. I was already drinking a latte at Café Margot—which has a thematically appropriate French name as well as a nice French-speaking owner—and was making my way through a book called Complete French Grammar by Annie Heminway. At least to start out, I am using books from the same McGraw-Hill series that I have used for other European languages to date. I am fond of them, in part because they include many, many exercises, and I just love grammar drills.
Because I have some background in French, I decided to skip the first 30 lessons of the 100 that are available from Pimsleur for this language and begin with Level II instead. I studied French in college for a few years and did a small amount of work in it in graduate school when I was studying comparative literature. While I never was as good in French as in Spanish or German, I was reasonably proficient at one point.
Comfortably conversational, I would say. But having begun French later in life, and studied it over a shorter period of time, I forgot a lot more than I did of those other two languages.
My Bad-Ass Proctor
Pimsleur Level II is a little basic, but there are so many basic things I don’t remember, and also, pronunciation has always been an issue for me in French, so I could use the practice. French really tangles my tongue. The main problem is those darn r’s.
I decided to get myself tested in French, by my usual testing service Alta. I want to get retested after the two months I will be devoting to this language, to see how much I am able to improve in a short period of time. My prediction is that the improvement will be more pronounced than it was in Spanish or German.
I took Alta’s one-hour writing test before I went to bed, proctored by my usual proctor (my husband, Brandt), and scheduled an oral exam for tomorrow.
The last time French and I had regular contact was 20-something years ago. I am curious to see whether my sense that my French has decayed disproportionately is confirmed by my scores!