Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A letter from Mariah

I receive many messages on YouTube and I get asked the same questions hundreds of times. Here's a typical letter that I get. I will share the answer in the hopes that you will all get some benefit from it :)

Hi. :D
my name is mariah, and i am currently a freshman in highschool, almost a sophmore soon. (10th)
i recently started watching your videos, and they have helped me alot.
I have been taking french 1 this year at my school, and at first it was quite easy, but then came all of the difficult stuff. then i started getting confused...
we went really fast and i dont have the best of teachers to be teaching french. ;)
i study really hard at it, and pay attention, it just doesnt seem to click.
and all on top of that, i have finals for french next week. we are being tested on everything we have learned throughout the year on french.
Do you have any pointers on the best ways to study for french? or any tricks that might help me remember what words mean?
i think my problem is just remembering what everything means. i will know what a phrase means but i cannot put those same words into a different phrase. it just doesnt come to me.
please help me.

My answer:

The only "trick" to learning a language is to use the language. You can learn to ride a bicycle from a book but at some point you willl have to actually get on the bike :)

Your brain is rebelling. It doesn't understand why it has to learn something that you almost never use so it's putting a lot of what you're learning in the recycling bin :)

So how do you use French if you only use English in your daily life? Some schools have French clubs but if you can't do that then there are steps you can take to help convince your brain that French is worth remembering:

Go on every day and just check the headlines. Most of it won't make sense but you're brain will try to pick something that it recognizes.

Watch DVD with a French soundtrack with or without subtitles (very hard at first). It's better if the film is actually a French speaking film no just dubbed in French.

Put post-it notes in your room: BED / WINDOW / SINK / COMPUTER etc... but in French of course: LE LIT / LA FENETRE / LE LAVABO / L'ORDINATEUR. It will drive your family crazy :)

Ask yourself questions: How would I say this in French and find the answer. Keep it simple. (How do you say: I'm going to the movies = je vais au cinéma)

Think in French from time to time. Keep it simple. (I like this movie = j'aime ce film)

Find a friend who likes French and use French sentences as code. This will drive your other friends crazy :)

Learning a new language is no easy task but remember that your brain is wired for language. You already have learned English and you did it as a child and without books or tapes. Your brain realized that you needed language skills and that screaming an crying were not going to be enough to get the things you wanted from your parents :)

All this takes weeks, months and years but it worked for me.

"That's French for you"



Later Mariah sent me her reply:

wow, thank you so much. :)
As you said about the French Club, i currently in one. it is quite fun.
Your idea of the post-it notes is a good idea i think i may actually do that..
Thanks for all your help.
Mariah. :D


Anonymous said...

Also you could do what I do. Change the language on your mobile phone, mp3, ipod whatever you have that is electrical that you can change the langauge give it a go. WARING!

Make sure you have a dictionary handy as you will come across unknow words. Do not blame be if you can't chnage it back.


Anonymous said...

I try to use idle moments during the day to learn French: when I'm on the treadmill @ the gym, I mentally recite the numbers on the display in French. And I added the French language TV5MONDE to my satellite TV & have become addicted to the French soap opera, "Rumeurs". Even though I don't understand it all, I've become more accustomed to the rhythm of the language. These are small, incremental steps but it seems beneficial.

Puppet2220 said...

Hi guys, Hi Remy.
My problem learning French is how "backwards/sideways" it is to American English. If a French teacher left aside the vocabulary for a while, and taught me how to get "fluent" in the wording order 1st using English, then start trading vocab, I would do far better, far faster. Also, like a baby learning to speak.. I babble as I do my house chores using the sounds and rhythm. I wish there was a magic pill I could take and wake up speaking fluid FRENCH! -JC

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