C’est fini pour moi? Non, c’est juste commence pour moi

What a semester!

I can certainly say it has had it’s ups and downs, and I have definitely done a lot of learning and growing.

In the beginning 

It had been a while since I had used the small amount of French that I had learned in my core French program.  My language knowledge was very ‘egocentric’ as almost all of my sentences were pieces of information about me.

The how

I spent some time evaluating and discussing apps with fellow classmates who were also working to learn languages.

 

Duolingo logo
via wikimedia commons
Duolingo was a front runner almost immediately.  It had several positives that came up:  it was free, it has the ability to set a daily goal, placement testing,  it was named as a top language learning app in several reviews, my classmates were finding similar results in their searches – and lastly, in speaking with friends who know other languages, they recommended Duolingo!

After determining all of these factors, Duolingo became my go to for language learning with my 50XP goal set!  The first few weeks were really positive, with lots of vocabulary learning, and reaching my daily goal consistently.

I supplemented my learning by trying to have conversations in French with friends who speak the language, and I also turned to French radio as a supplementary technology piece.

Adding read-alouds in French also seemed like a beneficial idea, so I began practicing and recording myself reading french picture books, and then I started to expand on the platforms I was using to learn French, enter Mango.

Through my public library, I was able to gain access to Mango for free, and saw the conversational benefits to learning  in this new format.  (Sometimes Duolingo has sentences that come across as weird  or inappropriate, where as Mango allows you to practice and build upon sentences that you may use in different contexts).

Around this time, I was also searching for some ‘native speaker’ support, and tried to utilize some connections I had made on Twitter via Speaky.  This unfortunately felt reminiscent of a dating website and somewhat soured me on that avenue of my learning.  All was not lost however, as I connected with @frenchetc and there were many ‘mini’ lessons I was able to complete and consider thanks to their tweets!

Additionally, after having one of my language learning blogs retweeted, I was also able to make a connection and have an offer of help!

One of the places I experienced the most growth was thanks to my PLN of classmates.  There were so many of us learning languages (albeit different ones) and the ability to discuss where we were experiencing success and challenges was really helpful in adapting my own plan, as well as experiencing new things.  The biggest challenge of the semester happened when Genna had us in awe with her Spanish rendition of “Let it Go” and Vanessa was quick to challenge the rest of the ‘language learners’ to do the same.  It was a long hard week of practicing, but I managed to squeak out the French version of “Parti la bas”

The end?

I have to say that I had lofty goals of becoming ‘fluent’ by the time this class was over… well, that just did not happen!  However, I am well on my way, and I will continue to work on my Duolingo and Mango lessons daily.  As my title implies, this is not the end of learning french for me- my family and I will be heading to Europe this summer, and I am challenging myself to ‘function’ en francais while we are there!

A bientot mes amis!  Vous voir sur Twitter.

 

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C’est un semaine pauvre

I really thought I would get further along this week than I have (to this point).  Truth be told I spent a lot of time with my extended family at the start of the break, and I have now spent the majority of the second half with my children (also, managed to get some time to work on my summary of learning).

That being said, I managed to keep up with or surpass my Duolingo goals this week!  I have been struggling to ‘maintain’ full strength on each unit everyday.  Even with surpassing my goals most days, there have been bars that I have not ‘filled’  which is somewhat discouraging.

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In addition to this, my fluency has once again stagnated seemingly regardless of how much I am doing or how accurate I am (there have been no 200 question lessons as there was when I started).

I have found myself inconsistently in my vehicle this week, so while I was listening to (and understanding!) it sometimes – it certainly was not as much or as often as I would have liked!  So, to combat missing my ‘driving time french’ I will supplement with a french show/song that I can listen to/decode/ (and maybe even sing along with)!

*As an aside if you read the comments on her video – I have opted to replace “Hello” with “Allo” as it seems more acceptable, I believe that “Salut” would also work in its place.  Alas, this was practice for me, there will be no video of me singing Sarah’s cover of Adele this week!

 

On a positive note, I got onto Mango again this week!  I got through a couple of lessons, and it was one space I felt successful in this week.  As Elizabeth mentioned in her blog this week, Mango was really helpful in building the sentences and making sense of the tenses (although it does take a lot of time, to get to that point).  Another item to note is that taking a placement test isn’t really helpful to skip ahead as you miss some of the important pieces of conjugation and tenses.  Also,  I enjoyed some of the cultural notes that were incorporated into the lessons:

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I will definitely keep this in mind in July!

This note was of special importance to me, and I will be sure to watch for “Soldes” signs!

I have not been as successful as some of my classmates in finding language specific resources on Twitter, but one thing that has been helpful to me is @frenchetc on Twitter, they tweet many different phrases and how they are used with practice pieces.  I am enjoying the ‘pop up mini french lessons’ when they show up in my feed.  For example today I learned about being stuck in traffic:

For the week ahead, I am going to work to spend more of my learning time on Mango, and just maintain my goal of 50xp per day on Duolingo.  I also plan to continue listening to French radio, as I find listening to the language in a conversational context very helpful.  I will also be seeking out additional french conversations this week.  Lastly, I am going to practice 1-2 read aloud books this week as well!

 

 

Je parler francais aujourd’hui!

Cette semaine était médiocre.

I tried to follow the same plan that I worked with last week – but apparently life has been different this week, and that must be the prevailing factor!

I had a 14 day streak going with Duolingo (until last night) when my eyes wouldn’t stay open beyond the second lesson… this is what happens when my father-in-law comes to visit, and you get to enjoy an authentic curry chicken meal!

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Yes, this picture is sideways – but it was yummy!

I digress.  I have been listening to French radio consistently.  I had several french conversations this week.  I read french stories again this week (video below).  I was not able to spend any time on mango this week (although there is still a chance I will get on it today).

I’ve noticed with Duolingo that while I pushed myself to get through several new ‘units’ of words last week, my ‘learned’ units are not maintaining their strength for very long, so even if I go beyond my 5 lessons a day there are still units which require ‘practice’.  This becomes a point of frustration for me, as I feel less successful when there is ‘uncompleted’ work.  I think this would be the reason for me not getting to Mango for the week – as I am more inclined to ‘finish’ the units then to move on to Mango when there is still work to do on Duolingo.  For me- this is what makes Duolingo a great learning tool.  As long as you are a motivated learner (and someone like me who tends to be one of those perfectionist ‘I need to finish my work’) kind of people, the app  does a great job of ‘drawing you in’ on a daily basis (which is what research will tell you is required to effectively learn a language).

I still have not ‘increased’ my fluency from 45%, which really has me questioning what the algorithm requires.  Perhaps I am consistently getting less answers correct than I perceive!

Regardless of what percentage I’m at – I have noticed an increase in what I am able to de-code and since the ‘singing’ fiasco of last week, I have been taking more chances in the french phrases I am speaking!  For example, this week I created my title completely on my own, without the help of Google Translate (I did double check the spelling of aujourd’hui), I also did the first sentence (This week was mediocre) on my own (I did have to look up ‘was’).   Lastly, I understood a large percentage of the read-aloud book I read for the week (and it’s not as familiar to me as the previous read-alouds I’ve completed)!

 

 

I see progress in myself, so I am going to keep up with the same plan I’ve had for the last few weeks (50xp goal in Duolingo, French conversations, french radio, french books, and I WILL get on to Mango more consistently over the next week!)

So, until next week…

Merci mes amis, a bientot!

Ma semaine en francais

Why did I say I would sing a Disney show tune?!  A quoi je pensais?

This week I would say I’ve managed to stay on track.  With Duolingo, I’ve managed to maintain an eight day streak!  Additionally, I was successful with almost six new ‘units’!  Sadly, even though I have managed to maintain the streak and learn a significant chunk of new words en francais – I’ve stagnated at 45% fluency.  While I’m not really hung up on how ‘fluent’ Duolingo says I am, based on my passed experience, I thought I had figured out what caused that number to fluctuate – now, I’m unsure.

I was also able to successfully initiate a few new phrases into my french conversations with a friend this week, I was also able to ask a few questions and sort out some french phrases I was unsure of.  Of note this week: I participated in, and understood a conversation that lasted roughly 4 exchanges each (woo-hoo)!

 Non, je ne l’ai pas oublié sur le chant

I consistently listened to french radio again, and I think I am noticing a difference in the French I am learning versus the French that I hear on CBC radio, additionally I am understanding more words in their conversations, as well as getting the ‘gist’ of their topics more frequently (yay)!

I was able to get on to Mango again this week, and I am slowly chipping away at the different units on the app.  I am really enjoying the ability to use common phrases with the app, and as I work through the ‘base’ vocabulary with Duolingo I think I will transition to more time on Mango as I am betting it will help my conversational french immensely.

I have also practiced reading en francais to my children again this week.  I was practicing with the book Tourbillon d’emotions this week (look for the read aloud coming next week, as this week, I’ve committed to -ahem- singing).

As for next week, I think I’ve maintained a consistent plan this week, and I’d like to aim for the same goal next week as I’ve felt so successful.  I will try and get a few more books to read aloud for the week, as I’m most successful and confident with those resources when I am speaking the language.

 

 

Etes-vous toujours la?

Without further adieu, mes debut en chantant en francais (this seemed like such a good idea last week when Genna killed it, but now it’s me, and it’s here, and I’m really nervous about it.) Although I have to agree with Genna, I do believe it is really helpful with the fluency piece and it will likely improve pronunciation as well.  I will also say I had to search long and hard for a Disney song that wasn’t too fast, too long or too complicated – hopefully you can understand me!

One last disclaimer – I decided to use a new video editor this week to see if I could amp up my ‘game’, this is an area I need more practice in – so it does not have a lot of bells and whistles (but it’s done)!

My language struggles and connections

Well, to say this has been a difficult semester personally, would probably be the understatement of the century.

This week has been par for the course.  With losing a second person in my family since January, countless illnesses (both my own and my children’s) it’s starting to feel a bit like I can’t catch a break, but alas, onward and upward I suppose.

I feel like I haven’t looked at Mango in two weeks, let alone practiced with it.  I have managed to meet my daily goal for Duolingo, I have also continued to listen to French radio, and I would say my french conversations have been sub-par as I have not initiated them nearly enough this past week.  I have also failed to practice my french reading this week.

I did however find an interesting article which I  think my classmate Genna may appreciate given the discussion of benefits associated with being bilingual.  Unlike Genna, my daughter is monolingual, but I often question if we made the right decision when we opted to not put her in French Immersion.  She’s almost done grade two and I still question if it was the right choice.

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CCO public domain 

While I don’t think I’ll ever be content with our decision, I am confident that she is a motivated learner and I know she would find a way to learn a language if it was important to her.

All of these questions and thinking of my daughter’s learning had me connecting to an idea I owe to my late grandmother, who immigrated from Germany and told me once that she didn’t remember when she stopped thinking in German, and started thinking in English.

I know that in my own language learning journey, I certainly think about what I want to say in English, and then I try and convert it to French.  This had me wondering, at what point does a second language become automatic?   How do our brains work to process more than one language?

I was happy to learn that language learning may increase the size of my brain!  Additionally, I have been reading that learning new skills at any age (however they were looking at language learning specifically), increases the density in brain matter.  Now I know that I can say I’ve been “working my brain out” on a daily basis I feel less guilty about “working my body out” at the gym consistently!

After watching Genna’s vlog this week, I was totally inspired to give it a try myself – and I accept your challenge Vanessa!  Next week – Disney show tunes en francais coming your way!

S’il vous plaît excusez-moi et mes français maladroits

Well – it’s been another week!  I’ve stayed mostly on track with my goals this week (with couple small exceptions that I will address a little later).

I have worked through Duolingo  and maintained my lessons consistently, and I even managed to ‘increase’ my level to 12 (I think the increase occurs with the amount of new lessons completed).  I did also manage to ‘increase’ my fluency to 43% (I’m wondering if the fluency is somehow attached to an algorithm with the lessons you’ve done and how many you get correct versus how many are wrong).  My down fall with Duolingo for the last two weeks has been Wednesday – I am not sure why or how but these last two Wednesdays have apparently been so full that by the time I’m able to get on my phone/computer to do the lessons, I make it through one or two and then I fall asleep (yes, I really just admitted that).  I plan to see how this week goes, and if I’m  unable to complete the lessons I will make a new plan for Wednesday’s to get it done!

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picture of my Duolingo progress this week

 

I was also excited this week to consistently remember to listen to French radio again, and I am finding I am able to pick out more and more of the conversations (I’m going to have to start writing down what I understand so I can use them in my reflections each week).  An additional win is that my daughter who was initially excited to learn french, and very quickly jumped off that train, started practicing with Duolingo again this past two weeks, has been asking to listen to French radio if it’s not on, and has been adding french words to our conversation when she can!

I was also able to have several mini french conversations this week (I will also admit to a french fail moment when I was trying to ask my daughter “what are you wearing today” and I picked several incorrect words which actually meant ‘who you call today’ – so bad!)

Head in HandsBy Alex E. Proimos – http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22535544

 

Another ‘positive’ this week comes from consistently practicing reading aloud with french picture books.  I’ve tried to incorporate several ‘levels’ of french reading, I can certainly tell the difference in my ‘instructional’ level and my ‘independent’ level.  A disclaimer- I am probably butchering a lot of the pronunciations, please feel free to comment and tell me what I need to work on!

 

As for ‘fails’ of the week, I have not been on Mango at all- I felt an urgency to ‘complete’ the Duolingo lessons so I ‘know’ the vocabulary.  However, I honestly feel that doing both at the same time is more  beneficial.  I suppose at this point in the semester, I’m feeling like I want to ‘check’ something off of my list so I can say “I’ve accomplished something”  (I realize I have accomplished something, so I need to get over it!)

All right- next weeks goals include:

  • Continuing to meet my Duolingo goal daily
  • Continuing to listen to French radio daily
  • Continue to read french picture books
  • Continue to have french conversations (preferably accurate ones)
  • Incorporate Mango more consistently

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By chris 論 (own design) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The ups, downs and weirdness of learning a language online

Well – it’s been a week of ‘back to reality’ for me!  I made significantly less progress in my project this week, as expected, because I had less free time to focus!

The ‘Ups’

This week I was fairly consistent with listening to French radio, there were a few times my kids had to remind me to switch the station so they could listen to music!  I certainly noticed this week that I was able to ‘decode’ a lot more of what was happening in the radio conversations (I recognized a discussion of gas prices around the province, the daily forecast, and a conversation about a study-from PEW research centre I believe-that looked at the types of lunches people have while at work) so that was really a confidence booster (I’m getting somewhere!).  I was also able to have real life face to face conversations this week – which is helpful because I can have real time help when I am confused about words (or the order to use the words in!)

The second CBC Radio-Canada logo, adopted in 1958.
Thank goodness for French radio

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1773873

Another positive for the week – I received 5 new picture books en francais- I can’t wait to practice reading (and decoding) these books aloud!

The ‘Downs’

Well, my goal for the week was to continue to meet my Duolingo goal, and to supplement with Mango languages learning app, as I like the alternative format that they offer.  The unfortunate part of the week was that I was unable to spend a lot of additional time supplementing my learning with Mango after I finished with my Duolingo lessons!

For the two apps I’ve noticed a couple of things:

With Duolingo, I’ve spent a lot of time completing my lessons on my phone this week.  There were many times that I was working on the lessons, and I had started to ‘pick out my words’

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screenshot from Duolingo phone lesson

As I moved my thumb away to pick my next word, I inadvertently hit the ‘check’ button prematurely, which caused my ‘progress’ on the lesson to decline.  I noticed it happening several times a day this week- very frustrating when you are trying to zip through a lesson!

Mango follows a different lesson structure, and with the time I was able to spend on the app this week, I noticed the amount of repetition it incorporates.  I know repetition is necessary for learning a language, and certainly Duolingo repeats as well, however, NOT with the overly cheery voice over:  “And repeat, and repeat, (brings previous words out of left field)say this – isn’t this easy”?

While I like the format that Mango offers (and I do find I say the words aloud much more often), I miss the opportunity to be ‘heard’ (recorded) as is the case in Duolingo – and there’s also something to be said for the urgency Duolingo creates with its daily goal reminder.  I feel slightly stressed if I haven’t met my daily goal on Duolingo, and with Mango I don’t feel a pressing urgency to get on the app daily.

The Weird

I found this week I had a surge of new followers on Twitter, I had spent some time looking for French PLN groups or support sites and different ways to supplement my learning.  After sharing a few of my project posts on Twitter, I found my new followers included Language World and Speaky – which are both connected to language learning.  When I started to look into the apps and things these followers offered, something seems off with Speaky; however, the programs they were promoting reminded me of a video we had watched early in the semester:

Revisiting this video had me thinking that it would be really nice to find a speaking exchange.  After completing a few google searches, Coeffee seemed like a good place to start.  It was a simple few steps to set up an account, you select the language you currently speak and the language you are learning, and then it takes you to a list of people who have experience speaking the language you are learning.  *Here’s where it gets weird*  within a minute of going on the site, I found someone from Quebec to speak with, I sent her a ‘bonjour, comment ca va?’ – she did not respond to me, however a male who was not looking to learn English began messaging me, in English.  I tried to side-step the conversation by responding with “bonjour, comment ca va?” to which he responded “can you just talk to me in English”.  I got the feeling very quickly that this was NOT the type of speaking exchange that I had been expecting and in fact felt more like a chat room for single people.  I have deleted my account, and have not found any other ‘speaking exchanges’ to participate in!

Am I just going to end up in chat rooms if I try this again, or does anyone know of an authentic place to do a ‘speaking exchange’?

Next week

For next week, I will continue to primarily use Duolingo and supplement with Mango as time permits.  I will also continue with listening to French radio, having my french conversations (three times per week), and I will work to read and translate at least one of my French picture books.