As mentioned in my About page, The Mister and I are toying with the idea of spending a year in France. Even if that doesn’t materialize, however, we will certainly be vacationing there frequently — our next trip to Paris comes up in June as a matter of fact. Therefore it only makes sense to learn the language to whatever degree possible for me.
I qualify this statement because I truly suck at languages (e.g. I’ve lived in the American Southwest for decades and only know the slightest bit of written Spanish, forget spoken). Having always been a quick learner in every other aspect of my life, it pains me to the core to feel so … well, stupid. Unsurprisingly, I tend to give up quickly. Knowing this, I’ve resigned myself to accepting my limitations and continuing to learn despite the inevitable frustrations.
That said, I began my journey with an audio CD series that I LOVELOVELOVE: French in 10 Minutes a Day.
This course is an extremely basic introduction to French tailored to the casual traveler, starting with key questions words and slowly moving into objects, numbers, colors and simple verbs and adjectives. The entire course stays in Present Tense: always “I see the bird” and not “I saw” or “I will see” or “Having seen the bird, I ….”.
By the time you finish the CDs, you won’t be able to have a complex discussion but you will be able to ask directions and understand the replies to a degree. I can attest to this personally as I used it prior to our first trip to France and it was a lifesaver.
On our trip we stayed for several days in a tiny village outside of Lyon where no one spoke English. At one point we attempted to get some lunch at a local restaurant — as luck would have it, the owner only served one meal for lunch (your options were limited to whether you wanted the appetizer, dessert, cheese plate or any combination of the those with the main plate). We were able to ask enough and understand the answers enough to eventually comprehend this and make our order (note: the owner was delightfully patient and sweet with us through this whole process). We were even able to participate in the following amusing conversation in French:
Her: Where are you from?
Us: Arizona, in the United States.
Her: You are staying in Lyon?
Us: No. We have a house here for a week. Monday we go to Paris.
Her: (gesturing around to the sleepy rural hamlet surrounded by fields of cows and not much else): Why HERE?
The course is available as both a book with supplemental CD or as an audiobook with supplemental CD. I highly recommend the audiobook version because (a) you can listen to it on your commute, and (b) you get to hear the French words on a regular basis. The speakers pepper in French words with their instructions as you learn them. Eventually they stop saying “word” and always say “mot“; “with” is replaced with “avec” and so on. Consequently you become a lot more comfortable hearing these common mots in audible speech. Since I have more difficulty understanding spoken French than I do written French, this is an enormous benefit to me.
I cannot say enough about these CDs and I highly recommend them for the beginning learner but as mentioned they are limited in scope. Next week I’ll go into how I’ve branched out, which products I’ve tried and my thoughts on the results so far.