Monday, February 21, 2011

Spanish again...

Since I am going to a Julieta Venegas concert next weekend near Boston, I decided to put the French down for a bit and spend the majority of this week trying to memorize all of the choruses to all the Julieta songs in the CD of hers that I just downloaded. Because, let's face it, it's waaaaaay better to go to a concert when you know the words to the songs and can sing along. I have quite a lot of work ahead of me. If I memorize three songs a day, I might make it. Or perhaps I should just listen to the whole CD as many times as humanly possible before then.

Already, it's really amazingly good and I'm only at song number two. Here is the video for Bien o Mal. It will make you laugh out loud.

I highly encourage anyone who has never heard Julieta, to poke around on youtube to watch her videos, or just download this album, Otra Cosa. I'm going to go ahead and recommend it to you even though I am now only on song three.

You'll freakin' love it. Promise.

Oh, and... here is a whole mont├│n of Spanish crossword puzzles. Awesome. I just wish I could figure out how to have it give me the answers to the words that I don't know.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Progress with French numbers

So, I sort of already learned the numbers 1-100... a week early. I was so motivated today that I studied them for, like, three hours. I think maybe the French "r" makes my throat go all wonky. I was saying quatre-vingt so many times, which is the beginning of all numbers in the 80s and 90s, and that silly "r" is very prominent there. When I finished my language lesson, I suddenly had to keep clearing my throat. I wonder what it feels like to try to speak French with post-nasal drip. Or maybe the French never get that.

I know that part of setting a "smart" goal is timeliness. That's why I took my long-term goal and broke it up into the component parts to make it happen. I've been making a lot of goals lately... but they are pretty helpful. I like them and they keep life interesting. I just have to be careful not to have too many. Then I get confused and never accomplish any of them.

Here is a fantastic page with audio quizzes in French numbers. I was actually doing really well hearing the spoken numbers and writing them down quickly. It's another About.com site. French Numbers: Listen & Repeat. If you scroll down a bit, you can click on "Listen" and a new tab will open up with an audio clip of a woman rattling off numbers faster than you can write them down on the page (if you're new to it, that is). Exercise 1 is slower than exercise 2. With another set of numbers (1-69, I think) there is an even faster exercise 3. Craziness. I got good at hearing and recognizing the numbers with this, though. It is a great tool for learning to hear the numbers. After listening and writing all the numbers down, you can click on "List," which is under "Listen," and you can check to see how many you got correct.

Then, once I had heard the way the numbers sounded enough times, I went to test myself with some Quia games that some nice person had cooked up. I was then able to say them on my own aloud. Hoorah.

BIG QUESTION. Who invented the French counting system? It's absolutely ridiculous. I wonder if that guy was shot or bowed-and-arrowed. Or clubbed over the head. Certainly deserves it, by the way.

10 = dix (ten)
20 = vingt (twenty)
30 = trente (trente)
40 = quarante (forty)
50 = quincante (fifty)
60 = soixante (sixty)
61 = soixante-et-un (sixty-and-one)
62 = soixante-deux (sixty-two)
63 = soixante-trois (sixty-three)

Up to this point, the French numbers have a number structure similar to both English and Spanish. Up to this point, things seem rather normal. Things quickly move downhill from here as the you-know-what starts to hit the fan.

70 = soixante-dix (sixty-ten)
71 = soixante-et-onze (sixty-and-eleven)
72 = soixante-deux (sixty-twelve)
73 = soixante-treize (sixty-thirteen)

Wait, really?
Yes.
Really.
It goes on like that for a bit until...

80 = quatre-vingts (four-twentys)
81 = quatre-vingt-un (four-twenty-one)
82 = quatre-vingt-deux (four-twenty-two)
83 = quatre-vingt-trois (four-twenty-three)

Awesome. Then it gets even better...

90 = quatre-vingt-dix (four-twenty-ten)
91 = quatre-vingt-onze (four-twenty-eleven)
92 = quatre-vingt-douze (four-twenty-twelve)
93 = quatre-vingt-treize (four-twenty-thirteen)

My roommate: "So you have to do math just to say the numbers? If you wanted to add, you'd have to add before you add?"
Me: "Yeah, makes me think maybe French people aren't that good with numbers."

Anyway, I knew the French numbers were severely messed up before I started. That's why I made it this week's goal. I'll keep plugging away.

Goal setting

I've been having a lot of success with goal-setting this year. Goals are fantastic if you do them right. There is a sort of "check" system you can run your ideas through to see if your goals are "smart" ones. Google "SMART goals" or checkout websites like this one for more information on goal setting.

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timely

Therefore, because of my success in my daily life attempts to keep my apartment fairly clean, I will make a language goal in French.

Long-term French goal:
By this time next year (2/6/12), I will have gone to a French language meetup group. I would like to be able to hold my own in a very basic conversation. Right now, I would never put myself in an immersion setting, because I simply don't have the means to express basic things.

Short-term French goal:
By the end of this week (2/13/11), I will be comfortable in the French number system, numbers 1-100. I will be able to look at the number form and both (a) say the French name of the number aloud and (b) be able to correctly write/spell the French words for the numbers on paper.

As I just mentioned, there are a lot of holes in my French knowledge. I am starting to really piece the puzzle together bit by bit, but need some of the basics. Here is a list of language tools/abilities I will need to be conversational in French (the list comes largely from what I find very useful conversationally in Spanish):

  • Familiarity/practice with basic verbs: Need, want, be able to, think, make, do, like/love, wish, have, come, go, give, say, tell, see, hear, know, find, look for, study, teach, learn, etc.
  • Knowledge of common small-talk expressions and questions as well as common responses to these comments and questions
  • Topic-specific vocabulary to talk about my job, my hobbies, my life, my family, etc.
  • Colors, numbers, alphabet, months, days, etc.
  • Words/phrases that come in handy when vocabulary holes prevail: Stuff, something, thing, kind of/sort of, a little, you know, how do you say... ?, what is this called?, like this, etc.
  • Very important, highly used words: Maybe, if, however, but, together, far, near, everywhere, everyone, everything, next, last, first, now, later, again, still, yet, yesterday, of course, etc.
  • Already-constructed sentences to express facts about your progress (how much of the language you know and don't know) as well as ability to ask for clarification from others: What are you saying? Could you repeat that? What does _____ mean?
As you can see, I have a quite lengthy list, but I will add to it as I think of things.

I just took a multiple choice quiz on my knowledge of numbers 1-100 and got 88 (quatre-vingt-huit) out of 100 (cent) questions right. Fantastic.

Hasta pronto et au revoir, mis amigos.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Watching lots of movies in French

I've been keeping up the French lately... or at least listening to it. I know there is a language-learning tactic that involves watching movies repeatedly without subtitles. The good news about French is that I am already starting to get a feel for the pronunciation, and am able to pick out words in fluid speech. I have no idea what is happening in the movies, but I sure do enjoy listening to it.

At this point, I am having a whole lot of fun repeating things that I hear, but I don't know enough to say anything worthwhile yet. It sounds so beautiful, though.

I want to keep going, so I will continue to watch movies. Right now, I am watching "A Very Long Engagement" for the second time. The first time, this morning, I read the subtitles, so this time I already know what the storyline is, and I can relax and listen away. Perhaps that is cheating a little, but I don't really care. I've been studying Spanish for eleven years now and I still don't always understand movies without the subtitles.

The process is slow-moving, but fun. I would like to take a French class or do what (in Spanish) we call an "intercambio" with someone who speaks fluent, native French and wants to learn some English. Spanish and Portuguese speakers are easy to find around these parts, but I wonder how easy it will be to find French speakers?

I'm getting really good at pronouncing the French "r," by the way.

Au revoir.