piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
it is embarrassing how hard it sucks. i mean, i knew it was never very good, and i know if you don't use it you lose it (even your native tongue will start to fade some if you don't use it for decades). but i didn't realize it had atrophied to the point of uselessness.

i don't have anyone to blame but myself. sure, my high school teacher was a drill sergeant with the most horrible accent imaginable (i am all with the japanese on wanting native speakers to teach their kids), and that did not endear french to anyone in my class. when i moved to france and was actually looking forward to fix my accent problems, worked pretty hard on that for a few weeks, and then meekly tried it out, the reaction was unfriendly. which, being as i was not only introverted but also shy and socially anxious, shut me right down. furthermore, i worked for a dutch company in geneva, and while i lived across the border in france, and this might scream "yay, immersion", the apartment complex i lived in was full of lower echelon diplomatic folks from all across the world, and for the most part english was the lingua franca. so i managed to live in france and work in french-speaking switzerland and did not improve my french by much. and once i left, well, that was that. i could kick myself for that now.

the next time i used it was when the paramour and i travelled from ontario to the maritimes, which brought us through quebec. we barely managed to inquire about a hotel room in french. but the reception was ever so much more friendly than it had been in france. same when i travelled to montreal to visit jo; everyone was clearly pleased that i tried to speak french, even though i sucked at it.

i'm pretty sure if i lived in quebec i'd be fluent now. *sigh*. i think it's a shame to make my home in canada and not speak both official languages fluently (i know most people wouldn't care, and i'm not saying they should, but i do). so i decided the next language i tackle ought to be french, and this time i want to speak it from the start, since that turned out to be such a stumbling block last time. but to achieve that, i was arguing that i really need to start from scratch. yet part of me was arguing that -- since i can actually read a french newspaper and get the gist of an article -- that would be a waste of time, and who has time to waste.

then i sat down and tried to describe the room i was in, out loud in french.

yeah -- starting from scratch will not be a waste of time.

i still have to look for a primary textbook. i will mostly use anki for spaced repetition of vocabulary. in the meantime i've started to take basic introductory lessons on both memrise and duolingo.

the progression is very sensible on memrise. basic greetings, please and thank you, pronouns, "to be" and "to have" conjugated with pronouns and negatives and phrased as questions, where you might be from, ordering a few beverages. this is pretty obviously geared towards the traveller, but it's all good stuff to know. if i didn't know the grammar yet, i think i could actually derive some of it from the progression; though the first two verbs conjugated are irregular FWIW. every word is presented to me with translation, in context (albeit tiny context because we don't know a lot of words yet) before i am ever asked a question about it.

on duolingo i got man/woman/boy/girl/child, cat, dress, apple, letter, book, red/black, eat, some pronouns (not all), random presentation of some conjugations of "to be" in a way that wouldn't allow me to easily derive grammatical rules. i learned "rich" and "calm" because they're cognates with english, but i don't really care about cognates at this time -- and neither "rich" nor "calm" are words i feel i need to know in my first 3 lessons. i am also not taught each word, instead new words are introduced in some context, and i could click on anything underlined to get the translation (i don't need to, but a beginner would have to click a lot). i know why they're doing this; there is a new school of thought that claims it's better if you learn a new language without resorting to your native tongue at all. i think there is some merit to that -- but not at the very start. learning a new language is incredibly frustrating at the start, and not having translation at all makes it even harder at the very time when people are the most insecure and need the most encouragement. duolingo feels incredibly messy, and i have no idea who the target population is supposed to be, because who needs those words at the start?

technically duolingo gets one point -- images help anchor vocabulary; i wish memrise had those (though duolingo's images are not particularly good; not simple representations on a clean background, but like they're taken randomly from google images and shrunk down). the interface is cleaner on memrise, progression to the next item is automatic while in a lesson (duolingo makes me click too much). the types of exercises vary slightly; i like memrise's a little better. duolingo makes me type a lot of english translation (thanks, i already know how to write english), memrise always uses a different exercise type when i have to translate into english, i only type french. memrise speaks everything for me without me having to click on anything. oh! worst of all, duolingo uses a synthesized voice which does not sound particularly natural to me, while memrise uses recordings of different native speakers.

i vastly prefer memrise overall. interestingly enough, firecat let me know that memrise lessons are written by the community. i don't know who writes duolingo's, but i'd not be hiring them. well, this is just for french; firecat had the opposite impression in spanish. when i have some extra time i might check out some other languages.

on 2015-06-11 04:55 (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] redbird
I'm not sure how new that school of thought is. Back in the 1970s, my intro Spanish textbook and my brother's intro Latin book both started with text in the target language, leaning on cognates. So the Spanish one began with something like "Hola, Miguel. Que estudies?" and the Latin book starts "Roma in Italia est. Italia in Europa est," relying on the student having had that much geography to introduce "est" for "is." Even at the time I thought the Spanish dialogue that ended with "I am studying lesson 1" was a bit twee, but it worked.

One of the first sentences we were taught in Spanish was "Como se dice en español $English_word?" Then, if we asked that in Spanish, the teacher would tell us how to say "grape" or "desk" or "railroad" (whether or not we'd already had those words in class), but "How do you say 'grape' in Spanish?" wouldn't get an answer.

on 2015-06-11 09:10 (UTC)
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Posted by [personal profile] liv
I've played a bit with both, and I agree that Memrise is a more usable site, particularly because Duolingo just has too many clicks. On Duolingo I've mostly been playing with the user-created Swedish course, and not any of the officially provided languages like French. My experience with Swedish has been less annoying than yours with French, the people who created the course have tried to be a bit systematic, but probably still not systematic enough to infer the grammar. I agree the synthetic voice is really annoying; in Swedish it doesn't get the tones right.

I think the courses on Memrise are user-created too, so it really depends on getting a decently written one; sounds like you got lucky with French. Certainly the one I was playing with (beginner Arabic) did have pictures. And you can associate your own images with words, or use images associated by other users. I found that to be the real strength of the site.

on 2015-06-11 10:52 (UTC)
green_knight: (Konfuzius)
Posted by [personal profile] green_knight
Thank you for writing this up in detail; I really want to start learning Japanese again when I have some time and spoons for it; because I want to go back, and next time, I don't want to feel illiterate. I haven't yet worked out how to learn languages - a lot of approaches don't gel with me, so there's obviously something I need that they don't provide.

on 2015-06-11 20:53 (UTC)
ephemera: celtic knotwork style sitting fox (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] ephemera
Yay for language learning! (If I ever find myself in a situation where I think I mihght be able to say something relevant in my limited French would random French comments be welcome on your posts?)


piranha: red origami crane (Default)
renaissance poisson

July 2015

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