vendredi 28 août 2009

Mulan : Réflexion (Reflection)

Here's a lovely and short song that was really easy for me to translate:

Non, jamais je ne serais faite pour le mariage
Ni une fille bien sage
Je le sais cette vie n'est pas pour moi
J'ai compris que si je veux rester ce que je suis
Mes parents seront meurtris

Quel est donc ce mirage, cette image sans visage ?
Pourquoi miroir réfléchis-tu sans me voir ?
Je cherche en ma mémoire
Qui je suis pour savoir
Perdu dans ces réflexions
Où mon âme s'égare
Dans mon miroir d'illusions
Quelle fille je vais voir !

No I will never be made for marriage
Nor (am I) a wise girl
I know (it) this life is not for me
I understood that if I want to stay what I am
My parents will be wounded (bruised/scarred)

What is, therefore, this mirage? This image without (a) face?
Why mirror, you reflect without seeing me?
I search in my memory
Who I am to know
Lost in these reflections
Where my soul has mislaid itself
In my mirror of illusions
What girl am I going to see?

8 weeks of learning French

It's been 8 weeks since I started learning French and I think I've come leaps and bounds since I first started. Yay! I'm almost at the 2 month mark. I've gone back and re-read children's books and song lyrics that I didn't understand at all before, but now I can get more of it. WIth shorter/simpler songs I can even understand the whole thing without looking up any words! Woo!

So far I have:

  • Done up to the end of Pimsleur French - Level II Lesson 13 (of 90 lessons)

  • Done up to the end of Coffee Break French - Lesson 21 (of 64 lessons)

  • Done up to the end of Assimil - Lesson 18 (of 113 lessons)

  • Done up to the end of French in Action - Lesson 5 (of 52 lessons)

I also installed this cool progress bar to help keep track of my progress. You can click the link of you want to put one up on your blog too.

I have done a LOT this because I want to become fluent ASAP.. or not even necessarily fluent.. just good enough to understand and carry on a conversation with someone, and be able to read a simple book, magazine/newspaper article or website without resorting to a dictionary.

mercredi 26 août 2009

Le Chat au Chapeau - The Cat in the Hat - Dr Seuss

Cat in the Hat in English and French (Le Chat Au Chapeau)

I bought a copy of "Le Chat au Chapeau" / "The Cat in the Hat" / by Dr. Seuss written in both French and French.
When I first got it I could hardly understand any of it.

But after putting it away and then getting it out again the other day, I couldn't believe that I could grasp the storyline better. The reason why I didn't understand it the first time (when I had only just started learning French) is because the book is mostly written in the past tense, using the passé composé . I learnt it in the Teach Yourself French Starter Kit.. basically

(Pronoun) have (verb)
eg - J'ai mangé (I have eaten / I ate)
Tu as mangé (You have eaten / You ate)
Il/Elle a mangé (He/She has eaten / He/She ate)
Nous avons mangé (We have eaten / We ate)
Vous avez mangé (You have eaten / You ate)
Ils/Elles ont mangé (They have eaten / They ate)

The verb is in the imperfect form, which mostly has the acute accent over the last e (é)

The book is aimed at children aged 4-8 :)

Here are a few passages from the book:

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day.

Le soleil ne brillait pas,
Et c'était trop mouillé pour aller jouer.
Alors nous sommes restés assis à la maison
Pendant toute cette journée froide et humide.

My own literal translation:

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to go (and) play
So we stayed sitting in the house
During that cold and humid day


Here's a tricky sentence:

Votre mère n'y verra rien à redire si je vous les montre

they translated it as:

Your mother will not mind at all if I do.


Regardez-moi! Regardez-moi!
Regardez-moi maintenant!
C'est amusant de s'amuser
Mais il faut savoir comment faire.
Je peux porter la tasse,
Et le lait, et le gâteau!
Je peux porter es livres!
Et le poisson sur un râteau!
Je peux porter le petit bateau
Et un petit bonhomme!
Et regardez! Avec ma queue
Je peux tenir un éventail rouge!
Je peux m'éventer avec l'éventail
Tout en sautant á cloche-pied sur le ballon!
Mais ce n'est pas tout.
Oh, non.
Ce n'est pas tout...

Look at me! Look at me!
Look at me now1
It is fun to have fun
But you have to know how.
I can hold up the cup
And the milk and the cake!
I can hold up these books!
And the fist on a rake!
I can hold the toy ship
And a little toy man!
And look! With my tail
I can hold a red fan!
I can fan with the fan
As I hope on the ball
But that is not all.
Oh, no.
That is not all...


I counted approx 79 words that were new to me of the 230 or so words. A few nouns, but mostly verbs. A lot of them just seemed unfamiliar because they were not in the present tense form.

In a few weeks I hope to be able to read it all and understand it without needing a dictionary and also to be able to translate from one to the other!

lundi 24 août 2009

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

I've been looking for this sort of information and after browsing around I came up with this table. I have quoted a wide range of hours because, obviously, the amount of time it takes to learn the language depends on your time frame, your schedule, your passion/motivation, prior knowledge of other languages, etc etc..

I am pretty sure I know at least 500 words by now (Teach Yourself French starter kit quotes 250 words and I'm sure I've picked up at least 2-300 from Michel Thomas and Pimsleur, I have a big sheet of paper stuck to the outside of my glass shower screen with over 100 words on it, I've learnt over 100 new vocab with Assimil... so I'm pretty sure I've passed the 500 mark! I haven't been keeping tabs but estimate that I've been studying for around 40 hours.

Learning vocab is the easy part though. Grammar is the hard part!!

I hope to be at A2 level by the end of this year, at least.
I'm guessing it would take the average dedicated person about 6 months - 1 year to do each of the A, B and C levels, so approx. 1.5-3 years for full proficiency. Probably quicker if you were living in the country and slower if you weren't dedicated or didn't have much spare time to spend studying.

This table is created by me!
LevelProficiencyHours of studyApprox no. of wordsAge (native speaker)French schoolBritish School
A1Breakthrough60-150 hoursapprox 500 words6-7CPYears (grades) 1-2
A2Waystage100-300 hoursapprox 1000-1200 words7-9CE1-CE2Years 3-4
B1Threshold200-450 hoursapprox 2000 words9-11CM1-CM2Years 5-6
B2Vantage400-700 hoursapprox 2500 words11-14College (6th, 5th, 4th)Years 7-9
C1Effective operational proficiency600-1000 hoursapprox 3000 words14-16College (3rd)-Lycée (2nd)Years 10-11
C2Mastery800-1500 hoursapprox 3500 words16-17Lycée (1st)Year 12

dimanche 23 août 2009

French in Action - French learning fun from the 80s with Capretz and Yale

I have been trying to get this for AGES.

It's a French course created by this guy Pierre Capretz and Yale university, WGBH and Wellesley College with funding from Annenberg/CPB, in 1987. Even though it's so old it's still used today because it's so good and effective and almost has a cult-like status. I have read heaps of reviews about it and almost everyone loves it.

Apparently in the US it's been playing on normal TV for years.. and people don't even realize it's actually a course, they think it's a tv show. But I've never seen it.

The thing that makes it special or interesting is that it's 'total immersion'. There are no explanations or anything in English. The whole thing is in French and it's up to you to figure out what's going on and what means what (a bit like how a child learns a language). There is a storyline - an American guy goes to Paris and falls in love with a French girl. Apparently it was quite scandalous because actress, Valérie Allain is blonde and very attractive and never wore a bra, and apparently later went on to star in some porn films! She reminds me a bit of Andrea Elson from ALF because it's filmed in the same era and she wears the same sort of clothes, and has a similar hairstyle, and is pretty, skinny and tall.

So although the videos screen for free in most places and even online on their website.. I can't view it outside North America and have been dying to see it. It took me so long to even think about looking for it on YouTube. I found Episode 1 (the introduction) and episode 2 and that was it. But then I saw that yesterday the user had uploaded episodes 3 and 4! Woohoo.

Man those clothes from the 80s are a crack up!!

It's obvious they are all actors (because some don't seem very good at it! like the woman who plays her aunt) and there is a comedic element, which is part of the reason why it's so popular, I think.

You're supposed to do 1 lesson per week, making it take about a year (or over 2 years in high school). But I don't want to take that long! I want to do it in 3-6 months if I can.

If one hadn't done any French prior and watched the first lesson (episode 2).. OMG it would seem soooo hard and incomprehensible!!

But then I realized that episodes 3 and 4 are easier to understand than 2 because the story doesn't start until episode 3 and I actually had no problems understanding, even though I only watched them once.

What else? After you watch each video (20mins or so) you're supposed to then listen to an audio recording with questions and answer them in a workbook. There is also a texbook which is a transcript of the video plus a bit more information. So altogether there are 5 parts:

1. the video
2. textbook (basically a transcript summary of the video, plus some more information and pictures)
3. audio exercises
4. workbook (for the audio exercises)
5. study guide

I don't know know what the workbook or study guide looks like but I managed to find a PDF transcript of the video online... I think the whole package - if you were to buy it all - would actually cost over US$900! :(

It's actually really really intensive and they really test your listening and reading comprehension, as well as writing of course.. not sure about speaking. But because there are no translations in English you do learn to pick it up yourself rather than being spoonfed.

I hope that person uploads more episodes on YouTube, and then I'll probably get the textbook and consider getting the audio exercises/workbook. I can't wait to watch more episodes though, because I've heard so many good things about it and besides, it's just hilarious to watch!

C'est vraiment drôle!

I'm going to embed Episode 3 (part 1) here because that's where the story actually starts...

French conversation practice - social networking for language learners

Social networking for language learners

I've recently joined the social networks Live Mocha, iTalki and Palabea but I've yet to talk to a real life French person!

Anyway, yesterday I met up with a friend (he's actually a friend of a friend, un ami d'une amie :) ) to practise my French. Now, he's just a Sydneysider like me so not a native speaker but he's been learning it on/off for many years and classifies himself at approximately C1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). At first I couldn't understand a thing he said because he was going too fast but also because of his Australian accent. I've only allowed myself to listen to native speakers' accents so it's hard to understand someone when they don't have it. I actually felt some sympathy and understanding of why, when people some have learnt British or American English (ESL) and come to Australia (even my parents!) and then realise they can't understand a thing anyone is saying!

I had heaps and heaps of fun. It helps that his job is actually a teacher (of high school students) so he is good at explaining things. Because, just because someone can speak a language, does not mean they can teach it!

I was having conversations like a 5 year old but meh, it was super fun and fantastique! It is really different speaking to a real life person as opposed to noone or a CD/MP3 soundtrack.

Meanwhile, I've finished Michel Thomas (boohoo) and the Teach Yourself French Starter Kit, and done up to Lesson 12 of Assmil!

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