jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2016

MercatorNet: Learning French, with a little help from my friends

MercatorNet: Learning French, with a little help from my friends

Learning French, with a little help from my friends

Learning French, with a little help from my friends

Unsuspected resources for mastering a language
Campbell Markham | Sep 1 2016 | comment 
We’ve all seen the books: “French in Ten Days!” “Learn French – It’s Easy!” …that kind of thing. We know it’s all mockery and snake-oil. For unless you are blessed with a French mother, learning a language like French, like learning a musical instrument, takes years of hard work and practice. Certainly I have no gift for languages; everything comes hard.
Having said that, here’s something that I’ve discovered that has made learning French a bit less difficult: reading friendly texts in French. Here are three of mes amis:  
Premier Ami, La Bible. I started on French with a beginner’s text book, learned basically how French nouns and verbs work, and memorised a starting vocabulary. From this shaky start I started reading a French Bible. In a burst of optimism, I bought La Bible en Français Courant six years ago, and started reading a bit each day from the gospels. Being familiar with this, I was able to “reverse engineer” the text to work out what the French words must mean. I experienced the enjoyable illusion of “reading French”, all the while rapidly learning new vocab and sentence structures.
Later I found the 19th Century translation, La Bible Louis Segond. (Louis Segond was a Swiss pastor who translated the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek.) I discovered that the older French, being far less colloquial and idiomatic, was correspondingly much more simple to read. If I had known, I would have started with the Segond’s translation. Here’s a sample:
L’Eternel est mon berger: je ne manquerai de rien.
Il me fait reposer dans de verts pâturages, Il me dirige près des eaux paisibles.
Il restaure mon âme.
Un berger must be a shepherd. Manquer is to miss or lack. Reposer is rest, diriger is to conduct or lead. Un âme is a soul, etc.
Deuxième Ami, Les nouvelles (Les actualités). I discovered the wonderful free DuoLingo app about four years ago, and diligently worked through the French course over about twelve months. This taught me a lot more vocab and grammar in a very pleasant format. At the same time, I downloaded Le Point, a French news app. Some articles I found far too hard: especially political news and opinion pieces. But some articles, especially the report of a world event, or the description of a new movie or product, I found relatively easy. It is the context that helps. If you know that the story is about a battle in Syria then the words soldats, guerre, mort, attaquer, tuer et blesser are going to be sadly recognisable. If you are reading a film review, then the words jouer, directeur, une affiche, un billet, un acteur, une actrice, et un film d’amour will also be readily understood. The known context is a very helpful hook.
Troisième Ami, les livres classiques. Recently I started ploughing through the dry-as-dust ‘French Verb Drills’ by de Roussy de Sales. He works you through long lists of verbs in their spoken and (never spoken) literary forms. At the same time, I started reading Les Cinq Filles de Mrs Bennet (Orgueil et Préjugés). There you go, two more words. It is an old translation, into plain unidiomatic and literary French, of a book that I have read in English four or five times. You will recognise this straight away:
C'est une vérité universellement reconnue qu’un célibataire pourvu d'une belle fortune doit avoir envie de se marier.
Here is a wealth of words for the reader familiar with Jane Austen’s classic: vérité (truth),reconnue (recognise), que (that) un célibataire (a bachelor), doit (must), avoir envie (desire) and so on. And so I have the pleasure all at once of reading French, of reading an old favourite through new eyes, and of learning a whole heap of language at the same time (in conjunction with my dusty Verb Drills!)
For me, simple language immersion is hopeless. Hours of reading French texts—on its own—will get me nowhere. But with a bit of prior hard work on lists of vocabulary and verb tables, you will make rapid process with a little help from your friends: texts that you can hook into because you know them really well, or because you have a reasonable grasp of the context.
The next step for me? Watching the French news on SBS to train my ears, and then one day, when time and money permits, the dream of spending three months in France to get the speaking going and to consolidate all that I have learned. In the meantime, Je vais continuer á profiter de mes livres préférés en français!
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania.


Talk about hurtful and offensive language! One of the worst insults you can hurl at your enemies is "enemy of science". It's a tactic designed to make them look like gibbering cave men. However, as law professor Gerald Bradley argues today, if anyone is an enemy of science, it is President Obama. In his opinion, "in spite of his triumphalist advertisement of fidelity to scientific fact, Obama has sacrificed the well-being of our nation’s youth on the altar of ideology." A great read.

Michael Cook 



President Obama’s sex-driven war on science

By Gerard V. Bradley
The well-being of America's youth is being sacrificed on the altar of ideology

Read the full article
Section 18C is too broad and too vague, and should be repealed

By Lorraine Finlay, Augusto Zimmermann and Joshua Forrester
Australia's Racial Discrimination Act casts too wide a net

Read the full article
Why has Japan’s massacre of disabled gone unnoticed?

By Rachel Adams
Mass killings in Paris, Nice, Orlando, Kabul and Baghdad draw world-wide attention. Japan's tragedy vanished

Read the full article
Learning French, with a little help from my friends

By Campbell Markham
Unsuspected resources for mastering a language

Read the full article
New study finds couples unable to have as many children as they want

By Shannon Roberts
Family planning should not mean family restriction.

Read the full article
How did UTexas sociologist Mark Regnerus get to be so hated?

By Denyse O'Leary
A study of gay parenting exploded when it hit the media

Read the full article
Evicting religious voices from the public square is anti-democratic and discriminatory

By Margaret Somerville
Interrogate belief systems; don’t dismiss them

Read the full article
Surprising findings about humanity’s environmental footprint

By Marcus Roberts
It's not necessarily linked to population or economic growth.

Read the full article
7 reasons why Australia needs a plebiscite on same-sex marriage

By Michael Cook
Democratic politics is all about debating controversial ideas

Read the full article
Ben-Hur: why classical movies are no longer truly epic

By Amanda Potter
We should look to science fiction for today's epics, rather than films set in the ancient world.

Read the full article
Getting America onto the right track

By Carolyn Moynihan
A few things have improved, says a Heritage report, but the moral ecology is fragile.

Read the full article

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