Is this typical progress?
I am a week or so (at my pace) off completing level 25 in French and am a few xp off level 17 of my reverse tree (english from french). I have all the achievement badges, have done all the french stories and always complete the available chatbot conversations. I started DL 186 days ago but had been learning some of the very basics before then. I am motivated, but worry that I am not progressing. I struggle to understand anything spoken and am petrified of speaking french :(
I understand your feelings completely. I use Memrise a lot to add vocabulary and use Pimsleur CDs in my car when I drive to work to help with how to pronounce words, but I find myself hesitating to actually talk to anyone. So I'm talking to my dogs in French. They don't seem to mind. It helps build up my confidence. I'm planning on listening to Slow French News on Youtube and a few more things like that to help with comprehension. I have found that I can easily follow French subtitles in movies, but understanding the actors is a bit difficult, although I'm expecting that to improve eventually too.
You are certainly progressing; otherwise you wouldn't be able to cope with the tree and, above all, with the reverse tree! Congrats on these achievements! :-)
In language learning, there are several skills to be obtained; Duolingo focuses a lot on reading and writing. Listening and speaking is a bit harder to implement (and to learn, at least for me).
My suggestion would be that you look for short videos on YouTube in order to improve your listening skills. I think it's just a matter of exposure and training. Well, about that being petrified -- I know exactly what you mean. :-) You may try talking to yourself, to get more confidence, and at some point you simply have to overcome this feeling.
Always remember: When you speak to a French person in French, you are the one who makes this conversation possible by having learned the language! I hope that in this frame, the mistakes that you may make (will certainly make, as any language learner!) will lose their importance. It's much more important to be able to speak to people from a different country and learn about their culture and their way of thinking.
That is actually normal. We all have varying levels of apprehension when contemplating an actual conversation in a new language. It doesn't matter how much you study when it comes to the moment of truth.
Now obviously the easiest answer with little thought put into it would be to just get out there and power through your timidness! I mean, how can you learn if you don't push yourself?
With a little more thought into it we can change the variables concerning your first several conversations in French. I speak 4 languages now including French so I tell you from experience that native speakers of your target language or native bilinguals who have never learned a language as an adult are horrible help! One might think they would be the best option but their lack of understanding the difficulty your facing makes them unable to understand why you don't just understand something. You need to change the conditions of your encounters by finding people in the same boat as you. I would recommend apps like Tandem or HelloTalk that allow you to have conversations with native speakers of your target language who are learning English now! They are often just as nervous as you because English can be difficult. But until you get better at speaking your best bet will be other learners. With all that said, as in the prior paragraph, you're going to have to get out there and push through your timidness.
Another option, if available, would be meetup language groups. This does require you to come out in person and talk face to face with others, but it has worked wonders for me. The first few times there is that awesome feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness as you realize "Holey sheet! I'm really doing it!" And I'm so happy that I've had these experiences but equally happy they're done. If you have the opportunity to attend a language group, keep in mind everyone there is usually helpful and understanding of whatever problem you're facing. Groups help lift each other up, not put each other down. I realized after the first few groups that my nervousness was quite an overreaction. People helped me, they explained how to understand concepts I didn't quite get, I could ask questions and somebody would always know an answer. When I just wanted to listen they accepted that.
Now I recommend you also go on YouTube and find someone like learn French with Alexa to get some practice listening to French. Maybe find some music you like and you can find translations at lyricstranslate.com. You can get the RadioFM app and listen to radiofeeds from France.
We all have those moments where we feel we're not progressing but it's like hitting plateaus at the gym - eventually you'll power through them. Confidence in speaking will be gained by a collection of positive experiences and victories but at some point you really will just have to get out there and do it, to hell with being petrified. But you can mitigate these feelings by controlling what types of experiences you'll have, especially in the beginning. As a man who actually walks the walk I have a meetup this Sunday for a 2 hour Spanish group followed by.... a 2 hour French group! Oh mon dieu! Will El Gusano survive?!? Of course he will! And so will lesley744824! Bonne chance!
Personally, I'm moving through the tree slowly. However, that's because I want to make sure I know a good amount of stuff before moving on. I always do at least one strengthening activities or practices for each day I do duolingo. If there's something you get a lot wrong on, practice that more. It'll help
also try watching videos online for listening and speaking! (the duolingo bots aren't always the best)
What a great post. This is a great topic.
All of our language journies are different. However I find mine quite similar to yours, except I have been learning languages for longer. And I think the others so far who have replied, and my - what great replies ! have identified the key common issue, being confidence. And also have made some great suggestions I agree with whole heartedly.
I dread when I need to make a phone call to listen and speak in French. Yet I muddle through it.
I love it when I get to spend time in France, and attend local events, and go down to the "Sports Bar". To listen to snippets of conversation around me. And even join in. Though I return home and I feel soooooooo tiered.
When I go to Dinner parties - un diner ce soir , I come equipped with pen(s), and note pad ( or more ) and a couple of dictionaries. When the conversation drifts into complicated subjects, both the French and I often can be known to refer to the dictionary to help explain things, or write words down for me.
In conversations I find these phases the most important.
Can you speak more slowly please ? : Pouvez-vous parler plus lentement s'il vous plaît.
I am learning French. : J'apprends à parler français.
More slowly please. : Plue lentement, s'il vous plait.
Can you repeat that ? : Vous pouvez répéter ?
Would you write that down. Voulez-vous écrire cela ? (of course offering paper and pen with a smile.)
And as well as lots of pleases, to also include Merci. Merci beaucoup.
I need them to write it down, as often I am not understanding the spoken word. Yet when I see it in writing, I understand.
In class, we are doing more dictation. I highly recommend it.
Another thing that is great to do, and I get to do in France, is attend coffee get-togethers. Where French wanting to learn English and English speakers wanting to learn French meet.
We often play games. And games are FANTASTIC. They often make you laugh, and also re-enforce a certain topic. And they put you on the spot - which is good. There is a marvelous teacher in our region who makes these games up.
Anyway, you should check out events as well.
Remember, to have fun with your learning. That the best communication is your smile, combined with an attitude of seeking and politeness. People are often so kind to me and encourage me. And I try to contribute and not be a burden.
It is a wonderful adventure to be on.
ooooh I have also found these discussion I think are interesting :
- Can we brainstorm ways to practice speaking, if you can't Skype, and you have no native speakers?
- How Speaking With A Native Becomes (And Remains) Tricky
- Ahhhh.... The Fear Of Speaking In A Foreign Language !
Please add others you find interesting on this topic :)
It is though all steps.
A bit like a dance.
Sometimes you go forwards,
Then take lots of steps back.
Yes is a journey,
And not an end destination.
Yet a journey unique,
Full of fascination.
You may start with reading,
And then typing and writing.
Creating notes on subjects,
That pile in towers.
Yet slowly by practice,
Listening and speaking,
Not giving up,
Remembering about smiling.
You find you have progress,
And memories too,
Of this grand magic journey,
That lets me know of you.
So start with the reading,
Don't hesitate typing,
Remember to listen,
And be bold in your speaking.
Play games, and laugh,
Learn with a flourish,
Keep going my friend,
Surtout - bon courage ! ༠
I have been at this 432 days now and am still learning. I do think I now "generally" know grammar rules and proper sentence structures but still make errors from time to time. In this regard, I have found that reading the discussions is of great help in learning the "whys" of the language. With regard to speaking and listening, there's really no shortcut to actually doing it. I did an immersion in Britanny for a week in August with a teacher and it helped boost my confidence tremendously. First, she stopped me from trying to think of full sentences before speaking. She said just go, as we do in our native language. She said that if I got stuck, to engage the listener in keeping the conversation going by asking "how do you say" or "what is the word for" or by saying "j'ai un trou de memoire (I have a hole in my memory). Those devices give you time to think - and as importantly shift some of the burden to the listener to keep the conversation going. In this regard, she said as long as you were "communicating" absolutely correct grammar was unnecessary - that the listener might not even notice errors. She added the one killer of a conversation was dead silence. So engage, be bold and go for it!
(I concur with the other great suggestions here on other ways to improve your skills. I add listeningpractice.org to practice verb conjugations and lyricstraining.com where you can listen to French songs and "pick out" missing words - it's a lot of fun. Check out the singer Zaz, I like her songs)
I feel quite the same for some of the languages I've studied. For me, Duolingo made sure a large part of the language is in my head - obviously some parts are buried deeper than others, depending on how much I practise. This already allows me to read and write in those languages quite well. However, the listening exercises are simpler than listening to a real conversation for example. To really be able to understand long series of sentences, some form of immersion is required.
Watching videos (preferrably with subtitles in English or even in the target language itself) extensively is a great way to train your listening skills from behind your computer or phone.
Either way, I definitely wouldn't worry about your situation. Every time you learn with Duolingo, you're making progress. This progress will just be more noticeable in certain skills compared to others.
Wow guys, some super advice and tips. You people are great. I have been using other resources but I am going to try all those suggested. I had started to talk to myself in French but it felt a bit weird! Now it doesn't seem so crazy when other people are suggesting it :) I do things like describe to myself what I see out of the window. It snowed overnight in the UK so I have a different scene to describe this morning!
I am going to France on vacation for 5/6 weeks in June. I am going to really ramp up my listening and speaking before then so I really get the most out of the opportunity to converse there. I am quite shy/nervous with strangers and the fear of making mistakes makes that even worse. Getting more confident with the language would make everything less daunting.
For anyone else in my position, a few of my favorite resources that are not often cited on the discussions here:
www.innerfrench.com - really interesting 30 minute podcasts with a guy whose voice is the equivalent to chocolate (for women lol). Full french text made available too. He speaks slowly but it still flows if you know what I mean, it doesn't feel obviously slow. I can currently understand quite a lot of the podcasts if I follow with the text but I quickly get lost without the text.
www.podclub.ch - interesting but shorter podcasts with full texts about France and French culture (other Swiss languages too). As above, I have to use the text at the moment but I am going to try wean myself off them.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFu6uJDqU_6vCIyN9KpMPLg I can understand quite a bit of what this French teacher says, although she says voila far too often! lol. She had a good set of grammar lessons on her channel and some interesting other videos.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF572T7F6ydlziihabFL8jA I like these two, they are very friendly and their content isn't all in French. I find you learn more if you 'like' the people if that makes sense.
Anyway, thanks to all of you for your kind words :)