Just focusing on reading and listening French a good start?
My goal is to be fluent in French, which means all 4 categories (reading, writing, listening, and speaking). But, I find jumping into practicing all 4 can be too time consuming and difficult.
Is it ok if I just start out with practicing the “undertstanding” skills (reading and listening) for a few months, and then jump to the “communicaton” skills (speaking and writing)?
I find it much easier to read a french article or listen to a french podcast during my daily routine. Plus for me, understanding what people say is more important than answering back.
Great question, I am hoping for some lively responses. Here is my take. There is a theory that all grammer and vocabulary come from exposure to the language (look for Stephen Krashen on Youtube). So starting with the understanding skills would be the basis for the production skills. There are others who promote speaking from day 1, but I think this is more because they think having that early experience will be more rewarding for the learner.
I have been focusing solely on the understanding skills, casually for 6 months (30 xp/ day) and seriously for about 14 months (3hrs a day for a while - usually at least an hour) and I can now read French without a dictionary. I am listing to the Da Vinci Code in my car and enjoying it. I think this is awesome. Do I get every word - no way, listening is especially hard. Can I speak the language, no. I think you have to actually work at learning the speaking part, but I feel better about diving into that if I can understand what the other person is saying. I expect to do that fairly soon.
I think that language learners should start speaking from day 1. Obviously no one expects a debutant to be able to speak with good grammar and developed context early on but learning the simple basics, learning how the words are pronounced is critical to speech development. I know too many learners that have many many years of study and cannot speak, and are afraid to speak. What the heck it that? Isn't that the purpose, to be able to communicate with others? I've done it both ways, learning one language from the books, college level classes, podcasts, tv, radio, etc...and the other way, thrown into the deep end without a life jacket to learn by conversing and WOW, what a difference! I can speak near fluency, have really good comprehension (listening and conversing in native tongue is necessary because you hear the common spoken language and actually use it) and write well as I need to, no romans in my future so no worries there. A lot of people have fear of sounding funny, being wrong or not perfect. People will applaud you for trying, so go for it. Bonne chance !
If I were to start with listening, I would repeat the words I'm hearing. Not 100% of the time, but reading a short podcast with a transcript, or reading the Duo sentences aloud.
I do think the people in the "speak from day 1" camp are correct. One of the best ways to learn a word (and be able to ACCESS it!) is to speak it. You don't have to speak with other people, though the nerves and adrenaline help.
I think you're on the right track. My weakest of the four is listening, so my conversation suffers. Listening is a great skill to learn, and a great one to start with.
I think it is okay to start with listening at first... (maybe a few weeks) however in my experience do not leave it to long. The longer you leave it, the more it becomes a 'thing' especially if you know this is your weak point anyways, it is better to practice it extra, not less. I know this because I spent a long time studying French, and can read and understand almost everything, but I really stumble with having even a simple conversation, because I just did not have enough conversational experience outside the classroom. Singing along to songs is a good way to just get used to making the sounds. Like most things, the more you procrastinate, the harder it will seem. Perhaps instead of focusing on reading and writing for months, pick one skill to focus on for a week. There are many ways to practice, karoake along to your favourite songs, watch Sesame street and repeat the dialogue.. etc. Of course, it also depends on your goals, if your main interest is actually just reading and listening than there is not much need to focus on speaking. My main interest is mainly reading, so I don't practice speaking, because it is not really related to my goals. However, if your goal is to have conversations... practice speaking as often as possible.
Others have mentioned it already, but I am also of the opinion that you have to start speaking early on if you want to become fluent. Practice making the sounds with your mouth. This not only improves your speaking skills, but ALSO your comprehension as you listen to other people. If you've tried to form the words out loud, they will stick in your brain better and will jump out at you when you hear someone else say them.
I know two francophones who started learning English but have had very different results. One, a woman, focused nearly entirely on the written aspect. After three years, she writes and understands English fairly well. She doesn't speak it or understand it very well yet. The other, a man, threw himself into speaking right away. He's been learning English for two years and he can hold an engaging conversation all in English, despite his natural shyness. His writing is not as good as the woman's but he is well on his way to becoming fluent.
Honestly, I think talking out loud (alone at first if it is more comfortable) is probably the best way to strengthen all areas, writing, reading, and listening. Start by repeating the phrases on Duolingo and by reading simple children's books, but find a conversation partner as soon as possible. You may feel a bit self-conscious at first, but that gets easier with time. Most native speakers are very understanding and will applaud you for making the effort to learn!
Plus for me, understanding what people say is more important than answering back
then you should start out with the understanding skills, as you suggested.
Based on personal experience, I think conversation is necessary as early on as possible - I wouldn't say 'from day one', but definitely within the first few months. Reading and listening at your leisure and tempo doesn't have the same benefits as being forced to comprehend a speaker in front of you, recall vocabulary and string sentences together in a live conversation.
If you don't know any French speakers in person, I would recommend finding a good language exchange partner on the internet (on places like Hello Talk and Italki), someone you can have phone or skype conversations with on a regular basis.
Good luck and enjoy the process!
Thanks for all the suggestions. It makes sense that speaking complements all the other skills, but not the other way around.
I know I should find a real partner to practice speaking, but since im starting off, I wanna start by using a chatbot. Are there any good ones for French?
I used the duolingo bots, and theyre ok. But they dont get progressively harder.