Three Girls and a Tree

To anyone who is middle aged, busy with little kids, work, and is wondering about another language, it's possible to learn the basics in 6 months (as long as your willing to spend an hour a day and make mistakes).

My impetus for learning french was a vacation in Quebec. I crammed as much as I could for about 50 days (~100 hours). I went through 4 audio learning French systems, I joined one French "meet-up" session, but I primarily used At the conclusion I spent a wonderful week in and around Quebec City, the heart of French Canada, where I spoke just a little French (mostly because my French was so slow and poor that everyone spoke English back to me). That's not to say it was not valuable to read signs and understand what others were saying, it's more to say that at 100 hours you will be speaking "survival" French. I enjoyed learning enough that I have now finished my tree at 200 days and 250 hours of French. According to Duolingo I can understand ~80% of real French and I took a couple of tests and found my level is A2, my goal is to get to B1, but I will likely take a break first.

I'm not a linguist but here are my French Impressions: -Intermediate Spanish was less helpful than I thought. It's like when I hear people say that being a sibling makes you a better parent, this is only minor help once the baby is born. Maybe I'm learning faster, but don't realize it. -French has more cognates than Spanish, especially if you are well read. These are very helpful, especially in reading. -Modern French grammar is easier than Spanish. For example, they don't use there simple past tense anymore. They have less tenses to use and they are generally easier than Spanish. Yes there are many execptions and yes these exceptions are the common words that you will want to learn, but this is probably to be expected. Also French "always" use articles (the, some), so this would be much easier to learn than English or Spanish which have complicated rules and is not as consistent (IE we don't go on THE Friday). I personally find memorizing gender a pain and I typically get it wrong. I'm glad English dropped this linguistic flair long ago. - French pronunciation is MUCH harder than Spanish. After a day of learning the rules in Spanish I was able to read and be understood by native speakers even if I did not know what I was reading. French pronunciation is much harder, but still easier than English. However, after 250 hours of french (especially DL) you will not be anywhere close to mastering the French pronunciation (eg the elisions). Basically they blend words together and drop a lot of the sounds and as they speak faster they drop even more sounds. DL will not help you with this, I imagine that you will eventually pick this up if you live in the country, but just know that reading will be much easier than speaking.

Resources: - Duolingo is very addictive and fun. I would recommend finishing most of a tree before true immersion. - My favorite audio system was "French In No Time". They have "dialanges" where they will have a story, like the three little pigs, in French and English and as the story repeats itself you get more and more French. It's very easy to pick up the words from the context. - Children books - Holy Bible App: It has (free) hundreds of translations of the bible. You can have one in english (like the NIV) and another in French. I would recommend Bible Parole de Vie. You can read or listen to it. The translation was made for people who speak french as a second language so it has slightly easier grammar and a slightly easier/smaller vocabulary. The reading is more like the radio and very interesting. -Movies (blu-ray) in the US typically have both Spanish and French tracks. To make it easier add english or French subtitles. Just be warned the subtitles don't match the dialog exactly. - Books on tape for some reason are 2-3 times as expensive as Spanish and I have not found any free and interesting pod-casts other than News in Slow French. I was hoping for some stories that weave french and English together or some very basic stories.

Remember even the longest journey began with a first step...

January 5, 2015

  • 1477

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

January 5, 2015

Thanks for the tips and ideas! I identified with your opening sentence, and with your struggles with French... 100 hours in 50 days is pretty impressive!

When you are ready to get back on the cheval, so to speak, I would suggest trying out It's free (at least for now), and a great way to widen your vocabulary in French (they are planning to add other languages later). I immediately thought of it when reading your post, because the addictive thing with Lingvist is that they measure, down to the second, the time you spend learning on the site. For me, this is not addictive enough to go back every single day (whereas the streak on Duolingo does that very well...), but it makes it very, very tempting to do just those 5 minutes more every time you are on there... And it seems you look to track the time you spend.

How did you measure the time you spent learning? Was it just a matter of spending all the free time you had? :-)

January 6, 2015

The first month was a little easier than most because my wife took my daughters on a couple of weekend trips. Otherwise I would not have had so much time. :) I do like to track the time that I'm spending... I do slightly more on the weekend. I have an approximate running total for the month (+/- 10%) Thanks for the lingvist link.

January 8, 2015

Il semble que vous vous y avez amusée. merci pour votre longue explication.

January 5, 2015

whcrkxdmsgozj * Il semble que vous vous êtes bien amusée ;-)

January 5, 2015

oui, j'adore duolingo. Je veux parler bien, mais j'aime les choses intéressantes.

January 5, 2015
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Thanks for the nice review and tips. As for a Spanish podcast: A mi aire on It is also has a French podcast. Level is A2/B1 as they say.


January 7, 2015
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