Learning French in three months Watch

bret
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Can anyone recommend a good textbook that I can read over the summer to get my French proficiency up to an A standard at A level--in other words, the kind of fluency people enter Cambridge MML degrees with? I got an A* at GCSE, but I'm 24 now and remember very little of those classes, let alone verb constructions etc. Who knows, some of it might come back to me.

I pretty much have the whole summer to do this. I can go to France if need be, and have an allowance to take classes, but I'd much rather just sit down every night with a 700 page textbook and teach myself.
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james99
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You can't learn a language just by reading a textbook. For starters you'll have no idea how to speak it, so when it comes to your MML interview in the foreign language you'll probably get laughed at.

If you'd organised it early enough, you could have done work experience in France this summer which would have helped. Almost certainly too late for that now though. Erm....don't know what to suggest really, what you want to do isn't really possible. You could try looking for a French tandem partner who wants to learn English, then chat on skype in French? Hand in hand with a good textbook obviously.
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Muppety_Kid
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(Original post by james99)
You can't learn a language just by reading a textbook. For starters you'll have no idea how to speak it, so when it comes to your MML interview in the foreign language you'll probably get laughed at.

If you'd organised it early enough, you could have done work experience in France this summer which would have helped. Almost certainly too late for that now though. Erm....don't know what to suggest really, what you want to do isn't really possible. You could try looking for a French tandem partner who wants to learn English, then chat on skype in French? Hand in hand with a good textbook obviously.
www.sharedtalk.com is OK, although most of them are complete novices who don't speak French, or aren't too willing to commit (myself included!).

However, how much have you got to spend? Michel Thomas has a great set of CDs - the "French with Michel Thomas" one takes 8 hours and is about £50, and there's an "Advanced French" one (not sure what that is exactly) that's a further 5 hours and about another £50. I've also got the French Language Builder that I've never used, probably since it seems to be repeating the vocabulary I've learned in class, so that might be advantageous.

I appreciate that this sounds like A LOT of money, but depending on why you want to learn French, it might be worthwhile. I know I've certainly found it beneficial, but if you're learning French as a hobby, maybe it's a little too expensive to be justifiable.

Anyway, hope this helps. Feel free to quote/PM if you'd like to know more.
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Joanna May
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It's not happening in three months, unless you go to a good language school in France for all of that time and spend every minute working HARD, both inside and outside lessons. Even then, I doubt you'd be at A-level standard, since you'd be trying to cram two years of GCSE and two years of A-level into three months. Also, Oxbridge tend to want an actual qualification, because a lot of the course is based on French culture, which you won't get much of in a language school. If you worked hard enough, you could probably be fairly good in time for an interview NEXT year?
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bret
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Just to clarify, I'm not applying for MML. I went to Cambridge and knew MMLers and think that's about the proficiency I'd like to be at.

The reason I need to learn French is because of departmental requirements at the university I currently teach at. All faculty members--even adjunct professors--need to speak a foreign language. I don't have this skill and thought the summer would be a good time to get this done.

50 GBP does seem a lot of money for a few CDs. That's why I thought a book would be better value. I can learn vocab pretty easily. I just need to learn how to construct sentences.
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xmarilynx
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I think you're under-estimating the difficulty of learning a language to be honest, OP. I know you have a GCSE in French, but being 8 years ago I assume most will have been forgotten, and you're essentially trying to cram 2 years GCSE, 2 years A Level, and arguably another 2 years pre-GCSE into one summer from a textbook. Also, the Cambridge MMLers will be a very, very high A Level standard and will have gone far beyond the A Level course before even entering Cambridge.

Edit: Oh, you're a :troll: It all makes sense now!
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james99
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(Original post by xmarilynx)

Edit: Oh, you're a :troll: It all makes sense now!
How is he a troll? :confused:

Seems to me like he's being serious, if not a bit over-optimistic.
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bret
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I'm not a troll. None of my posts, be they on H&R or elsewhere, have been trolling.

The reason I mentioned MMLers was because they will have gotten As at A-level, and from what I could tell were all fluent and able to read French/ Spanish literature at the outset of their courses. I'm not so much interested in learning about cultural nuances as I am simply getting a working knowledge of the language. Would learning how to read French to a fairly high level be possible in three months?
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james99
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(Original post by bret)
I'm not a troll. None of my posts, be they on H&R or elsewhere, have been trolling.

The reason I mentioned MMLers was because they will have gotten As at A-level, and from what I could tell were all fluent and able to read French/ Spanish literature at the outset of their courses. I'm not so much interested in learning about cultural nuances as I am simply getting a working knowledge of the language. Would learning how to read French to a fairly high level be possible in three months?
No, sorry, I really don't think it would be. I think in three months you can expect to reach GCSE standard again, you'll remember words and phrases that you learnt at school, you'll be able to string simple sentences together, and you'll be able to read to a basic level. I reckon in 5 or 6 months, with a good textbook (I can't recommend any though, unfortunately), you'd be able to read intermediate French texts. To be able to read "to a fairly high level", i.e. books or newspapers, would take even longer.
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bret
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(Original post by james99)
No, sorry, I really don't think it would be. I think in three months you can expect to reach GCSE standard again, you'll remember words and phrases that you learnt at school, you'll be able to string simple sentences together, and you'll be able to read to a basic level. I reckon in 5 or 6 months, with a good textbook (I can't recommend any though, unfortunately), you'd be able to read intermediate French texts. To be able to read "to a fairly high level", i.e. books or newspapers, would take even longer.
OK. Do you know if local colleges in the UK do adult learning classes? I'd like to progress at a rather quick pace though, as you may have noticed.
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NatR123
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Forget the textbook and just go to France I'm taking A Level at the moment and our teacher said that really and truly, it's not right learning a language from books. You just need to go out there and learn it from the people Which is what I wish I could have done. I'm going to uni in September to study French and I would love to go to France this summer so that I don't forget anything!
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xmarilynx
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(Original post by james99)
How is he a troll? :confused:

Seems to me like he's being serious, if not a bit over-optimistic.
Oh, maybe not then. I just saw they were in the red and had a quick scan of the threads s/he'd started and they looked a bit dubious - 'am I racist?'; 'should I shag a 43 year old bird?' etc. :dontknow:
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james99
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(Original post by bret)
OK. Do you know if local colleges in the UK do adult learning classes? I'd like to progress at a rather quick pace though, as you may have noticed.
Yeah, local colleges are a good bet. Also universities if you live near any. I know my university runs intensive language courses around this time of year.

The advantage of these is obviously that you get proper teaching, so will progress better than just reading a text book. The disadvantage is that they're usually quite expensive. Also, the courses will focus significantly on speaking; not so much on reading and writing.

I suppose with a combination of intensive courses, self-teaching, maybe a couple of weeks in France - you could progress quite quickly. It might be a good idea to see how much you actually can remember. Try looking at a GCSE practise paper or something.
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Joanna May
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(Original post by NatR123)
Forget the textbook and just go to France I'm taking A Level at the moment and our teacher said that really and truly, it's not right learning a language from books. You just need to go out there and learn it from the people Which is what I wish I could have done. I'm going to uni in September to study French and I would love to go to France this summer so that I don't forget anything!
To be honest, going to France isn't that much of a help if you're either at quite a high level already (like I presume you are as an A level student) or have next to nothing like the OP. Living in France is only really a properly useful tool for improving your skills if you're at an intermediate level and want to become more fluent conversationally, or you're a nervous speaker. I lived in France for four months last year and the only difference was that I became more confident speaking to natives, and I picked up some quirks that make me sound a bit more like a native speaker. The Year Abroad during your degree is really just a case of experiencing the culture first hand, learning how to speak in a more natural way and having fun whilst losing any nerves you might have. It's not really gaining knowledge, as much as it is using the knowledge you already have.

OP, I would definitely recommend some kind of course. One in France would be a good idea because they tend to be more intensive and have a high focus on speaking the language fluently rather than being able to write it. Sitting alone with a book won't help because you need to hear the language spoken out loud, and have someone to talk to. Maybe you could try going to language schools near you and putting up notices offering to meet French speakers. When I was in France, people I knew did this. They'd meet up for coffee and spend half the time speaking in English and half in French. That way they met new people, and also got to practise their skills.
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NatR123
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(Original post by Joanna May)
To be honest, going to France isn't that much of a help if you're either at quite a high level already (like I presume you are as an A level student) or have next to nothing like the OP. Living in France is only really a properly useful tool for improving your skills if you're at an intermediate level and want to become more fluent conversationally, or you're a nervous speaker. I lived in France for four months last year and the only difference was that I became more confident speaking to natives, and I picked up some quirks that make me sound a bit more like a native speaker. The Year Abroad during your degree is really just a case of experiencing the culture first hand, learning how to speak in a more natural way and having fun whilst losing any nerves you might have. It's not really gaining knowledge, as much as it is using the knowledge you already have.

OP, I would definitely recommend some kind of course. One in France would be a good idea because they tend to be more intensive and have a high focus on speaking the language fluently rather than being able to write it. Sitting alone with a book won't help because you need to hear the language spoken out loud, and have someone to talk to. Maybe you could try going to language schools near you and putting up notices offering to meet French speakers. When I was in France, people I knew did this. They'd meet up for coffee and spend half the time speaking in English and half in French. That way they met new people, and also got to practise their skills.

Hmm I see where you're coming from...Well at GCSE I got an A and at AS Level I got a C, but now I'm hoping to get at least a B! I did well on my coursework this year, but it is my speaking that I'm the weakest in...So I would love to go to France just to improve as I'm not the most confident of speakers, I'd rather write it down Books are good in the sense of learning the grammar and tenses...etc.

That's a good idea about putting up notices...My french tutor from last year took my number when i left school so perhaps she'll meet up with me and I could start practising! I'm definitely going to look into doing something in the summer...My exams are over by the 18th June and I don't start uni until late September and that's a bit of a long gap in between...I can't wait to study French at uni...and for the year out
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bret
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Okay. Maybe I underestimated the challenge this was going to be. I really have forgotten everything I learned at GCSE, and to tell the truth, it doesn't look like A* level is much to write home about when it comes to actually grappling with the language in the real world. I listened to a few internet audio clips and recognized nothing but the odd English-sounding word. The grammar is also very hazy.

This begs the question: is it worth learning a language other than French? I live in Los Angeles, so the obvious language to learn would be Spanish. I've also heard this is the easiest one to learn. Can anyone corroborate this assertion? Or would the Germanic languages be easier. In your opinions, which is the easiest European language?
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NatR123
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(Original post by bret)
Okay. Maybe I underestimated the challenge this was going to be. I really have forgotten everything I learned at GCSE, and to tell the truth, it doesn't look like A* level is much to write home about when it comes to actually grappling with the language in the real world. I listened to a few internet audio clips and recognized nothing but the odd English-sounding word. The grammar is also very hazy.

This begs the question: is it worth learning a language other than French? I live in Los Angeles, so the obvious language to learn would be Spanish. I've also heard this is the easiest one to learn. Can anyone corroborate this assertion? Or would the Germanic languages be easier. In your opinions, which is the easiest European language?

I've heard that Spanish is fairly easy to learn...I'm going to try in the summer
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Joanna May
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(Original post by bret)
Okay. Maybe I underestimated the challenge this was going to be. I really have forgotten everything I learned at GCSE, and to tell the truth, it doesn't look like A* level is much to write home about when it comes to actually grappling with the language in the real world. I listened to a few internet audio clips and recognized nothing but the odd English-sounding word. The grammar is also very hazy.

This begs the question: is it worth learning a language other than French? I live in Los Angeles, so the obvious language to learn would be Spanish. I've also heard this is the easiest one to learn. Can anyone corroborate this assertion? Or would the Germanic languages be easier. In your opinions, which is the easiest European language?
I would say that Romance languages are easier, but a lot of others thing Germanic ones are. It really does depend where your skills lie. I find romance languages fairly similar to English, and the grammar is a lot easier. I found German very hard. Spanish does sound more useful in you're in LA, and it looks like you have a flair for romance languages (true, A* means next to nothing in the real world, but it shows you were good at what you were taught).
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llys
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Try ASSIMIL. I haven't tried the "French with Ease", but I have done this with Russian and Spanish. The Russian one was very good, the Spanish one was not so good, but both enabled me to read books in the language after three months, although they did not make me 'fluent' - I find reading easier than speaking.

The course consists of a textbook with 4 CDs and is quite expensive. It focuses on "natural assimilation" and if you prefer more systematic learning, you might not like it. I would therefore suggest going to a bookshop and checking out the textbook, to see if it might work for you or not, before buying it.
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jonnythemoose
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I definitely wouldn't say Spanish is 'easy' to learn - but if you already have French, it's certainly accessible; I've been learning it at uni from ab initio level, and I'm doing fairly well. It's probably what is considered the 'easiest' European languages, certainly moreso than the Germanics or Eastern European languages! But it has its awkward parts just like the rest of them! (Its grammar is more complex than that of French is many areas, which makes learning those parts at speed not particularly straight-forward!!)
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