Can she learn French this way?
Thread poster: Molly_Malone

Jun 1, 2005

I've got a friend who is in a bit of a panic. She learned that as part of her PhD, she going to need to go and do a bit of research in Francophone countries. She asked me if I thought she could learn/improve her French. Well, yes she can but...
Her french skills are almost non existant. She is now doing research in Anglophone country and can't really enroll in a class there (there aren't any). But she does live in a house with about 8 people from France who do speak it around her and help her.
So, I suggested that she use a CD, and a book and the people surrounding her. She will be there for about 5 more months and then would probably be expected to have a bit better than conversational level.
Do you think this is possible?
I'm all encouraging, but I think she may not be able to get to that level.
Advice from teachers please.


Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:36
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
She can Jun 1, 2005

I am not a teacher, but a life-long learner of languages.

If she dedicate at least one full hour (preferably a bit more) every day to systematically study the language, then use the room mates to practice what she had just learned, she should be able to achieve a very strong conversational level in 5 months.

After 5 months of intensive studying, she should be able to pass a DELF test.

I am not sure though if that would be sufficient for making any research in France or elsewhere in the francophone area.



Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:36
Spanish to English
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depends Jun 1, 2005

1st of all, if they have already offered her the position they are probably aware that she doesn't speak much FR, so maybe it's not key to the job in the early stages.

If that was the case, I would squeeze in an intensive course in the country, just before the post commenenced, as long as I could afford, but at least 2 weeks, at least 3 hours a day.

2nd of all, she has the best motivation for learning, a real need, so she can capitalise to study for herself before she goes, but it's always advisable to take classes, as they impose a discipline and are a systematic way of learning. Could she get a private teacher? If it's a Q of money, remember that even tho' private classes are relatively expensive compared to group classes, you learn much faster so you don't actually spend more in the long run. The problem about self-study is the need for discipline, also one gets demotivated (e.g. something starts getting complex and there's noone can explain...)'s OK for intermediate plus learners, but not for beginners.

3rdly, if she is living in a house with FR people, but in an anglophone/other environment, she may indeed benefit from the 'immersion' and 'soak up' something, but it's not systematic learning, and progress won't be fast for a beginner. What's more, don't assume too much. These people are FR people speaking to each other, not language teachers, so they are not likely to 'slow down' enough - even with the best will in the world - to suit her... in my own experience, when you meet people with a low level who 'want to practice' their language with you, it's a bugbear, as I want to communicate, not teach in my free time:-) And any good intentions tend to get lost when a few natives start speaking among themselves.

[Edited at 2005-06-01 08:28]


Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 12:36
If she's willing to work at it, yes. Jun 1, 2005

Total immersion works.

1 - If her housemates will commit to one thing: they do not speak English to her except when needed to explain the French they want to her. Music and TV should be in French as much as possible.

2 - If she gets a CD course in it and spends at least an hour a day at it, split into two or three sessions, working through the vocabulary and grammar.

3 - If she is willing to avoid English as much as possible after she gets to her research post, meaning avoiding English speakers, English films and YV, and English books.


Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:36
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
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How to learn a language from a native speaker Jun 1, 2005

See this article by Greg Thomson on how to learn a language using a native speaker as a Language Resource Person (LRP).

I also recommend the following articles by Greg Thomson for anyone wanting to learn a language, or interested in the subject of language learning.

"Leave Me Alone! Can't You See I'm Learning Your Language?" by Greg Thomson

"Language Learning in the Real World for Non-beginners" by Greg Thomson

Michele Fauble


Thanks Jun 7, 2005

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. From her past experiences working with the French- they will not be teachers but will correct and include her in conversations- to the extent that she understands them. But I think it is the motivation of knowing she will soon be stuck in a Francophone country doing interviews that will spur her on!!


French to English
yes. but... Feb 18, 2006

this will work wonders for her conversation skills and simply being able to understand what's being said around her. that said, for her research, i'm assuming that reading will be more important and she may be required to take a language proficiency exam, which for a ph.d. normally consists of either translating or answering questions about a scholarly article.

i've known people to speak french very well because they've lived in french-speaking environments but who are functionally illiterate in the language because spelling and even the breaks from one word to the next are not self-evident if you only hear and speak it. so yes, a good french textbook or software and practice reading texts, especially within her field of study, would be a good idea to supplement the conversation.


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