brushing up on French

Old Jan 4th, 2005, 02:05 PM
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brushing up on French

My family is going to Provence for two weeks in April in celebration of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and I'd like to brush up on my French. My mom (who is Belgian and speaks fluent Parisian French) would be delighted if I could converse intelligently while I'm there (hell... so would I!) It's been years since I've spoken and I've lost a lot of vocabulary and grammar, though I'm sure it will come back quickly (I was never fluent, but I was certainly proficient). I'm thinking about taking a French class here in NYC (either through Berlitz or the Alliance Francaise), but I'm looking for something with an emphasis on conversational French and was wondering if anyone has any suggestions? Also, I've heard people rave about one particular set of French tapes/CDs for this purpose, though I can't remember the brand. Does anyone have any experience with either conversational French classes in the NY area or French tapes? I'd be grateful for any input. Thanks!

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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 02:14 PM
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I live in NYC too, and I've taken classes at the Alliance Francaise a few times. When you go to register they require that you take a written test, and then they interview you for a short oral interview to gauge your skills.
The written test can be done in advance via a printout from their website.
Depending on your skill level, they do have general review courses for conversation and grammar. The last time I took this ( I think the one I took was level 300), the course covered two semesters, so some grammar topics were covered in the fall/winter, and the other topics in the spring. So make sure you get a course that covers all of what you want. I think their courses are excellent, and conversation is part of the classroom experience.
They also have self-instruction classes I think, with use of their language lab.

I currently subscribe to a magazine called Bien Dire, which comes bimonthly with an audio CD, so that I don't entirely forget my French. The magazine covers several language levels, has a glossary of difficult words, etc. I try to read it aloud and then listen to the CD to correct my pronunciation infelicities.
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 02:19 PM
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 02:30 PM
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i am unfamiliar with the names of interesting french tapes, but here is advice i used to give my english students in spain.. just focused it on french:

i would go to the french consulate, and see what activites or club they know about of french actually living in your area.

you might want to become a big apple greeter for your city for the visting french. ( i read about this service and think it is great)

there are many french students trying to learn english in ny, so i am sure there are "language exchanges" offered at the language schools. you can find these schools in the phone book. you can help each other.

if there is a universtiy near you, offer your language exchange through the foreign language department , or the student accomodation center.

create your own immersion course. try to find french student willing to spend time with you in french for a nice lunch downtown, or afternoon or play.
(our son in germany found several exchanges.. but if food or shows had been involved also, it would have been more interesting!)

when you travel to work, or when you have spare time, listen to french language tapes. they can usually be picked up at used book stores very reasonably.

listen to them during breakfast.. when you brush your teeth.. there are many wasted moments you could be training your ear.

and as you mentioned the alliance.. you will certainly be able to find activities there.

i am sure your french will come back to you once you force yourself to have it more of a priority. classes are really not enough. you must try to incorporate it into your life.

what a surprise you can give your mom!
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 03:15 PM
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If it's been years since you spoke it and you weren't fluent, I wouldn't expect it to come back quickly--in any case, don't be disappointed from unrealistic expectations.

I would recommend Alliance Francaise or a class. They have a wide variety of courses, choose the kind you want. There isn't any way you can speak fluently or brush up well from Pimsleur, they only have up to French III which is not that advanced (maybe end of a real year of French), and you won't be conversing with anybody by doing that but repeating phrases after a CD. YOu need to interact with people.
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 05:45 PM
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I just registered for a beginners course at the Alliance Francaise today! After three recent trips to Paris I've realized that I will be returning again and again (I'm in love with the place!)so I should at least try to learn a little French. Time to get past the intimidation and make an honest attempt to learn.
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 06:24 PM
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I've taken several classes at Alliance Francaise, and liked them, but it's not a particularly fast way to brush up (unless you take private lessons, which are available). If you already know French, and are going in April, I would take the private, so you don't have to compete with everyone else in the class.
I also went to Berlitz and that was excellent, but VERY expensive for private lessons. The Pimsleur tapes are a good choice for review, although the French I might be too basic for you.
Actually, as Christina said,Pimsleur might be too basic for someone who was already proficient in French. However, those tapes are great for beginners who already know some French grammar, but haven't had conversational French.

Margaretlb, you'll enjoy your beginners class at Alliance Francaise, but then get the Pimsleur tapes to supplement. The constant repetition really helps. I think that using all kinds of methods is really to best way to learn a language.
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Old Jan 4th, 2005, 08:49 PM
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You might also check out the French in Action series; I think the videos are now available for watching on line.
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 03:42 AM
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I used to watch French in Action on PBS--is this the original series?
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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 05:19 AM
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I think that there's only one TV series for French in Action -- but there're at least two editions for the textbook (as far as I know).

You can watch the programs online here:

It's an excellent series. I used to do that for a while, but I don't know if the series is still free.

I think it was Christina who suggested .

This has some useful links:

I really like the "journal en francais facile." It's a one- to two-minute blurb on current affairs. One of the recent ones was Rice's election to be Secretary of State. Since my French isn't that good, this helps because you can guess what's being said with your knowledge of current affairs. And further, there's a transcript of the session, so you can follow the written text while listening to the broadcast.

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Old Jan 5th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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My wife and I go to Provence each year. I learned French from the Christian Brothers at Bishop Loughlin High School fifty years ago. Before my first trip to France in 1990 I picked up audio tapes that refreshed my memory. We also watch French movies during the winter to hear colloquial expressions, etc..

My wife, who had no prior French educational experience, attended two recent Alliance sessions and she does remarkably well.

One caution: Provencal French is a bit different than Parisian French. It is mostly in intonation but there are vocabulary differences as well. You will note that may provencals go up on the last syllable of a sentence; at times a little sing-songy. Offsetting this is their inherent kindness and lack of the sometime Parisian pretense.

If they speak to fast "Lentement, s'il vous plait" usually works.

Good luck.

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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 07:55 PM
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Thanks 111op for pointing out the links to the PBS French in Action site, and to the Radio France Internationale site as well. They are both great learning aids that I will use to prepare for a June trip to Paris & Provence. (I've got most of my plans made already). I especially liked listening to the "journal en francais facile," then listening again while reading the transcript, and then listening a 3rd time without the transcript. It really helped me to develop the ear, and to better pick up the cadence and nuance of the language! Funny, I was just looking at "Learn in Your Car-French: 3 Level Set: Complete Language Course" by William Frame on and now I have found that I probably don't need to order it after all. (It did get good reviews for those that might find it useful on long drives or commutes).
Thanks again.
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