Follow Me At Frenchification.com

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Don’t you just love a good makeover? Casser Le Noyau has undergone just that and can now be found at it’s new home: www.frenchification.com

Rest assured, I would not have gone through all the effort of re-naming and designing if it weren’t for all the exciting content I have planned! I hope you will all join me on the new site. Be sure to click the “Follow Frenchification” button at the top of the right hand navigation when you get there!

 

À bientôt!

Quick Tip: Where to Look at Your Local Used Bookstore 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – foreign language kids sections are a goldmine.

For years I always checked the language learning sections only to realize I had all the dictionaries and grammar guides I needed. Then I would try the adjoining French language adult fiction section only to realize I could barely understand a paragraph let alone a page.

For beginners or intermediates, I highly suggest you look in the foreign language section of the children’s area! Spanish kids and young adult novels are usually present in new bookstores across the United States, but at used bookstores and local libraries it’s not uncommon to also find French, German, and other languages.

My most recent find? This vintage Donald Duck comic collection from the lovely and cleverly named The Last Bookstore in downtown LA.


High brow? Maybe not. Busy accessible, comprehensible and only $2.00? I’m stoked and you will be too.

What are your best foreign language book finds?

À plus tard,
Zena

iTalki Challenge Update (and Tips!)

stanford blatch

Stanford: How can you not have a shrink? This is Manhattan. Even the shrinks have shrinks. I have three.
Carrie: No, you don’t.
Stanford: Yes, one for when I want to be cuddled, one for when I want tough love and one for when I want to look at a beautiful man.
Carrie: That’s sick!
Stanford: Which is why I see the other two.

Having upped my number of tutors from one to six — I keep thinking of this moment from Sex and the City. Different tutors offer different advantages. My favorite has always been female tutors around my age with whom I can just talk, talk, talk about pop culture and boy problems with. They offer corrections and answer questions — but mostly allow me to get comfortable speaking French without fear.

One of my new tutors though, offered a little more structure and discipline. In our lesson he provided this article about the spelling reform changes that have been enacted by the Académie française, and I read out loud while he corrected my pronunciation. He explained that the corrections may seem nit-picky — but only because I had a good accent to begin with and that these were the type of changes needed to get me speaking at higher level. It was intimidating but incredibly productive.

That said, I wanted to share a few other observations I’ve had during the iTalki challenge in hopes that I’ll be able to reference this should I re-attempt next year, or to help anyone else interested in participating.

How to Succeed in the iTalki Challenge:

  1. Budget: I’ve found most informal tutors run an average of $10 per hour. I never thought twice about this when I was taking a lesson once or twice per month, but the iTalki challenge is 10 – 30 hours meaning you’ll be blowing $100 – $300. YIKES! Sure, you can try and find cheaper tutors who charge less than that average (my tough love tutor was only $7 per hour) but they have limited availability. I hope in future challenges iTalki lowers the hours required for each level to encourage wider participation — but for now, I made it a priority and set money aside in advance.
  2. Schedule Ahead of Time: This. Is. Key. Booking on iTalki is far from instantaneous. You do a search for tutors, watch their introductory videos, decide who you jam with, go to book with them, discover they have no availability, go back to your search, watch more videos, select a new tutor, discover they have availability at 6 am your time, decide you can suck it up, submit your lesson request — and after all that!? You have to wait for the tutor to confirm (and that’s if they confirm).With a tight budget scheduling becomes even more important as your iTalki credits are put on hold anytime your reserve a lesson and not returned until your tutor declines or 48 hours has passed without a response. When you’re trying to cram in multiple lessons a week — it is imperative that you book early! And that you…
  3. Be Prepared for Cancellations: Because sometimes no matter how meticulously you plan — things won’t go your way. I mentioned I have 6 tutors earlier. Really though, it’s that I’ve attempted to schedule with 6 tutors. To date, I’ve only completed lessons with 3 different tutors. One of them I had to cancel and reschedule, only to have her cancel on our new date, to reschedule again, have her never confirm and finally just have my pending credits returned to me. Lesson? Don’t take your requested lessons for granted! I have two more pending requests with new teachers and if they don’t accept, I’m prepared to do lessons every day to complete this challenge so help me god.
  4. Review: This may be a no brainer for some people, but frankly, I’ve been pretty bad at reviewing after my lessons are over. I end lessons feeling accomplished for speaking French for an hour, but without sitting down later in the day to review my notes and vocabulary, I’m not getting as much out of the challenge as I could be. And having just shared what an investment in my time and money it’s been — it really doesn’t make sense to not get every bit of worth out of each session.

  5. Be Open: To trying different kinds of tutors. To trying tutors from different places. To waking up early (very early). To talking about different subjects. To trying new methods. The real thing you take away from the Challenge, is not this grammar tip or that pronunciation — it’s knowing that for one month your prioritized all of your efforts and resources to expanding your world by learning a new language.

Progress: 3.75/10 hours Completed
Time Left: 15 Days (!!!)

If you’re attempting the iTalki Challenge — I would love to hear your experience and tips!

Bonne chance à tous!

Zena

Speed Date Speaking Practice

First off, a quick update on the iTalki challenge. I’m now 2.75 hours in with 7.25 hours to go! Yikes! Ten hours sounded like such a small amount but with two cancelled lessons last week, I’ll have to complete 2.5 hours of practice every week to complete on time. Considering my former italki schedule was one lesson every other week at most — this is a real game changer.

One great thing about this challenge is that it’s forced me to venture outside my comfort zone and seek out new teachers. I loved the first tutor I tried on iTalki and have since only booked with her — but as scheduling overseas chats multiple times a week can be a real pain, I’ve opened up to trying new tutors and am finding it only helps to have a variety of native speakers to practice with.

But that wasn’t the only way I manned up in my French studies! A few weeks ago I attended Speak Easy, a language exchange hosted by French Morning at the Alliance Française de Los Angeles.

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The event worked like this: an even number of French native speakers and English speakers reserved places to attend. French native speakers sat on one side of a long table, and English native speakers on the other. Our host moderated the time and allowed seven minutes of speaking in French followed by seven minutes of speaking only in English before switching partners and starting over again.

I was sure that it would be impossible to find an even number of native French speakers to try their patience at a bunch of Americans bumbling in French, but alas! It was a fun mix of young and old, French and American — all very helpful and patient. All in all, I spoke with four people one-on-one and would attend again in a heartbeat! It was so gratifying to find myself in real conversations with real French people in real life.

A tip if you plan on attending an event like this: bring business cards. Seriously, you may never have an opportunity to make this many French friends in your city again. If you don’t have real business cards, do as I did and make up a handful of scrappy ones on printer paper:

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They might look cheap compared to the nice business cards I received in return — but I was glad to have something to pass off to people in the hopes of meeting up again, or even to have something to write down recommended books or movies we discussed.

Have you attended a language exchange? Have any to recommend? Comment below!

À la prochaine,
Zena

TAPIF Submission: Fingers Crossed

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I did it! After much indecision and procrastination, I have submitted my application for TAPIF. If you are unfamiliar with the program, it allows native speakers to spend a school year in France as an English teaching assistant. I first heard about this program as an undergraduate but only now, five years later, am I actually in the running for a spot.

If you’re interested, there is more information about the program, eligibility and application here.

Notable pieces required to apply:

  • College Transcripts: Simple enough in theory but a pain to order, scan, and upload if you leave it to the last minute.
  • Language Evaluation: Can be submitted by a university or Alliance Française professor OR test scores from a standardized French-language exam.
  • Recommendation Letter: Should be from a professional or academic reference.
  • Personal Statement: In French! With several warnings that you are not allowed to have it corrected by anyone else. Luckily, 500 words is not as long as you think.
  • Académie Preferences: Must select your top three regions for placement. Sounds fun right? Well, it would be if there weren’t some caveats. First, you don’t necessarily get placed in the biggest city associated with that académie. You put your preference to be in a big, medium or small city, but there’s no guarantee. Second, you can only pick one from each of the following three groups…Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.09.36 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-01-10 at 11.39.07 AM

This was probably the most maddening part of the whole application process for me. For the life of me I could not settle on a top choice from Group B. I scoured Reddit and WordPress for recommendations from TAPIF alumni and asked my iTalki tutor for her advice. From what I saw, there are two schools of thought on TAPIF selections that are equally represented in the blogosphere.

Half say that you should prioritize cost of living and competitive selection into your decision process. Places like Paris or Nice are very high in demand and more expensive to live in, thus, it may be better to choose cheaper less competitive cities to ensure you get your first choice. The other half say, “Hey, I got my first choice! Always put down your dream destination first because you never know.”

I originally had Lyon, Nice, Aix-Marseille, Bordeaux and Paris all swimming around in my head. Finally I narrowed it down to Bordeaux — and then wouldn’t you know it? When I had everything else in my application saved, something just didn’t feel right about submitting and I made the last minute decision to make Aix-Marseille my first choice.

Really, it came down to this. I didn’t want to wonder “What if?” Where would I be the most excited to receive an acceptance letter from? Bordeaux came highly recommended by my French tutor and the TAPIF community alike. It is probably much less touristy than the Aix-Marseille region and perhaps less expensive, but for whatever reason I am totally happy with my decision. The full top three were…

Top Choice: Aix-Marseille (pretty sure this blog post was the final kicker)
Second Choice: Toulouse (recommended over Montpellier by my tutor)
Third Choice: Clermont-Ferrand (the most Southern of Group A)

Now only time will tell! Acceptance letters are sent out in April. I’ll be continuing my French studies until then and would love to hear from others applying to TAPIF. What are your top académies? Comment below!

Until next time, bonne chance à vous tous!
Zena

 

The iTalki Language Challenge!

Cou cou!

I don’t know about you, but I love new years resolutions. There’s something very special about an entire population contemplating how they’re living and what they can be doing differently. If one of your resolutions is to amp up your language learning, join me in doing the italki language challenge!

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After signing up, from January 16th to February 29th your hours on italki will count towards their challenge rewards! The different tiers are as follows:

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For the six week period it works out to roughly:

  • The Language Tourist: 1 and a half hours a week
  • Language Explorer: 3 hours and 20 minutes a week
  • Language Captain: 5 hours a week

Me? I’ll be attempting The Language Tourist as my italki lesson consistency has been pretty pitiful this year. But hey, the smallest level of a challenge is still a challenge.

Let me know if you’re also taking the italki language challenge — I’d love to be challenge buddies and keep track of your progress.

Happy new year and happy learning to you all!

À plus,
Zena

 

My New Favorite Youtube Series For French Learners

YO! (Is there a French yo? Because I need that yo real bad to tell you how excited I am about this.)

Three reasons I love this video, and can’t wait to watch the rest on the channel:

  1. Incredibly helpful and accessible tips on how to make your French more colloquial. Nobody likes to sound like a robot after all their hard hours of study.
  2. I took a class with this guy at Fluent City in Brooklyn!  Well, technically Damon only subbed for my Intermediate French class once — but I immediately recognized him while browsing Youtube because he made such an impression on me as a student. Serious accent-envy.
  3. Working a “Drop That Thun Thun Thun” reference into a language lesson deserves serious kudos and amens.

And so, without further ado, “How To Sound Cooler in French” by Damon and Jo:

Do you have other Youtubers you go to for French lessons? Drop it in the comments!

À plus tard,

Zena

Two Birds, One Stone: Online Yoga Classes in French

Salut!

I was so happy to see this resource exists! Mon Yoga Virtuel offers a really nice variety of yoga classes in French to stream online from the comfort of your own home. Admittedly, I might not recommend this to someone who is very new to French and/or very new to Yoga. But of course, if you’re up for the challenge, all the more power to you!

Here are my top three reasons to give Mon Yoga Virtuel a try:

1. It’s an empowering way to learn body vocabulary. In school we always learned body parts in the context of having a broken leg, or being sick. How crummy! Yoga classes reintroduce that vocabulary but in a much more invigorating context.

2. The repetitive nature of yoga is perfect for language learners. I’ve been watching a lot of sit-coms dubbed in French and while this is great for learning colloquial speech, it’s easy to miss a word or phrase in the quick pace. In yoga they work through a sequence of postures, and then repeat it on the other side. They also give directions in a nice calm and slow voice. A language learners dream! You’re more likely to remember a word the more you come back to it, and as anyone who’s taken a yoga class and wondered how many downward dogs they’re going to do knows — yoga is all about repetition.

3. Studies have shown light exercise while studying can improve retention. Seriously, read this article in the New York Times about it. The key to the data is that it only applies to light exercise and what is lighter exercise than some stretching out on the mat at home? C’est vraiment parfait!

Mon Yoga Virtuel Screen Capture

Need one more reason to give it a try? Mon Yoga Virtuel offers a free seven day trial!

If you have other hobbies you’ve found resources for in French, please leave a comment!

À bientôt,

Zena

How To Watch Dubbed Movies Online

As a fair warning, this is not as simple as clicking a link that will take you to a database of dubbed movies. If anyone knows of that resource, PLEASE tell me! This takes a little bit of set-up and comes with some caveats but I think any language learner would be interested!

Step One: Download the Hola plug-in for your web browser. As anyone who has tried to stream content from their target language’s country has learned — the website will detect you are visiting from the US and deny streaming access for what is otherwise accessible content in France (or wherever else). This plug-in allows your computer to pretend like it is browsing from another country giving you access to all that content!

Caveat: Though Hola ensures that their service protects your privacy and security — it is not entirely undisputed. I opted for the $5 per month Premium version which keeps Hola from using my VPN as an exit node but feel free to do some research on what you feel comfortable with.

Step Two:
Click the Hola button in your browser, select your target language’s country, and visit a streaming site. When I first tried the French version of Netflix I was not sure it worked as there were so many American movies. Once I tried playing one I realized French audio and subtitles were available!

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Caveat: Again, Netflix is a paid subscription service — but don’t we all subscribe or share a subscription by now? For those wondering how Netflix feels about Hola there’s a post about it here. I’m also sure there are free French streaming sites available, but I was specifically looking for dubbed American movies that I was familiar with.

Step Three:
Enjoy having an excuse to lots and lots of movies and TV! Productively, of course. I set mine to French audio and subtitles to be fully immersed, but you could switch these up depending on your goals. Don’t forget to write down new vocabulary and phrases!

If you have other resources or tips for watching dubbed or original content online, leave a comment! Otherwise, happy watching 🙂

À plus tard,

Zena