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

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!

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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

BuzzFeed: A Great Way To Learn A Language

It’s common knowledge that reading articles in your target language is good practice. For a long time though, I always associated this with newspapers and magazines. The problem? I rarely read newspapers and magazines in English! What I do read is a lot of silly stuff that comes up in my Facebook feed. Solution? Start reading all those silly things in French  — or whatever language you are learning.

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How To Use BuzzFeed To Learn A Language:

At the top of Buzzfeed’s main page is a pull-down menu with the different countries they publish from. Select your country/language of choice and make it your homepage, or, click the “like” button for Facebook which will incorporate new stories into your feed. It’s a sure fire way to turn your daily procrastinating into a language learning opportunity!

Why This Works:

1. It’s usually pretty readable. Unlike serious news or magazine articles, the text in BuzzFeed articles is quick to read, and often colloquial. There are also pictures all throughout which keeps you interested and engaged, even if you don’t understand every word.

2. It introduces you to a wide variety of topics of interest in your target language. From Jake Gyllenhaal’s training routine for Southpaw, to hangover cures, to fifteen times Nicki Minaj was a feminist — it may not be the definitive guide to health or social issues but it sure can provide a fun introduction. Words I just learned from reading these articles:

  • to do crunches: faire des abdos
  • to do push-ups: faire des tractions
  • to hydrate: hydrater
  • sports drink: une boisson énergétique
  • sexism: le sexisme

3. Many articles include translations or have fully translated versions. For example, tweets in English are often embedded into articles with a French translation below:
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Or, you can always search for the article’s English version. Here are the links to the English equivalents of the Southpaw training and the hangover cure articles. It may not always be a word for word translation, but if you can point out the differences, all the more power to you!

Happy reading to all and thank you BuzzFeed for your endlessly entertaining antics in many languages.

What other fun websites do you follow in French?