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How French Level 1 Became My Own Private Fight Club

November 10, 2011

Brad Pitt in Fight Club

In other words – it kicked my ass and turned me crazy.  I also wanted an excuse to use that photo.

When I started French I took it as a personal challenge.  Just like some people partake in Lent, some refuse to stop a terrible movie in the middle and still many more take on extreme couponing, I approached French with “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background.  Literally. (Not literally).

Since I knew I wanted to take advantage of level 1 and build a really strong base, I set out to practice every. single. day.  With Fluenz there are 30 lessons per level and after a bit of research from fellow language learners I decided on doing each lesson two days in a row, for a total of 60 days of level 1.  This, of course, was on top of a full-time job by day and a part-time job by evening.  A cluttered life is how I roll.

Liz Lemon from 30 Rock

There were days when I had plans for the evening so I woke up early and did it in the morning.  And I’m the exact opposite of a morning person.  I don’t even like to speak for the first half hour I’m awake.  Or semi-conscious.  However you want to look at it.  Even more, these lessons took on average an hour and a half each.  No small feat.

Yes, I definitely lost steam halfway through and for once my stubborn nature came in super handy.  Because I had set out to learn level 1 in a specific way, I refused to give up.  I even scheduled the CD and podcast supplement lessons into my already rigorous schedule.  I became that crazy anal-retentive student.  I’d say it was more than a love of learning à la Lisa Simpson; more like the so-driven-she’s-about-to-become-a-macadamia (aka a nut job – thank you Golden Girls) character of Tracy Flick from Election.

Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in Election

And it all paid off.  I’ve since modified my learning habits, but when I look back, those two months of crazy were worth it.  The foundations really solidified for me and I really feel like level two and now level three are soaking in much faster as a result.  The structure of making myself sit down daily also pushed me past any moments where I may have wanted to give up.  When you take off a few days it’s easy to keep up the procrastination and before you know it, all those nouns and verb conjugations are gone!  With level 1 you don’t have to become a senior member of a fight club like me,  but if you can set up a learning schedule with only maybe a day or two of down time in between, you will definitely see the progress.  It will also help you make the lessons part of your life rather than a chore, which they can indeed feel like after a long day.  You just have to keep that momentum going.  Eye on the prize.

From Me To You cinemagraph

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2011 9:43 pm

    It’s great that you persisted. I did a basic program in Mandarin and stopped 2 months into it. Had I persisted for a month or two more I would’ve crossed the basic threshold and embarked on learning it at an accelerated pace.

    • November 29, 2011 2:28 am

      For your Mandarin program, how many hours per week did you study? I haven’t had the time for daily practice with German like I did with French and I feel like it’s slowing me down, but I suppose that’s life.

  2. December 13, 2011 11:27 pm

    What program were you using? Fluenz? That sounds like a disease. Either way I am so completely inspired to keep up my studies now after reading this and also seeing your Liz Lemon meme (which made me lol.) I took two quarters of Spanish at a community college and totally kicked its butt, but the third quarter kicked mine right back and I have been feeling defeated and like I wish I had tried harder. I am going to go back and try an online class and see how I do if I push myself without the strain of grades in my face.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • December 14, 2011 6:17 pm

      Ha! In my haze of pure lust for Fluenz I never even noticed it sounded so much like influenza. I always imagined it had a more European ring to it. But yes, the program I’m using for both my French and German studies is Fluenz and I highly recommend it. The best way to see if you’d like their style is to check out the free demo they have, which is the 4th tab on their homepage:

      And exactly as you predict, I feel like I’m learning these languages so much easier without grades and tests hanging over my head. Using passion as my drive is really making it easier to stick with the program and see my progress. That, and the fact that unlike school where you spend more time listening and reading, I tend to talk out loud to myself along with Fluenz all the time. Something you just can’t (tend not to) do in the classroom situation.

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