This weekend I stayed with a French friend in Brussels, Belgium. Saturday was the French National Holiday, so I had two weeks before decided to only speak French on that day. I didn’t have anybody speaking French around, so I did a lot of Duolingo, watched some movies that I already knew, dubbed in French (one reason being that dubbing is more easy to understand than raw French in originally French movies), and planned to listen to French audio books (didn’t happen). Who knew that Ratatouille is even better in French?
Ok, so it turns out that I’m now at a level where I understand maybe two or three words in a normally spoken sentence, which is often enough to figure out the general topic, and sometimes some details about what is being said. My brain is not processing the language fast enough yet to be able to keep up with the steady stream of words. Meaning, if I had a recording, I could probably figure out most words (and, due to Duolingo practice, the meaning) of the speech of a clear French speaker. But of course when listening to live speech, the moment you’re trying to figure out the meaning of a sentence, the next one is already ongoing. Not translating in my head (I seem to have gotten rid of this in the last months) helps, but I’m still quite far away from understanding say 80% of a normal French conversation. Maybe I’ll try more movies + audio books, but it would probably be much more useful to actually find a French person that I can talk to on a regular basis.
Speaking French was also not easy yet, but I’ve come a far way from the paralyzing fear from speaking that had obstructed my learning of languages for decades. But I did notice that I did too often recur to simple phrases that I already knew, instead of playing with new variations, endorsing mistakes as a way to learn.
Oh, and I learned (from a very nice 5-year old) that I have fallen from the moon :) (her explanation why my French was not very good). I like that image.