Learning French in Belgium

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

I have always had a love-hate relationship with the French language. I was privileged to access lessons from a young age but something always got in the way. For example, in high school when we had to pick subjects in Form 1, I had to drop out of the French class because we were too many. Instead, I took Accounting which turned out pretty well (and I got A in the national exams) but I always had lingering shoulda-coulda-woulda thoughts.

So despite committing myself to learn Spanish in 2019, I had to put that on hold and learn French on the fly when I took a short term trip to Belgium. The funny thing is that most people that I met at the supermarket or at the train station in Brussels automatically thought that I spoke French. When I tried explaining (especially other Africans) that most Kenyans can’t speak French and are really good at English, they were blown away. Well, in all fairness, I also didn’t quite get why couldn’t speak English- I mean isn’t it the language of business? So I decided to bite the bullet and enrolled for a few classes so that I could at least get by and continued since then

Why I am Learning French Right Now

The beauty of learning of a different language is exploring different cultures or as someone once said, it’s like unlocking a secret level in life. Most people are drawn to learning French because they want to cross France off their bucket list. I, on the other hand, want to visit and learn more about other francophone countries. Don’t get me wrong I still want to visit Shakespeare  & Co and visit all the iconic places in France. However, I was blown away by the fact that most French speakers don’t live in France but rather sub-Saharan Africa.  Vietnamese history has also piqued my interest not because of the Vietnam War but because of its colonial ties with France that I rarely come across in literature.

Just like every Anglophone learning French, I spoke more than my fair share of “franglais”. To make matters worse, since I have grasped some Spanish, sometimes,  when I have to speak French at the spur of the moment, I think my “franglais”, turns to “Spafranglais”.

Since most of the world is now under some form of shelter-in-place, this is the best time to perfect my accent and I thought it might be helpful to share some interesting resources that I have come across.

C’est parti! Let’s go! 

Group Classes

I took a couple of early mornings in-person group classes at Alliance Françiase (by early morning I mean 7 am early) with a great instructor and really enjoyed myself. I took a break hoping to resume in 2020. Then the pandemic hit. While I am not exactly excited about using online platforms, I will have to sacrifice my personal discomfort so that I can make progress. The beauty of studying at Alliance (well, everybody in Nairobi studies French at AF) is that they have a multimedia library and events so French learners can never lack resources.

Textbooks

I am really trying to restrain myself from acquiring so many books that I will not be able to go through easily.  So my strategy is to use the recommended texts and workbooks. I used Cosmopolite Methode de Française and Cahier de Française for A1 and their accompanying resources and now looking forward to formally beginning A2. I bought Practice Makes Perfect’s Basic French 2nd Edition while in Brussels and later found Barrons’ French Verb Tenses at my local library for supplement practice exercises.

Duolingo

There are so many mixed reviews on this language learning app. For me, it helps with pronunciation and maintaining my languages.  The stories feature is one of the best things about this app. As an alternative to other social media channels, Duolingo used to keep me sane through Nairobi traffic jams… a story for another day.  Now that I am spending so much more time indoors and I am more tempted to spend time on social media, I have stationed my Duolingo app right next to IG, so I think about it a better choice.  If you are on Duolingo, let’s keep each other accountable, here is my profile

Pinterest

Speaking of social media, Pinterest is a great resource for cheat sheets, infographics and listicles for French learning resources.

Flashcards

I have a confession to make. I have never used the flashcard study method. However, Ophelia Vert’s YT video on using paper flashcards versus digital flashcards on apps like Quizlet got me curious. I have to admit, once I get over the creating the sets, I am enjoying the various ways that I can use it. The best part is that it pronounces the words for me. If you choose the paper route, see legallystudies’ video on how to make and organise them.

YouTube

When it comes to languages, Matt and Abigail of Polyglot Progress introduced me to the world of polyglotism. They once tried learning Spanish and Italian concurrently to burst the myth that you can’t learn two romance languages at the same time. Abigael now runs the channel and I have found her language bullet journal videos ( here and here) interesting and helpful. 

Geraldine from Commune une Francais Tv is absolutely brilliant. Currently, she is running a read-along party where she dissects french stories and fairy tales. So far, she has completed Sleeping Beauty ( La Belle au Bois Dormant )and is doing Nanofictions by Patrick Baud

Other channels worth checking out: Easy French takes learning to the streets so aspiring francophones have a feel of everyday language from real-life french speakers. Inner French  and Parisang TV by a Korean-French Youtuber (if you have advanced French and are interested in Korean culture)

Others

The Fable Cottage allows French readers to read fairy tales in various languages including French.

 

I am curious, are you learning French during this self-isolation period?

What resources have been useful in your language learning journey?

 

 

 

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