They say children’s brains are like sponges. They don’t say that about anyone over the age of 40 and we now understand why, we’re learning French. Our sponges have become blocks of granite and we’re trying to carve grooves in them with soft #2 pencils.
How hard can it be? It’s French. It’s not Chinese or Icelandic! Since the ability to communicate with the people around us might come in handy, we forge ahead. In the absence of supple adaptability, brute force will have to do.
To put it simply there are really three things we need to learn. Vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. You need to know what the words mean, put them in the order that conveys your message and pronounce them like the French do.
One of our favorite vocabulary tools is Memrise.com. We use it every day and occasionally quelque chose finds its way into long term memory.
Frustration often sets in. Tirades sur la ridiculousness of gender for the color blue have been known to occur. Diane is the voice of reason, explaining that I am not likely to convince an entire nation of people that their language is ridiculous. No reasoned argument on the pointlessness of gender for things without gonads is going to start un mouvement de fond to fix French.
For Grammar we have books, lots of books. We examine sentence structure in TVMonde5 transcripts, sing songs about VANDERTRAMP verbs and fumble our way through sounding like not-so-bright 5 year olds.
French may be easier than Icelandic but it’s not without challenges. Those U’s and R’s sometimes feel like tiny grammatical bear traps designed to distinguish you as a non-native and ensure you forever sound like a moron for everyone’s amusement. To aid in pronunciation we also have Julia, our Skype tutor. Julia is from Montpellier and she has the wonderful ability to smile rather than cringe as we butcher her native tongue.
A drop of water can carve a canyon through granite given enough time. We don’t have eons, so we better get back to it.