Yesterday was the final opportunity for those of us in the Add 1 Challenge 33 (A1C33) to post our final videos demonstrating us having a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker. Of course, the obligatory tech glitches caused a one hour delay. Fortunately my conversation partner was not short on time! Here’s me and Flavie talking about the weather for 15 minutes 🙂
So, what are my thoughts on the challenge? I did the beginner’s challenge, and found that there was ample opportunity for both doing the bare minimum or for stretching oneself considerably. Because we each chose what level of commitment we wanted to give, the minimum promise was 4 x 30 mins per week, and I think the most was 6 x 1 hour per week. Personally I have in the past had a tendency to overcommit, so these days I choose to underpromise and overdeliver 🙂 So I chose to commit to 4 x 30 mins per week. As it turned out, I usually did far more than that – usually about 1 hour per day – but frequently on a Sunday I would rest, or just watch some YouTubes in French.
I also found I really had no idea and no plan, and that impacted on my ability to fully exploit the opportunity to learn. I started with the intention to keep going with Duolingo, but then they rolled out a new update that I hated, so I stopped using Duolingo altogether. Then my daughter and I got sick. That took a good five weeks out of my concentration for the first two months, and it took me another week to get back in the swing of things. Starting conversation appointments with a local exchange student was my saving grace, and despite having no real consistency in efforts, my conversational French has significantly improved. During the last three or four weeks I have made real efforts to consistently use at least Lingq and a Gold List most days.
Understandably, motivation waxed and waned during the challenge. For the first couple of weeks doing Duolingo was monotonous and my conversation appointments were very difficult – then all of a sudden something clicked and things went very well in week three. Then week four was horrible (said in a very French accent 🙂 ). While the sickness was around I really just plodded along, and most of the second month was very ordinary. Then as I got more organised I started to notice my French was improving again (coincidentally?! I don’t think!), which naturally helped the motivation levels significantly.
Before I started the challenge I felt that I was at a solid A1 level, but it is very obvious to me now that I really wasn’t as strong as I thought. My ability to recognise words was improving, but I couldn’t construct useful sentences at all, let alone grammatically. I have become much better at expressing myself in the passé composé and the imperfect tenses. I know I still leave out many “que”‘s and “qui”‘s, and I’m sure my pronunciation is a bit slack (although my conversations partners say it is ok). But I can put phrases together now, and things all flow a little better. In addition, I am recognising more words when I am listening to people online… I can generally get the gist of what is being said (particularly if I use French subtitles too). Which is a similar level to how I was in the Netherlands after living there for three months, so given that I am not in a natural immersion situation, I’m fairly happy with that. However, I would still call myself an A1.
Already started is the next challenge, A1C34. I am joining again, and this time joining the Intermediate Level, which apparently has weekly challenges, so I am sure that will stretch me much more! Join me to see how I go 🙂