Clearly, five weeks is not much time to learn a language. I don’t think anybody would argue with that. With that said, in five weeks you can make a great deal of progress on your language goals. In order to hit the B2/Intermediate High level of fluency for a Category one Language, a learner can expect to be able to achieve that with 750 to a thousand hours of immersive, practical study and practice. This is research that was done by the Foreign Service Institute to train diplomats at their language institute for their missions abroad. That B2 level is definitely decent. In fact, it’s the same level that a lot of people who are not native speakers get from can get by majoring in a language in college without studying abroad. While the description might not sound very high, it’s a level that allows a great deal of communication in the target language.
While it’s highly unlikely that someone’s going to achieve that level with just five weeks of study, you can make a great dent in the goal of reaching that level. Every bit of time you invest adds up. You can work on your languages on your commute, on your vacations, at your lunch break, or weekends. There’s so many ways that are enjoyable and effective to work language learning into your life.
I feel very lucky as a teacher to be able to have time and to work intensely on my French in Paris this summer. I started the summer as a B2 level/Intermediate High level speaker. This means that I’m a fairly confident communicator, but I make quite a few mistakes and my language could definitely use some refinement. My goal is to hit the ceiling of that B2/Intermediate High level and to start showing some features of CEFR level C and the ACTFL Advanced range- smoother paragraphs with more ease and accuracy in expression. It is my experience as a learner and teacher that moving through this level (C and Advanced) takes three times as long as the levels below it combined, so progress will not be as fast. I need to improve my accuracy in the subjunctive, and to have more ease in pronunciation, which has always been a real challenge for me in French.
I am at This Flat Will Make You Feel Home in Paris in the 2nd Arrondissment. While it’s certainly more effective to be completely immersed in language by living with a host family, I also love the comfort of feeling like I’m at home. This Airbnb experience was absolutely perfect for me. Having spent quite a bit of time in France, I feel confident that I can take care of all of what I need and run a household on my own here for a summer or five weeks. I’m spending five weeks at L’Atelier Neuf, a French language school in 9th Arrondissment.
I absolutely love private language schools because they tend to let people start on any Monday. unless you’re an absolute beginner. They tend to have one part of the class focused on grammar, and another part focused on conversation. There is constant work on building the bridge between theory and practice, traditional learning and acquisition. You get some uninterrupted time all morning into the early afternoon to work on your language skills. You then have the option in the evenings to do whatever you want. While it’s like going to school, it’s a very fun version of going to school. It’s intense, and you can make fast progress. A lot of these schools tend to also offer afternoon workshops, too. Some examples are wine tasting, pronunciation and lectures on impressionist art, given by people specialized in teaching through comprehensible input. They’re used to speaking to people in a way that they understand and then that becomes their language and then making progress.
The reason for choosing this city is also to see as much of Paris as I can. Though I’ve been here many times, I certainly haven’t seen everything. Paris is full of things to do and there’s no way that you’ll see it all easily. I believe this is my 10th trip here and there’s still plenty to do. Another one of my goals is to be able to easily talk to the Parisians. If you’ve ever visited here, you know that many Parisians are very competent in English. They’ll suddenly, easily detect that you’re not a native French speaker, and they’ll bring out their great English. I also plan to work through my 5 Steps to a 5 AP French Language and Culture book. If you want a description of what an amazing resource this is for anybody who has started in a language and is looking to really break through and get to a high level, I highly recommend studying Advanced Placement. It can seriously help you grow your vocabulary exponentially, learn conversational speech, work on your listening skills, learn how to write messages, and learn how to write persuasive essays all in the target language, very inexpensively.
The very first week was a really tough week for me. I had just finished school after a very rough school year with quite a few difficult things happening in my life and to some people very close to me. I got to the school on Monday, and just wasn’t feeling very well. By Wednesday morning I was in the hospital with pneumonia. They took really good care of me, gave me antibiotics, sent me home, and had me rest. I just laid low but worked hard on my AP book since it’s something I could do while being in bed. I also spent quite a bit of time watching Yabla videos. I thought if I can’t be out speaking French, I’m at least going to take advantage of this time to improve. Specifically for AP, I worked on all the reading, which is the first section of the test, in the study materials, and I worked on the print and audio combined.
I was able to go back to class, which was great. My class was full of people very motivated to learn French. You will find many interesting people in private language schools who want to improve personally. Highly motivated, great people to get to know and talk to, and my experience here was no different.
More of the same. Class, visiting Paris, AP. During week two, I worked on the audio comprehension part of the AP French Language and Culture exam. I also worked on the persuasive essay. The persuasive essay has you read two different sources, one article and one graphic, and listen to another source. You’re asked a question on your stance. You have to use evidence from the materials that you’re given in the target language to write a 150 to 200 word essay defending your point of view.
This week, I worked with a great group of people who are highly motivated to improve their French. We did some of the stickier grammar points (past conditional). This was one of the things that was harder for me to master in Spanish. It is much simpler, structurally, in French, so it was really great to learn to do this much more easily in French. I also saw some great places, like the Musee d’Orsay.
Again, I attended my classes every day and I revisited all the guided conversations on the AP French exam practice book. The fast progress on this part has been so rewarding. This has also been a really great learning experience for me as an AP Spanish Language and Culture teacher to be able to bring back to my students, as I’ve really learned a few tricks to successfully complete these awkward conversations (you speak to a recording who does not change what they say based on what you say). I also had the opportunity to see the Palais Garnier, which is the opera house here. An absolutely amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I also went to the Chateau de Versailles between weeks three and four. I have never seen anything quite like it.
My last week in Paris, with a new teacher at my school and new classmates. I was lucky to spend the week with a new gorup of competent, highly-motivated people looking to become fluent French speakers. I also picked up some novels, magazines and a graphic novel for my next 5 weeks at home- summer reading in French.
Paris had an eventful week. The 14th was the big national holiday here. Lots of parties, fireworks and fun. The following day was spent in the Louvre. That evening, the French won the World Cup. A celebration to welcome the players home was held on the 16th on the Champs-Elysses.
You will find my recordings from the end of each week below. I need to learn to change the volume on recordings from Voice Memos (almost inaudible now). I usually use Garage Band, or Voice Record Pro, but thought I would experiment with Voice Memos this time. There are some great options online, like Vocaroos, to consider as well. Recording yourself is one of the most effective ways to track your progress in a new language. It is great to do this also when you are speaking to others. You might consider having your italki on Google Hangouts and using Youtube Live to record it, or getting an app like ecamm to record your sessions on Skype.
I simply used my Voice Memos app on my phone. You’ll hear plenty of errors. You’ll also hear some awkward pauses. It is strange to talk to yourself, but it works. Do this at least weekly and you will be amazed by your progress.