Learning a language

The Learning A Language Diaries: Part 1

I’ve decided to learn French.

I’ve decided this at various points over the last few years. I studied it at school, where by basic grasp of the lingo scored me an A at GCSE. Since then, I’ve let my knowledge of the language dwindle, bar the occasional frenzied muttering of sage phrase, uttered with a raised eyebrow and a look of such infinite wisdom that my non-Gallic-speaking acquiantaince won’t know I’m actually just making noises. Not saying actual words.

I realised I needed to brush up (/totally over-haul) my French when my boyfriend and I went to Paris a couple of years ago. I was confident I’d be able to buy tickets, order lunch, ask for directions – but instead of babbling breezily, I was tongue-tied. Totally and utterly.

I’ve always thought it would be great to learn a language fluently. So many jobs I see advertised ask for a second language, and French is just so… well, cool. And it is, isn’t it?It’s romantic, it sounds uh-mazing (when spoken properly) and I just feel that life would be that little bit more chic if I could say I could parle en Francais.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve resolved to learn French before. There was the brief fluttering at uni when I joined FrenchSoc for a week, and then there was the time when I downloaded a Michel Thomas tape and fell asleep listening to them each night, determined to soak up the language. It didn’t really work – although I did develop a new-found appreciation for the power of the spoken book: it was amazing for helping me to drop off…

The best thing about learning a language so far – in my experience – is the stationery. Obviously, when it comes to French I need a verb table notebook, a vocab notebook, a practice notebook… And maybe a spare notebook. Just in case. Ooh, and pens. In lots of different colours, to make it clear which bit of the sentence is the adjective, and which bit the verb, and which bit the participle. (I mean, I can’t even remember what a participle is. Is it something I need to know about? Who knows? It’s probably scrawled in one of my numerous notebooks (not sure whether it’d be filed under practice or verb tables, though…).

Anyway. But this time, I’ve properly decided. By July 2014, I will be speaking French with confidence. I will be able to converse, with a French person, and they will be able to understand me. And me understand them. I don’t know if any of you have learnt a language, or, like me, have started but given up but if so – shall we try it together? High School Musical-style?

You’re cringing, I’m cringing… Go team!

So over the next however-long-it-takes, I plan to write about learning a language. Hints (ha!). Tips (double ha!). Apps. Books. Podcasts. And probably notebooks. Anything and everything that I encounter on my


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