Many French learning products say that you can go from beginner to advanced in 3 months. One such course is Rocket French. Do you believe this or is it just a sales pitch? Many would scoff at the claim. I have learned French and Spanish using a variety of methods over the years. I have gone to classes and used self study courses and wouldn’t describe myself as advanced in 3 months. Having said that I know people that have decided to learn French and become proficient within 3 months.
It seems to depend on 2 qualities that have nothing to do with the method of study that you decide to take. These 2 qualities are your aptitude with languages and your determination to master the new language.
I saw a documentary recently about Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant that had an incredible ability to pick up languages. The gist of the documentary was that many people with autism that have incredible abilities, have often learned and honed these abilities to compensate for abilities that non-autistic people take for granted, like social skills, for example. Tammet proved his ability by learning icelandic in one week, previously, having no knowledge of the language (which is claimed to be one of the hardest languages to learn in the world). At the end of the week he was interviewed on icelandic television and conversed in a relaxed manner to the TV presenter. The presenter was amazed that he had learned icelandic from scratch in one week.
Clearly, he had an aptitude for languages that the average person could only dream of, but each person will have an aptitude for learning a language. This aptitude might be closer to Tammets’ ability or probably less so. It is also claimed that aptitude for languages is greater in young child and this ability decreases as people get older and more conditioned to speak one language.
So how do you know if you have an aptitude to learn languages ? The best way is to try to learn a language an see how it goes. Other than that, you may feel that you have ability with languages because you have learned your native language to a high level. You might feel you have a natural ability to understand and manipulate symbols because you like word games, puzzles and crosswords. You may feel that you enjoy speaking new words or phrases. All these things might suggest you have ability but trying to learn a new language is only way you will ever know.
The second quality that will make your learning faster is a strong desire to learn the language. This is a very personal issue. If you are living in a country where you do not speak the language your desire to learn it will be stronger. You will learn faster because your life will be greatly improved if you do so.
Many people that buy a self study French course or take a class once a week have a vague ambition to learn the language but it is never a strong desire. It’s a ‘like to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’ skill. So the secret, if there is any secret, to learning a new language, for people with average aptitude, is to create a strong desire.
This is hard and you need to remain disciplined. Set goals and don’t allow yourself to be diverted from achieving those goals. You may have to sacrifice other things that you enjoy in your life to achieve these goals. You may have to work long hours. You may have to do things that you can’t see the point of. You have to keep going and keep focused on your goal.
With language learning you could set yourself a grand goal, like visit France next year (or in 3 months!). Within this grand goal, set yourself mini goals like learning the present tense for all -er ending verbs. Stick to these goals, put the effort in for the mini goals and build towards the grand goal. You may have to revise the date you achieve your grand goal but remain focused on reaching it.
Where french courses come into this equation is that they can help you to set your goals. They can motivate you to stick to these goals. And, they can teach you the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how the language works.
Rocket French ticks all three of these boxes.
The Rocket French course can be split into three main sections.
There is the basics section, the intermediate, where subtler aspects of the language are introduced and the advanced, where real life conversations are discussed.
Within each section are a number of exercises. Each exercise covers a topic which you can use as the basis to set your mini goals.
Within the basic section there are 25 lessons or goals for you to attain. The basic section should take you from French novice to an understanding of basic grammar and sentence structures. You will also be able to listen to the words, verbs and sentences spoken by a native French speaker. At the end of each lesson are a series of exercises that help to re-inforce your understanding of the lesson. Success in these exercises should help to keep you focused on attaining your goal and motivate you to continue.
The intermediate section has another 9 lessons that follow the same format. They introduce more verbs and more conplex uses of the verbs including past and future ways to use the verbs.
The advanced section features another 9 lessons. In these lessons, the teaching becomes more practical and actual everyday conversations are discussed and analysed.
So there are 45 lessons in the complete course. If you want to become advanced in French in 3 months that gives you approx. 90 days. If you study one lesson per day you can go through the course twice. I would advise that you concentrate most of your attention on the basics section. This is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how the French language works. You need to know this section very well or the next sections will be lost on you. I would suggest going through the basic section twice.
Take notes on each lesson and revisit your notes the next time you do the lesson. If you go through the basic section twice, you will have taken 50 days. You should have a firm grasp of French basics at this stage and you can go onto the intermediate and advanced sections.
This leaves 40 days to master the next 20 lessons. Some of the next lessons may only need one visit if you feel you understand the material well. If this is the case you are a day ahead of schedule. You can use this day to work on lessons that you are not so sure about.
Rocket French also have a number of games that help to motivate a student. These include French flash cards that you can print out and play a word or phrase recognition game with. The course also offers a megavocab game where you guess the word based on a picture that is shown on the screen. There is also megaaudio, where you listen to audio and try to march it to one of 4 pictures shown on the screen. The third game is megaverb. This game allows you to practice conjugating your verbs. Verbs appear on the screen and you are asked to conjugate the verb in a particular tense and person. This helps you to remember verb endings. These games are good to warm you up before a lesson begins proper. You can also use them just for fun and re-inforce skills learned in the latest lesson.
You should strive to complete the course in 90 days. If you manage to complete the course you will have an understanding of french to an advanced level. I understand this to mean that you know how the french language works. You can speak to a good degree. This could mean having conversations with people in shops, asking for directions and small talk with acquaintances.
I still believe that you will have to learn a lot of vocabulary to be totally confident of your abilities. You will also have to learn many turns of phrase that French people use or you may lose the thread of the conversation. If you have an ability to comprehend conversations you can always ask what a certain word or phrase means. This helps you to make valid contributions to the conversation and also learn more French as you go.
So what is your next step ? Go to the Rocket French website and see what you think of the product. They give more details of what the course offers. They also have a free 6 day course which gives you a good taster of how the whole course works. Good luck with your studies.