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Parlez-vous français?

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As an update to my last post (which I accidentally posted a few days after I wrote it), I was able to see everyone on my list save for two people thanks to the wonderful surprise party that my roommates threw for me (and to which I ended up being an hour late!)! One of my good friends also helped me to move all of my boxes into storage (which my mother so graciously packed as I was out running errands like a chicken with my head cut off), and everything went as well as it could have, if not even better. (:

Anyway, the topic of this post is French. French is a valuable language to know in Morocco because if you don’t know the Moroccan dialect Darija, which very few people do, then the next best thing is to know French. Now, I’ve never had any formal training in French before. I am a heritage speaker of Portuguese, took Spanish in middle school, Latin in high school, and Russian and Arabic in college, so I’ve had little time to pick up another Romance language. However when I arrived in Morocco this summer for the first time, I quickly realized what a valuable language French really is. Not only do most of the countries in North Africa speak it, but a majority of the remaining African countries do also (with the exception of Portuguese-speaking countries like Angola and Mozambique!). So in preparation, I have been trying to learn a few French words and phrases on my own, using various free tools that are easily accessible online. When I get to AUI, however, I will actually take a beginning French class, and so my formal study will begin.

Over the summer, my friend sent me a sign-up link to Duolingo. Back then, registration was by referral only, and I was lucky that he had already signed up and asked if anyone wanted a free account as well. So I joined, took a look at what they had to offer, and quickly forgot about it as my pile of Arabic homework started to become more and more daunting as the weeks went on. I can’t remember what exactly prompted me to restart my journey on Duolingo… Perhaps it was because I had bookmarked the site in my language learning folder. Whatever the case my be, I started to slowly but surely start learning French on my own. I love Duolingo because it is basically a structured language course based on translation. It takes you through each lesson in a pretty logical order, and it has a listening capability so that you can speak the answer out loud. When I was doing this at Princeton, I would sit down in Frist between classes to eat my lunch and go through a few lessons of French. I even kept up with it over break until just recently (thanks to the mobile app that I have already raved about). So if you’re looking to learn French or even Spanish, Portuguese, German, or Italian, go check out Duolingo!

Another useful tool that has helped me quite a bit is FrenchPod101. This is a great site because I was able to practice my listening skills a lot better than just listening to short recorded sentences that were probably google translate. These were small 10 minute dialogues presented by two French speakers who broke the lessons down into vocabulary, grammar, cultural context, and pronunciation. I am not usually impressed by companies who offer to teach you tons of different languages (jack of all trades, master of none), but this one is actually pretty legitimate. They really know what they’re doing in terms of virtual language learning and always have at least one native speaker in their podcast teaching you. Over the holidays they had multiple special offers and I decided to purchase a premium membership for a month in many different languages (I’m subscribed to Finnish, Russian, Japanese, and Turkish, among others). I can’t say enough good things about frenchpod101, and this is really a perfect way if you have no time to learn French using books or materials other than your computer or iPod and a pair of headphones. Also, your free account gives you the option of receiving word-a-day emails in your chosen language. I’ve gotten into the habit of taking those emails and making my own Flashcards on quizlet so that I can always review the vocabulary with my iPhone app.

The last online resource that I’ve used to learn French is this webapp called Memrise. It’s a fun little app that let’s you pick a “course” made by other users that are just basically vocabulary Flashcards. They quiz you multiple times on French words and even give you the option of using a mnemonic device to help you remember. You can create your own “mem” or use a preexisting one made by another user. The best part is that once you thoroughly go through the words, you can’t look at them anymore for a set number of time. In the first section you “plant” your vocabulary, the next one you harvest, and the third (after another amount of time) you water your words by going through them again. This is time-spaced repetition at its finest and they definitely get this part right. They’ll send you an email (if you wish) to be reminded that your words need harvesting or watering (repeating memorization) and that’s that. There are tons of free courses that you can take on practically any language. My only wish is that they develop an iPhone app so that I would be able to plant, harvest, or water my vocabulary whenever I want. I’d be willing to pay quite a bit!

Finally, although I have not spent much time reviewing Moroccan Arabic (though I should have), I did try and peruse my Darija book from over the summer so that I can remember some key vocabulary. I wanted to make some Flashcards on quizlet with all the good words, but I haven’t had enough time (nor remembered when I did) and so my unfortunate deck of Moroccan vocabulary has remained empty for quite some time. Perhaps I’ll be able to create some cards before I leave, but most likely not. French is easier to learn anyway. Although I will be taking the Moroccan Colloquial class that they offer at AUI so I’m excited to start that. I already know the professor and it should be relatively relaxed.

So that’s where I stand on my language learning: very basic, yet functional French, and a smidgen of Darija that I remember from over the summer (but I suppose that people would understand me if I spoke in Egyptian dialect!). Hopefully it won’t be too too difficult to navigate on the first day. We’ll see. Only three more days!

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