That’s One Way To Do It

Well, apparently Reddit doesn’t like you to cut and past a screenshot of anything you find on their site. Makes sense, it is their content after all. 

So all I can do is tell you to go here and give what you find a read. The author, CestUnHibou, taught his/herself French and passed the C1 after only 3 years of mostly self study. 

What was the secret weapon? Not flashcards, but novels. This person apparently just loves reading and so mostly did just that, reading what s/he was personally interested in, starting with the Tara Duncan series. No, I’d never heard of it either (it’s young adult fiction).

I thought starting out with books, and not vocabulary, was pretty brave! It’d seem like you’d be stopping every third word for a look-up in your French-English dictionary. But then I managed to find a Tara Duncan book in the kindle store and downloaded a free sample. This is what I saw: 

Panel from La Licorne Décornée

Whoa! No wonder they were able to read this. A comic book! The pictures help you figure out what’s going on! I was immediately sold on this method, ordered volume 1 of the Tara Duncan series, and waited forever for USPS media mail to get it from Oregon to Florida.

The arriving parcel didn’t have the dimensions I was expecting… and it was much heavier than I’d imagined too. Maybe more graphic novel than comic book? …

Nope. No pictures at all. Rather, almost 500 pages of pure text. Not baby talk either. This didn’t look accessible to a beginner at all.

I private-messaged CestUnHibou to ask whether I’d ordered the right thing. I guess reddit wouldn’t be mad if I showed you the reply.

Good luck with your French studies?!? Son of a …

In case reddit ever deletes the post, let’s summarize what CestUnHibou did.

Year 1: with very little French background, read 8 novels in the Tara Duncan series. Initially just looked up enough vocab to be able to understand what was going on, skipping over some of the harder stuff. By the end of book 2, no longer having to skip anything. Listened to some RFI for comprehension and spoke to him/herself for speaking practice. Went through exercises and sample tests in DELF B1 practice book (probably this). Passed the DELF B1

Year 2: read so many books they lost count. Moved from consuming “français facile” 3x per week to daily podcasts of “normal” material for native speakers. Found a tutor & spent 2 hours per week with him. Did exercises in B2 practice book. Passed the DELF B2

Year 3: same as year 2 but also watched youtube videos of native speakers speaking colloquially (not easy at first). French had become part of daily life by then. Passed the DALF C1

I’ve had this blasted Duncan book by my bedside for quite some time now. Every few days I open it to see if I seem to have learned enough vocabulary with my flash cards to give it a go. Each time I put it down after a few pages and tell myself I need more vocab first. But as of today I’ve surpassed the 1000th word in the 5000 word list. At some point I will have to jump in with both feet and either sink or swim.