Sorry, Tara!

I’m back! A lot has happened. As mentioned at the end of an earlier post, it did indeed turn out that my wife has cancer. She’s undergone a big surgery, has healed well, and chemotherapy will start in 10 days. We’ve put many miles on the car going back and forth between Gainesville and Jacksonville (Mayo Clinic is there).

I’ve had every reason in the world to put French on the back burner but amazingly I’ve only missed a handful of days. If I hadn’t purchased the Anki app this project would be history, but having the flashcards on my phone means I can, and do, study anywhere. It only takes about 15-20 minutes per day to go through the daily allotment (usually 100 already-seen words plus 20 new ones). As often as I can, I supplement that by listening to the latest émission from RFI, and sometimes before bed I’ll read its transcript too.

Check out my progress below. Anki says I’ve now seen about 1/3 of the 5000 words at least once and 1/4 of them I know quite well. 

Now, about Tara Duncan. People, I tried. Multiple times. That book and I just couldn’t get along for a couple of reasons. The first is that I haven’t been into fantasy books for about … oh, only 30 years. The second is that I found fantasy an incredibly hard genre for a beginning reader because anything is possible. Let me explain.

If you’re reading the news on RFI and the story seems to say that Vladamir Putin is riding with his talking dog in a flying limousine over purple countryside, you know you’re making mistakes in your translation. But with fantasy, that could be spot on because anything goes! You can read page after page and think, wow, either I’m not getting this at all or actually I am, and the author has a wild imagination. It drove me crazy! Was I reading French or was I just free associating badly?! No way to know unless you google translate almost every sentence. The book is now in my wife’s collection.

I switched for a while to reading news & gossip on Yahoo! France and finance news on Business Insider France and couldn’t believe how much I could understand (maybe it’s not written for the most educated). Then my wife remembered that she had a French book I might enjoy and brought out the book you see here! 

Not only am I interested in the topic but incredibly, I can actually read it also! If you’d told me that this soon after starting this project I’d already be able to read books and online magazine articles, I never would have believed it. My comprehension, of course, is not 100% but I’d say it’s a solid 60-70% and generally enough to understand the paragraphs. And all this after only being “mature” on 25% of the vocabulary deck?! 

Before I pull a muscle patting myself on the back too much, I can’t forget though that the DELF exams also cover writing, speaking, and listening. Those parts of this project have barely begun.