Reaching Critical Mass

Well another update is certainly in order given that it’s been almost 3 months since the last! My wife is still undergoing cancer treatment. We’ve switched from chemotherapy to immune therapy. As mentioned last time with all the doctor’s appointments and dealing with side effects I’ve certainly had an excuse to be “too busy” for French. But probably 6 days out of 7 I do my daily allotment of Anki flash cards. I’m also doing much more reading.

Let’s compare where I was 11 weeks ago vs. where I am today.

Moving right along! If I can continue to roughly add 20% more to the “mature” pile every 3 months, then by Halloween I will have learned the whole 5000 card deck!

But… I’d be very surprised if that happens. Anki only shows you a fixed number of cards per day, so as more of the 5000 cards become an active part of your review pile, you begin to see each one with less frequency, which means you miss more (even ones you used to apparently “know”), which slows progress. 

This project is about becoming fluent in French. That means you can effortlessly read, write, speak, and understand spoken French. It is clear to me that so far the reading muscle is the only one I’m developing. It’s actually an odd place to be in because my reading has gotten, dare I say, amazingly good. I read a lot of French online now, am rarely lost, and am even reading a French translation of a popular American investing book with only sporadic help from a dictionary. But I really struggle to understand anything but the simplest audio and can’t AT ALL construct even super simple sentences. 

How can it be, that I can mostly read French while not having spent any time on grammar and can’t speak it or understand it?!? I think the effect is similar to typoglycemia. If you’re a native English reader, you can read the following at about the same words per minute as normal English.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Similarly, when the brain looks at French, if enough of the vocabulary is understood, the mind apparently just connects the dots on its own and gets the message. I must say, it makes reading an almost effortless joy. But it certainly wouldn’t fly with speaking to just throw out nouns and verbs and expect the other person to “get it”. (They very well may, but it’ll be so bad you’ll quickly give them a headache). 

Well, that’s all for today. I’ll eventually cobble together a plan for writing, speaking, and understanding spoken, but for now I’m hell-bent on making it to the end of the 5000-word deck. And having a lot of fun reading all kinds of French along the way.

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