I have a few weeks before I start a class that requires students to understand speeches given by French-speaking presidents and world leaders.
Currently, my French comprehension is, honestly, at about 70 to 80% at the moment.
I have a tutor who records 30-minute monologues on subjects that I AM INTERESTED IN, so the input is interesting and compelling. He speaks at native-level speed, and the expressions and sentences are not made any easier just because I’m a student.
But, today, I went to the Elysee’s website to watch “Le Point Presse,” which is similar to the “Press Briefings” held at the White House, and I had trouble following along. I also couldn't follow some of the speeches by François Hollande.
While I understood about 80% - that’s not enough. I need to be able to clearly understand the points these speakers are making so I can discuss them in class. I can't discuss what I haven't understood.
I am reading like the wind; things like L'Express, Le Monde (this one is tough), Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Monde Diplomatique, Euro News, etc.
Am I fighting a losing battle? I don’t know how much improvement I can expect over the next 2 months ... But in order to pass this class, I need to be able to listen and understand this highly educated and deeply-idiomatic French.
Admittedly, for the past two months, I haven't been listening to much French because I was focusing on exams. But now I have more time to dedicate to this goal. I feel like I am soooo close, but yet so far away.
1) First of all, you can improve a lot in 2 months, so relax. The more relaxed and confident you are, the more you enjoy your listening and reading, the better you will do.
2) It is quite effective to listen to and read different content on similar subjects. Do a lot of both. Do it out of interest, and to enjoy the content. If you find listening content that you like, and where you like the voice, listen more than once.
3) It is often useful to latch onto longer content, an audio book, say about history or current events, for which you have the etext. You can then import the book into Ling and save the audio to your mp3 player or smart phone. If you like the voice and content matter it is often helpful to get continued dosage of a comfortable range of content matter and voice and intonation.
4) Where possible find texts with audio or audio with texts, so that you can look up what you are missing. This is not necessary but often helpful.
5) Whenever listening or reading, try to focus on phrases or terms that you have just discovered, or just noticed. This kind of helps the brain retain things.
Most of all enjoy and trust that you will improve, and improve a lot more than you think is possible, even though you don't notice this improvement every day.
As for being close yet far away, we always feel that way, as our level improves and our expectations rise, like Tantalus of Phrygia.
One more thing that I forgot. With your level in French you also need to speak a lot. If you have a tutor, get him or her to give you a google doc with your mistakes and phrases that cause you trouble for you to import into LingQ. This will make your listening and reading more effective, give it more resonance.
I love suggestion No. 5. This is a very smart idea.
I have a subscription to Le Monde Diplomatique, and they read out some of the articles. The audio quality is through the roof. So, I will be importing the articles into Lingq and making use of my flash cards. (I tend to not use flash cards for WORDS, I use them for phrases, mostly.)
François Fillon just gave a speech today, and the text of the speech was uploaded online, so I'll be working with that.
And I have a great audio book, which I'll try to work my way through.
Forgot to ask you this .... is there a recommended number of hours you would suggest I listen to French, as a minimum? Of course I may do more, but let's say I'm in a crunch. I'll know to get in at least X many hours.
Steve, does listening while doing other tasks work? I heard you should pay attention while listening so you can improve, and if just listening while doing other tasks, then you won't benefit, how correct is that please? Because if it helps, then I probably can listen more than 6 hours a day!