French Week 42 – Commencer à parler!


Very exciting times… I have started to speak French! LingQ tells me that I have read over 800,000 words and listened to over 300 hours of French since I started my French adventure at the beginning of the year. Now I am very fortunate to have the opportunity of free french classes where I am currently living in New York, so I am taking my first tentative steps into the world of speaking French. Its early days, and I am taking baby steps, but it feels great to start using the language after many months of absorbing more and more French material. Watch this space!

Two observations about starting to flex those productive language muscles: (1) It can be very frustrating to get going! The part of my brain that recognises words feels miles ahead of the part of my brain that can find the right word. So pretty basic vocabulary that I understand passively I am pretty hopeless at coming up with on the spot. And that is before we even start to talk about the challenges of pronunciation! (2) There is suddenly so much interference coming from Spanish. This makes so much sense given how similar the two languages are, but also it is so much easier for my brain to find the Spanish word, I guess because those neural pathways are so well established now. I’m sure this will become less of a problem as we start laying down some proper French neural highways inside my noggin!

However I am confident that, as with my experience with Spanish, all that reading and listening is going to pay massive dividends when I start to speak a lot – and that passive vocabulary gradually starts to work its way into my productive skills.

In other news I have finished Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets, my third full length book in French, and I am now ploughing into Le Prisonnier d’Azkaban. And I am dividing my listening time between News in Slow FrenchFrançais Authentique and L’avis de Marie. I have also started to write a little using Lang-8, but I haven’t really had enough time to get into writing. Writing is my skill focus for weeks 51-75, and for now I am focusing primarily on listening comprehension.

Bye for now, et bonne chance avec votre apprentissage de la langue!


French Week 37 -Worry Less, Listen More


I have now finished week 37 of learning French through LingQ. Weeks 1-25 were all about reading, weeks 26-50 are all about listening. Of course I am reading and writing, and may soon also be speaking, but the core activity right now is listening. And lots of it. My current aim is to listen to at least 10 hours of French a week.

But what kind of listening? There have been lots of discussions on the LingQ forums over the years about what to listen to, how to listen and how much. Whether to read the content first, or listen first. Whether to listen intensively to the same content, or extensively to a wider variety of content. Whether to listen actively, trying to understand every word and phrase, or to listen passively by leaving the radio on all the time and hoping that the language just seeps into your mind whilst you’re not noticing.

Underpinning all these questions is the concern: am I listening the right way? Could I be listening better? And it is an understandable concern given that LingQ puts special emphasis on listening as the most important language skill. We want to be doing it right.

Nevertheless I think we can worry a little too much sometimes. Obviously the more intensively and actively we engage with the material, the more we’re going to get out of it. But I think we can set ourselves up to fail when we try to concentrate 100% of the time, and feel bad when our mind wanders off, or a certain phrase just remains beyond our understanding. How do we measure concentration anyway? Its for this reason that I don’t think the distinction between “passive” and “active” listening is that helpful. My strategy is to find content in the “sweet spot” that is interesting and challenging, but not too difficult, and then I try and listen to as much of it as I can. Sometimes I will be listening very intently, and taking everything in. At other times I will be barely paying attention. I don’t think it matters, as long as I am enjoying the content.

And there is another reason why I don’t think it helps to get hung up about active/passive listening: more passive listening means more active listening. If I set a goal to listen attentively to 3 hours of French a week, not only will I have no idea whether I have achieved my goal, but I would probably give up. It sounds too much like hard work! But if I aim to listen to 10 hours of French a week – passively, actively and everything in between – I will inevitably achieve that goal of 3 hours of active listening, and probably more. So my advice for this week: worry less, listen more!

French Week 34 – Carry on Listening!

simon haisell


It has been a very long time since I updated my French adventure. I am about to roll into week 35 of this madcap plan to learn French in 100 weeks using LingQ as my main learning tool. I have divided the long journey into four 25 week blocks, each focusing on one of the four main skills, starting with reading, then listening, writing and finally speaking. Currently I am focused on listening, but have also begun to write for the first time.

What am I listening to?
Each day I add roughly 10 minutes of new content to my daily playlist and then run through the last 7 days of listening throughout the day. Currently my main sources are News In Slow French, Journal en français facile, and L’avis de Marie, and of course the LingQ Library. I use Audacity to slice up the 30 minute…

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French Week 25 – From Reading to Listening

simon haisell


Writing with a heavy heart today after the sad turn of events in the UK at the end of this week. I didn’t know when I started my French Adventure that I would reach the 1/4 milestone on such a dark week in my country’s history. But perhaps I now have even more reasons to learn French!

I decided back in January that I would spend the first 25 weeks focusing on learning to read fluently in French. I feel I have made great progress in that time, reading half a million words and learning 18219 French words. My aim for the next 25 weeks is to shift my focus from reading to listening, hopefully getting my listening up to 14 hours a week by the end of the year. I am also going to start writing. Not much, possibly not as much as the weekly targets set by LingQ

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French Week 24 – Almost There!

simon haisell

Radhanagar Fishing Boat

Known Words: 18002
Hours Listened: 183.5

So I have one week left of the first part of my 100 week adventure of learning French. I was aiming to get to 20,000 known words by this point, but it looks like I will fall a little short of that. Never mind, I am very pleased with the progress I have made in the first 25 weeks, and I am feeling excited and optimistic about stage two (more on stage two next week).

What have I beenreading?
The past few weeks I have been working my way through Les Apparences (or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn). It is slow work and I am only a fifth of the way through it, but I will keep chipping away at it. I am simultaneously reading the book and listening to the audiobook.

What have I been listening to?
I have been getting into…

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French Week 18

simon haisell


Known Words: 15591
Hours Listened: 145

Going offline for a couple of weeks so I thought I’d give a quick update on my French adventure. Finally finished Dune, reading on LingQ. That felt like a really great achievement after starting reading French five months ago. On holiday I am going to tackle Gone Girl (Les Apparences) which I’ve got on kindle with audio book.

On the listening front I am just working through News In Slow French episodes from 2011. That was such an incredible year: from the revolutions and protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, to the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the London riots and the start of the civil war in Syria. It really felt like one of those years like 1968, years that only come around once a generation. Anyway really enjoying reliving it again…in French!

I have 7 more weeks in…

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French Week 16

simon haisell

Pebbles Delight

Known Words: 14104
Hours of Listening: 124

I haven’t updated my French adventure for a few weeks, so here is a post to say “I’m still here” and pushing ahead with my 100 weeks of French. In my last update I was reading Dune and listening to the French podcasts at LingQ. There are about 90 podcasts, and I have listened to the first 30. I decided to take a break from them and re-listened to some of The Linguist again. Going back to the older material was good for my confidence: I was noticing a lot more than the first time around, and bits that were difficult in February are now much easier.

I am over half way through Dune and I am now on the home straight. It would be painfully difficult to read such an advanced book in French without reading it using LingQ. LingQ makes reading…

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