A lot of English academics at my university seem to really love French theorists. Guy Debord, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida…the list could go on. And on. And on. The problem with reading English translations of French theory is that reading a ridiculous French theory that’s been translated into ridiculous English makes the entire theory even more ridiculous than the author might have originally conceived it to be. My lack of French knowledge also means that I can’t necessarily pronounce all the names and words I come across in the writing.
So I started listening to a French podcast. Coffee Break French is totally free, and you can find it on iTunes or on the internet. The program is designed around the idea that you can learn French by spending your coffee break at work listening (and responding to) a French podcast. So far, it’s been relatively easy. I can say good morning, good night, my name is, and other staple phrases. Now, Coffee Break French may not be the path to total fluency, but it has been a way for me to learn the basics of another language. The great thing about a podcast is that you can listen to it on your computer or you can upload it to a Smartphone or an mp3 player and make it portable! I can listen to lessons while I’m on the bus, on the treadmill, or walking to the grocery store. Because the lessons are short and there isn’t a lot of urgency behind my desire to become more familiar with French, I’m able to take the lessons at my own leisurely pace. The same network that produces Coffee Break French also offers Coffee Break Spanish, which I think might be my next attempt.
Another great web resource I’ve found for language learning is Deutsche Welle. I haven’t been able to take a German course since my sophomore year in college, and I’ve spent the last few years watching my German beginning to slip away. In an attempt to recall some of the knowledge I used to have, I’ve been using Deutsche Welle’s tools. A lot of the learning takes place through podcasts as well, but Deutsche Welle uses story lines to instruct rather than phrases like Air Lingua (who produces Coffee Break Languages).
As much as people insist that the time to learn language is when you’re a child, I seem to be having an easier time learning French in my twenties than I did learning German in my early teens. The only thing I can think of that would make my experience better would be having someone else learning the language right alongside me. Learning a new language together can be a great bonding activity for a family. What are some other web resources you’ve found to learn another language? Have you tried to learn new language online through podcasts?