Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Self-Teaching Languages: how I taught myself French from a young age

All photos from my Instagram @bookfangirlingblogger

This post was requested by a very lovely girl on Twitter and although I didn't have a specific day I was going to write and post this, I thought I would write it up since it was sitting in my drafts.

I have always been interested in the French language, longer than I can remember, and at some point I began to take initiative and start learning it all by myself. I was about six or seven when I began to do this all the time and my interest became a hobby, and even though it was only the most basic of French phrases and words, it felt like a great achievement because no one else I knew that was my age could do the same thing!

Obviously at age six I had limited funds and so made do with the small amount of stuff we already had in the house, or whatever my parents bought me when we were on a trip to France. So I thought this post would be helpful because I can show you ways to learn beginner-level French (or any other language) on a small budget. 

The main content of this post will be books in some form, but they are not great big expensive textbooks and workbooks, and so if you've never learnt a foreign language and don't know if you'll like it, this is an inexpensive place to start off!

This is my old folder of French work, because younger me thought that the work she was doing was highly important, so much so that it required a folder show off all of my achievements. I mean, I'm not saying she was completely wrong, because it was important for me to start off young. The earlier you begin to learn a language, the easier it will be to become good at it.

This little folder is just full of pieces of paper where I have continually written out words and phrases that I felt like learning on the day. Some would come from the books that I'll show you, and some came from my memory of the computer game, which I'll include at the end.

Also, can I just point out that I somehow knew Je veux when I was seven years old???? That's hard stuff, which I would not have picked up if I had not learnt the basics when I was young too. Go seven-year-old me!

Here are four learning methods that allowed me to achieve all of this:

1. Sticker books: Gold Stars 'My first 100 words in French' sticker book

Buy others like this: 1, 2, 3

This is a beautiful French sticker book that I used to take with me on holiday each year to France and do a little bit of the book each time. I used to love the illustrations and the layout because it was really easy, plus there was French-English translation already, so I didn't have to do it myself. 

If you're one of those people who wants to start learning French (or any other language) calmly, without scary textbooks that you feel may put you off learning the language for life, then this is the place to start. You're never too old for sticker books! Plus its a really calm and refreshing way to learn languages without the pressure.

2. Hand-me-down books: The Usborne 'First 1000 words in French' 

Buy this and similar: 1, 2, 3

I don't quite know where I got this from, but it may have been from one of my cousins. Before you buy anything like this, just check with your family to see if they have a book like this stashed away from when they or their children were younger, but if not there are plenty of inexpensive options to choose from.

I always loved this book because it is a big size with pictures that cover the whole page, as well as it being a kind of 'Where's Wally' set up. It gives you a big picture in the middle with items and their French names around the sides, and you have to find them. This makes you use your brain as it helps connect images to words which form long-term memory, and you'll have these everyday words learnt in no time.

3. AA phrase books: The AA pocket guide French phrase book

Buy this: 1, 2, 3,

This was another thing that I loved carrying around with me when we went to France, and I would spend hours pouring over it in the car journey to the ferry. Just holding this brought back cosy car journey feels.

I loved this as a kid because it was really easy to understand. It gives you certain categories in which you might need to use French and provides phrases for them, also telling you how to pronounce it. This book is particularly amazing because if you want to start learning French, it gives you the most necessary and useful information. I remember using it because I always wanted to make friends with French children on the camp-sites that we always stayed at, and knowing some phrases really gave me confidence, because I'm not the sort of person who easily makes friends. I was actually able to understand some French people just from the knowledge I got by using this, although nothing should replace learning the grammar properly. I would highly recommend it!

4. KidSpeak CD ROM

Links to buy: Amazon, Transparent Language, Ebay, multiple language edition on Ebay

If you can afford something that's just a little bit more expensive, then a computer game is a great addition to all of these other things. I think this helped me the most because I was hearing the language and being able to parrot it back, even if it was just the alphabet or the French 'happy birthday' song or small mini-games with the most basic of words. It helped them stick in my mind, and so by the time I got to high school at eleven years old I flew through year seven French classes because it was literally the same things on that computer game. Its primarily aimed at small children, but using this I had no trouble in French class and it allowed me to progress further when everyone else in my class was stuck on counting to ten and naming clothes. It honestly helps, and although you might feel a bit embarrassed using a game meant for children, keep at it because you won't have to use it for long! This game also has 12 printable activities and projects to reinforce what you've learnt, so you can learn French on the go.

Here's a video that I managed to find containing some of the songs so you can see for yourself how it works. Watching this made me feel very nostalgic as this game used to be a massive part of my life and I truly believe that its what helped me to become so passionate about French:

I hope that's enough to get you started! You don't need all of these things but I would recommend getting something similar if you can't find the exact copy of mine, as I have had most of them for nearly a decade, so there are going to be new and updated versions. If you want me to check some out for you and report back in another post, leave a comment for me!

Thanks for reading, and happy learning!

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