After studying the French language now for approximately four years. I have to say it’s one of, if not the most difficult task I’ve ever given myself.
I lived and worked in France for two years and learnt almost nothing all the time I was there. Of course, I was learning, but hearing the native speakers was almost impossible. If you cant hear it, you cannot progress!
I’ve used most available training methods, Michel Thomas all levels and supplements, Rosetta Stone all levels. I completed all five levels and still was unable to cope with the most basic conversation. I’ve attended several classes over the years which have always left me feeling worse about my ability with the French language than before I attended the class.
The Pimsleur system, I have completed numerous times, but you have to keep going back over and over it to get the tiny little sounds that only after constant repetition do you start to hear without a great deal of effort and it takes up a lot of time! A serious amount of time and effort, But probably has got me closer to speaking and hearing French more than any other method. The Pimsleur method works when you are at the correct stage but I recommend Michel Thomas for general basics without headaches.
Most recently I’ve become addicted to duolingo although sometimes I just want to uninstall it when it tells me its time for my daily practice yet again. It really is a long-winded process.
What I’ve concluded for myself at least is that learning a new language requires years and years of constant practice. Many more years than most language teachers like to admit and far longer than most French people expect you to take. They cannot see the difficulty. I was given time frames like 3 months… that is simply ridiculous. Also, immersion is all very well but not when you can hardly hear a single word anyone is saying to you, and you are trying to earn a living and survive in a foreign country.
Adult vs Child
As an adult, you really can feel how long the struggle is. Children don’t have the same time perspective or expectations and appear to learn languages easily. However, I don’t think that is really the case. They aren’t in a hurry. They have all the time in the world and don’t expect to have advanced meaningful conversations or speak on the phone in French to the tax man!
I put far too much pressure on myself to try and learn the language quickly. Moving to France did not help either as I was under even more pressure to speak the language and I don’t think the brain functions very well when under intense pressure. It is not a good mode to learn in. Not for me.
After putting so much effort into learning the language I am at a point where I simply have to continue, there is no choice.