Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rapid Language Learning

Konstantin Ryabitsev, November, 2004


A geek is faced with a task of quickly learning French to pass a standardized test. He manages to accomplish it in 10 months, largely in his spare time, and using easily-accessible technology together with cheap or free resources.


I stretch the truth a little when I say that I managed to learn French in just 10 months, but this is an election year, so I don't feel quite as bad about exaggerating in order to put my achievements in a more appealing light. Of course, it takes years of effort and constant practice to learn a foreign language—I do not think even Mensa™ members can claim to be able to learn an unknown language in just one year, and those of them who can, indeed, accomplish such a feat are kept deep underground for brain experiments anyway.

No, what I'm talking about here is learning enough French to pass a standardized test, more specifically TEF, or Test d'Evaluation de Français. The reasons why I needed to pass this test are quite simple—I am currently in the process of immigrating to Canada, and the knowledge of both of their official languages gives the applicant a significant boost on the immigration score. I already knew enough English for it not to be a problem, but I had only studied French for one semester in High School, more than 12 years ago, and could only remember small bits and pieces of what I had learned, mostly the general pronunciation rules, and even some of those incorrectly.

So, realizing that knowing enough French to get decent scores on TEF could have had life-altering effects in my case, I have decided to set out on a quest to learn as much French as I could in one year. I started in August, 2003, and I have taken my exam in May of 2004, getting enough points to qualify as "advanced" in most areas. This little write-up is a description of my experiences and methods I have used—perhaps they will be useful to someone else with a similar goal in mind. Read Next


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