It’s been a busy week at work and at home, as the school year is winding down. I seriously cannot wait for summer. Longer days keep me inspired, and I enjoy the feeling of the sun beating down all day long, even though it gets really hot here in Texas.

This weekend, I’m buckling down on my French studies. I’ve been studying French since January, and I’m in beginner II. I take classes once a week, and I have a hard time finding the time to study in between classes.

I was looking at some videos on YouTube for tips on how to improve my French language skills, and I don’t think I’m studying nearly enough. The people whose videos I watched that had mastered the language were studying, at minimum, one to two hours per day! I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I don’t even get in one to two hours a week outside of class!

The good thing about taking actual classes is that it forces me to study at least enough to complete my homework each week. It also gives me an opportunity to actually speak the language, interact with a native French speaker (my teacher), and with other students. But, it’s going to take a lot more effort outside of the classroom if I want to get serious about mastering the language.

I recently added a new language study app to my arsenal called Tinycards. Tinycards is by the maker of the program Duolingo. Duolingo is a completely free language learning software, and so is Tinycards! Tinycards integrates the vocabulary from Duolingo and other language programs by the same maker to create flashcards.

The Tinycards flashcards are awesome for reinforcing my French vocabulary. Before I move to intermediate-level courses, I’m going to need a lot more vocabulary words. It’s fine to learn rules, important verbs, and to how to conjugate them. But, in order to improve my speaking, writing, and listening, I simply need to know more words in French.

My French classes at the French Alliance in Houston are immersion style. The good thing about this method is that you start speaking from day 1. The downside of this method is that you don’t do traditional memorization or vocabulary drills. We do some vocabulary exercises, but for the most part, we have to study a lot of the vocabulary on our own.

I kept telling myself that I would make my own flashcards. I even got out the marker and the index cards, but it just never happened. Luckily, the flashcards provided electronically via Tinycards make it easy to reinforce my French vocabulary.

The cards introduce new words and phrases, and you have to translate them  to French from English and vice versa alternatively. You also have to identify the pictorial representation. I like this method because it allows me the practice of typing out the words instead of just clicking on them. I want to eventually write fluently in French, so writing practice is important.

The Tinycards app is also available on desktop applications, so it’s easy to study from different devices. So far, I’m really enjoying the program, and I’ll let you guys know how it’s going as I progress!

Before I found this new app to help me out, I was briefly becoming discouraged because, to be quite frank, learning a new language is a lot of work! Luckily, my teacher makes class interesting, and my desire to actually visit France one day keeps things me motivated.

Unfortunately, I’m still getting comments from people about how I should be studying Spanish. Ironically, these comments mostly come from people that don’t even speak Spanish! I actually feel quite confident that the experience of buckling down to learn French will make it much easier for me when (and if) I decide to revisit Spanish.

I’ll be detailing more about the methods I’m using to beef up my French studies, but for now I have to get back to studying! Au revoir!

So, I’ve decided to do something that I’ve always wanted to do, which is to learn French fluently. I have this “crazy” vision of myself sitting in a cafe in Paris speaking French fluently with the locals. I’d love to visit a Creole restaurant in New Orleans and actually be able to pronounce the dishes. I’d like to read original texts in French without the need to translate them to English. I actually don’t think it’s crazy, but other people seem to think so.

When I excitedly posted on my Facebook page that I was going to begin studying French, I had one person make a wisecrack that basically said it was dumb to learn French in while living Houston, Texas, since “not a lot of people in Houston speak French.” See, this is why it’s not always good to share your dreams. When I get excited about something, I like to talk about it, but people can quickly kill your excitement, even when they don’t mean to.

I’m not limited to only the people in Houston, Texas (where, by the way, many languages, including French, are spoken). There are over 140 million people in the world that speak French. There are many nations that have French as their official language, and there is nothing stopping me from visiting or studying in France. But, I didn’t bother to try to explain all of this. Instead, I stayed focused on my goal and began studying French right away while envisioning myself using the language in all of the places where I want to be.

One resource that I always have with me is my phone, so I looked for an app to help me study French. Right away, I discovered Duolingo. Duolingo is a website and app that provides a free way to learn different languages. It’s kind of like a free version of Rosetta Stone. (Though, the two companies are not affiliated.) It’s interactive and it’s really easy and fun to use! It also sends reminders to study your chosen language daily, and I’ve been studying just about every day since I made this commitment.

I also need tangible books to read, so I went to the bookstore and picked up two books to get me started on learning about France and the French language. I picked up a book called Living Abroad France by Aurelia D’Andrea. This books talks about all things French that a traveler or expat might need to know. I also picked up another, smaller resource that can I can carry in my pocketbook called French Phrasebook & Dictionary by Lonely Planet. They had a bunch of phrasebooks at the store, but this one has a lot of pictures! I’m a very visual learner, so I need to look at pictures, which is actually a better way to learn languages. It also had modern phrases like, “What’ the WiFi code?”

Another book that I already had is Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner. He’s an opera singer and language learner, who shares his techniques for learning languages quickly and for learning how to make them stick. This is a bit of a technical resource, so I haven’t dived too deeply into it yet, but I think it will be a good resource in the long-run because I want to learn how to speak multiple languages over time.  Thre is also a website to compliment the book:

Besides books, I also love journals. I couldn’t resist picking up this journal to jot down my thoughts and goals as I learn the language. It’s a good way to also write out some concepts and phrases to reinforce them. That’s one of the techniques that is discussed in Fluent Forever. I’ll be making my own flash cards as well once I return from my vacation.

Lastly, I’ll also be taking classes. (I told you, I’m serious about this endeavor!) I signed up for beginner French classes locally, so I can actually practicing having conversations in French! I’ll have actually study and grammar books included with the class. Once I get those, I’ll share them as well.

t’s going to be a lot of work to actually become fluent, but I think it will be a lot of fun. I would advise anyone interested in learning languages to utilize a wide range of resources, and don’t be afraid to get out and have fun with your new language-learning pursuit!