How to learn a language

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 16, 2004

How to learn a language. "For instance, in French, 'Il fait du vent' can be used to practice French f's, v's and d's, or 'un grand vin blanc' for French nasals."

Reader comments

LeaNov 16, 2004 at 10:50AM

Speaking of how to learn a language... A post on Kuro5shin talks about personal techniques on how to learn one, as well. It's very thorough, as it even gives several product recommendations and different types of techniques.

shanecavanaughNov 16, 2004 at 11:58AM

I've seen "how to learn a language" links around a lot recently. I think that it might have started with Rebecca Blood linking from dangerousmeta. Not sure where dangerous meta got it from. (No important reason for that paragraph. Just memetic purposes I guess.)

As for the Kuro5hin post, the Pimsleur suggestion has been fairly useful for me and my one semester of French 101. I got my copy from my local library.

Jean-FrançoisNov 16, 2004 at 2:30PM

"Il fait du vent"? That sure is comprised of French words but in itself is not proper French. "Il vente" is what was probably meant ("it is windy" would be a good translation) but then that doesn't practice the f and d sounds.

I'd correct the entry but I'm out of inspiration for a sentence that would equally practice the same sounds.

Jean-FrançoisNov 16, 2004 at 2:35PM

I just rethought about it: the sentence does make sense if you can make wind, but that sounds silly.

BriannaNov 16, 2004 at 3:14PM

Oh, I thought "Il fait du vent" was the equivalent nudge-nudge idiom to "I passed wind" in English, which means "I farted."

Jean-FrançoisNov 16, 2004 at 3:22PM

It could indeed mean that, but is that the best sentence to learn French? I sure didn't learn English while farting but rather by watching American television and playing video games (FFIII being the top game) which I think is more fun than the suggested pseudo-scatology. It is funny, but inappropriate if you asked me.

PlanethalderNov 16, 2004 at 4:41PM

When the post on Kuro5hin began talking about learning languages as "social adventure" I legged it to my local library for a French CD to turn into MP3s for my personal player. Very inspiring. Planethalder.

ScottNov 17, 2004 at 2:33PM

You can buy the Pimsleur sets on eBay and then resell them there when you're done for a very low total cost. I did that for the Spanish I set.

jacobNov 17, 2004 at 3:27PM

I love this thread, but in all seriousness, what? I wouldn't even presume to dispute a native French speaker, but the comments on "il fait du vent" have cast me into a state of self-doubt and befuddlement, because that's definitely the phrase used when teaching English speakers to say "it is windy." I thought that the usage of 'faire' for weather-related phrases was simply a difference in idiom, similar to the difference in the French and English ways of expressing age or time.

JeremiahNov 18, 2004 at 5:59AM

Jean-François: Interestingly enough, I found that the French user-made modules for Neverwinter Nights were excellent for improving my French, for there was a ton of text in one of them and it was also written colloquially instead of the textbook French one usually learns. It's helped me immensely: just last quarter I was able to translate one of Diderot's articles largely because I had become so efficient in reading French after playing modules like that. Games in other languages are thus an excellent way of learning a language, provided that you've had some background in it prior to playing, of course. Indeed, I'm thinking about playing Gothic II again in the original German.

I still, however, have some problems *understanding* French people: I can talk to them, but I have something of a hard time understanding them in return, largely because a lack any nearby French speakers. And the sad part of this is that I'm half Louisiana French, but my grandfather forbade anyone in the family to keep speaking the language and I've had to start from scratch. Voices are usually kept to a minimum in games, and this is where their efficacy fails.

Jean-FrançoisNov 18, 2004 at 8:29AM

Jacob: I can assure you any native French speaker says "il vente" and not "il fait du vent". I'm from Quebec and therefore have heard many English natives who learned more or less French say "il fait du vent", but that's about the only time I heard this being said. Even when referring to farting, we have other idioms for that which are more widely used.

Jeremiah: understanding spoken French is a different experience depending on from where the person talking comes from. People from France have a different accent from people from Louisiana, Quebec, and other places influenced by France. I'd say that Louisiana's French is closer to Quebec's French, though it sounds more musical, than it is to France's.

DutchKidNov 19, 2004 at 10:54AM

It is weird though. Here in The Netherlands we're also being taught: il fait du vent, il fait du soleil etc.

juteNov 20, 2004 at 7:24AM

Yeah, I'm from the UK and another who was taught, 'il fait du vent' at school. Maybe it's a dialect thing.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.