The Dordogne river in southern France,  almost in flood, 1991

Dennis has taken the view that I'm letting my mind turn into porridge by not studying anything. Those aren't the words he uses, but I can pick up his un-stated meaning.

In particular, I'm not currently studying a language.

The theory is that I should go back and polish up my skills in French. I've got two friends currently studying French. One is reading Voltaire in the original as he does level 37 or something. (Actually, that's a gross misstatement. I think he's doing level 7. And they probably almost never read Voltaire in class. But the point is: he's doing a pretty advanced level. I'm guessing that Voltaire has been quoted at some stage. Entering classes with him would require strenuous catch up work.)

The other friend is doing level 3. That strikes me as a plausibly friendly level to re-enter the study of French.

So  I called the CAE, and spoke with a 'call centre' type person, who immediately recognised that they had no skills at determining if I could or should enter level 3. So they passed me off to the language centre, where somebody (who didn't necessarily know anything about French) took down relevant details: the number of years I studied at school and later, and the number of times I had set foot in France). Those details are now going to be sent to someone called Anita, a senior French teacher, who will work out where in the syllabus I really fall, after she has spoken with me directly. Tomorrow.

I now feel like I'm about to sit a test. And, worse, it's a test I can fail (as per all tests) or a test I can do too well in. 'Cos if she ends up saying I should be in level 4 or 5 (or 6), I'll end up in a class without a friend. (Dennis dryly pointed out that this might force me to make a new friend or two.)

The prerequisites for level 3 are a mixture of the obvious and the tricky. For example:
  • Easy:
    Understand how to form questions with "Est-ce que..."
    Which is pretty darn simple. You just put those words in front of the question you want to ask. eg "Est-ce que chaud?" means "Is it hot?"
  • Harder:
    Future and Imperfect tenses
    Which 'merely' consists of knowing two different tenses with three major verb types for six different persons, along with at least nine irregular verbs that follow their own rules. Leading to some hundreds of permutations that I need to remember and use. Which I've got to remember by the time Anita calls me. Tomorrow.

Anyway: I figure I've got a huge vocabulary (which will probably put me over Level 3) along with a theoretical understanding of grammar that I completely fail to use in practice (which will put me under level three). And when it comes to remembering the gender (Masculine or Feminine) of nouns: I've got only a slightly better than 50/50 chance of getting that right: which means I may as well be rolling dice.

In the past I've been well beyond Level 3.  But having forgotten a lot, I'd like to start back at a nice comfortable level and work my way up. We'll see if Anita agrees.

Comments (4)
Anthony Holmes February 26th, 2007 07:07:14 PM

1) A test to pass - or fail?
dennis 26/02/2007 9:25:14 PM

French was only one, and the most obvious, suggestion; just about ANY interest that got him out of the house, and away from work, and meeting some new people would have sufficed.

Anyone would think this has all been suddenly thrust upon Anthony. In fact the suggestions and encouragement to refresh his French have been going on for two years (since he dropped out of Italian after 5 years) when each of the friends mentioned were doing easier levels. He has been into the Foreign language bookshop 3 times in the past few weeks to assess the level of difficulty from prescribed textbooks for each level. And now, having left it until 2 days before the course starts, he squeals about not being prepared. As Lucy (Peanuts) said so often: Good Grief!

I'm sure he's feeling a little rusty, but personally I think there is more risk he'll get bumped up to a higher level is more likely.

2) A test to pass - or fail?
Anthony Holmes 1/03/2007 12:04:45 AM

OK: so the person who assessed my level of French was very cunning. First she asked me if I knew about the Future, Imparfait and Parfait tenses. Since this is core knowledge that you are supposed to know before you start level 3A, I admitted to a rough knowledge of how to do it, and gave some examples using the verb Manger (to eat).

She then asked me if I felt up to a bit of conversation. That's where I went wrong. After she asked about where we lived, she started telling me (in French) that she works with someone whose grandfather built the Majorca Building. This interested me, so the conversation went on for a while.

I felt I'd made some stupid mistakes whilst talking. But when we finished she said that she thought I was well beyond level 3, and that I should perhaps be thinking about levels six or seven.

If only she had chosen something more boring to talk about: like the cricket, or my work... then I wouldn't have done so well.

So Dennis was right: I got bumped up. Four levels. Of course, the fact that I'm doing level 7 is partly dictated by the fact that Dale is doing level 7, and that I may as well do the same level as him: even if that means I have to study a little harder.

The first week's homework isn't too hard. It's also a little strange. I've got to imagine some other person describing what a wonderful person I am. Our teacher has a theory that people ought to feel more proud of themselves. I hope that this isn't a sign that she's trying to combine a bit of psycho-therapy in with the French lessons!

3) A test to pass - or fail?
JB 16/03/2007 4:45:55 PM

Nothing wrong with a porridge brain!

4) So I had better claim to be a ’porridge brain’ with pride
Anthony Holmes 16/03/2007 11:43:26 PM

Well JB, you're the expert, so I'll have to take your word for that. :-)

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