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Une semaine avec My French Coach: Day Five

The week is more than half gone, and that means our time with Ubisoft's My French Coach is winding down... at least, for the purposes of this diary. All week long, we've been taking on the training title in an effort to find out whether or not it's possible to learn (or at least supplement) a language with a DS game. If you missed the overview on day one, you might want to back up a little. If not, then let's get moving with day five of our language training.

Today, I dropped back down to two lessons, though I had initially planned to do three. What happened? Directions happened. After continually confusing droite and droit (and really, who could blame me?), I thought it best to take a break instead of going for the gold. I did learn some new and interesting ways to maximize my learning with the game, however, which I will happily share.

But first, accomplishments! After completing my first lesson today, which was on that other use of aller, I finally completed the entire first tier of lessons, which was 1-16! For a moment, I felt elated. Then I realized that, for all my efforts, it meant I had only really gone through a few lessons. That took the wind out of my sails a bit. Tier two goes from 17 through 37, so it looks like there are probably more than the 50 lessons I assumed. That's good news, at least.

Over the weekend, I am going to try to roll through as many as I can do without killing myself (or others), so we'll see if I can make it to tier three and take a guess at just how deep this particular rabbit hole goes. Maybe I'll even get better at pronunciation by then! Right now, I must admit that actual French speakers would probably look at me in horror if I dared utter a single word in their presence. Okay, I take that back. I can at least say simple things, like gauche or hôtel, both of which turned up in lessons today. I even got a little better at bureau d'accueil, which according to one of yesterday's commenters, I would probably never use. But what the hell -- let's master it anyway, right?

The first lesson was not so bad, likely because so many of the words within were cognates and thus easy to remember. If you can say "restaurant" in English, you can probably manage to make yourself understand in a number of countries, after all. And that's good, because food? Important. Considering the ease of this section, My French Coach took the opportunity to bring in another concept, one that, while it isn't very difficult, is very important for anyone learning the language.

So you would never say, Je vais a le coin for "I go to the corner," but rather, Je vais au coin. It's nice, too, because when you are trying to pick out the differences in spoken French -- a language in which, to my ignorant ear, many, many things sound very similar -- this convention makes it a little easier to pick out masculine and feminine and to differentiate between similar words.

The second lesson, as mentioned, was much more difficult, because I kept mixing things up. With all the cognates in the first, I got very accustomed to translating things per what they were similar to in English, so for some reason, I kept associating escalier with "elevator," rather than "stairs." I also mentioned my troubles with "right" and "straight" as well.

While this made the lesson much more difficult for me than it should have been, the differences between these two efforts today did teach me something very useful -- there is a very, very good reason for the various levels of difficulty in the games. Since I wasn't having much trouble with the words for locations, I set everything on hard and breezed through as quickly as possible. Really, I can remember that poste is the post office. But on the second lesson, I kept everything on easy and did the mini-games over and over again, racking up my mastery points as slowly as possible, so I could continue to drill. By the time I finally finished, I felt comfortable with the words I was mixing up. It's really nice that you can tailor various things like this to your needs at the time. In fact, there are so many little details, like the difficulty levels and the recording features that really make the title shine as a language trainer, and I hope that these folks get started one some other tongues as soon as possible!

Overall, I felt very good about my progress today, even though I didn't get through as much of the game as yesterday. I really feel like the vocabulary is sticking with me, and when older words come up in the mini-games, I don't even flinch. My French Coach is doing a much better job of drilling me in language than some teachers I've had in the past ... but don't tell them I said that.

See also: The My French Coach series in its entirety

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