#clearthelist July 2018: French, Welsh, And Why I Am Not Learning Chinese Yet

Clear The List is a monthly language goal report. This month, I’ve got news about three languages as a learner and one more as a teacher. I’m getting into a silly stumble with the Welsh language, and speaking lots of Welsh on podcast and travel.

Plus: Why am I not learning Chinese yet? Read on to find out.

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9 Of The Best Podcasts For Learning French

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Do you ever find it difficult to fit French listening practice into your life?

Do you want to understand native French speakers?

Bonjour! This month in the 9 Best series, we’re going to list 9 of the best podcasts for French learners.

Podcasts are a great way to add a little French listening practice into your day-to-day life. They are free, and can accompany any part of your day: driving a car, washing your dishes, doing laundry, working out, reading, and more.

In addition to the French podcasts you’ll find in this article, check out the Fluent Show. That’s my own show, co-hosted by Lindsay Williams, where we discuss languages, learning methods, and how to live a multilingual life. Click here to listen and subscribe.

Quick Primer: How Do Podcasts Work?

If you’re curious about podcasts, but not quite sure how they work, here’s what you need to know:

  1. You can subscribe for free to podcasts on your phone, tablet, or computer

  2. If you use an iPhone or iPad, go to the Podcasts app. If you’re on a Mac, use the itunes directory

  3. On a PC or Android device, try the Stitcher app for a quick and easy start

  4. Subscribing means you’ll always have the latest episode ready and waiting for you as soon as it’s published

French is a great language for learning by podcast. There is a big selection, so I’ve gone and selected 9 of the best shows for you to discover.

Beginner Level

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Learn French With Alexa is ideal for absolute beginners. The podcast creator Alexa Polidoro emphasizes grammar heavily and it has a classroom style of learning. The audio is very crisp and clear so you can hear correct pronunciation. Alexa has a relaxed voice and does a great job of breaking down sentences into manageable chunks of phrases. If you want to start off on the right foot with grammar, go ahead and check out this podcast!

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Learn French By Podcast is a bilingual podcast in English and French. It's presented by two hosts, one French speaker speaks in French and one English speaker who explains what the French speaker said. The audio is very clear and easy to follow and the format is great for beginners and intermediate learners. It eventually progresses from basic conversations to intermediate and advanced-level dialogues about a variety of everyday topics. PDF guides are available on the website.

Intermediate/Advanced Levels

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News in Slow French is an intermediate level podcast. This podcast covers world news, grammar, and expressions and slows down all the dialogue to make it easier to process what you hear. Every episode breaks down a point on grammar and vocabulary.

On the News in Slow French website there are transcripts for each episode, plus added resources and quizzes on French grammar, expressions, pronunciation.

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One Thing In A French Day describes the daily life of author Laetitia in France. Each podcast episode covers different events in her life such as going to the bakery, shopping, going to the gym, seeing friends, among others. Her French is spoken very clearly and crisply at a regular speed and her words is easy to understand. Laetitia publishes articles every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I certainly recommend this one for intermediate and advanced learners of French!

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This podcast by Radio France International (RFI) is a show that is designed for intermediate and advanced learners of French. It's a genuine news broadcast from the French radio station, but read a little slower so you can become comfortable listening to French.

The episodes each have the most important news of the day in just 10 minutes (great for those who don’t have a lot of time in the day!) and come with a free online transcript.

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The Français Authentique podcast is great for upper intermediate and advanced learners of French. It’s total immersion combined with lots of interesting topics and explains idiomatic and colloquial expressions. It is the companion podcast to the popular French learning website Français Authentique by Johan Tekfak.

Jonan is not just a super likeable host, but he also invites you to join his life and adventures by talking about them in French.

French Video Resources

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Yabla is a video-based learning platform with bilingual subtitles and integrated dictionaries. The subtitles are interactive, which is a really cool concept! Check out how Yabla works in detail by reading my full review.

Yabla is great for all levels from basic to advanced. There is a free French podcast available with plenty of videos to watch.

Story-Based Shows

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Coffee Break French, a podcast from Radio Lingua Network, combines French language lessons with a lot of useful information about French food, culture, French speaking countries, and so on.

My favourite part of the podcast is the chemistry between relaxed and charismatic host Mark from Scotland (who is fluent in French) and French learner Anna from Scotland. The segments are also great: Cultural Correspondent has great cultural advice, and Grammar Guru discusses grammar in a clear, easy-to-understand way.

FrenchPod101 from InnovativeLanguage covers any level you can think of from basic to advanced French. With enticing titles and interesting themes for each episode, you’ll never get bored.

The dialogues are presented by engaging presenters and the hosts Céline (a native speaker) and Sam (a fluent speaker) cover both cultural and grammatical aspects clearly and concisely. On the website you can sign up for the premium content to access spaced repetition flashcards, PDF lesson notes, and a community forum for a subscription fee.

Advanced Learner Tip: Native French Podcasts

The easiest way to access native French language podcasts is to go to iTunes and switch your country setting to “France”, “Belgium”, “Switzerland”, “Canada”, or any other French-speaking country.

There’s no restriction on your switch, and you’ll be able to access all podcasts in the same way that listeners from France can. One of my favourites is Whisperos, a native French podcast getting into every little detail about Game of Thrones.

Do You Have a French Favourite?

If you like your podcasts en français, leave a comment below and share more recommendations.

This article was researched & co-written by Alex Gentry who also writes on Medium. Check him out!

10 Polyglot Conversations from Langfest 2017 in Montréal

This podcast episode is a bit like a Wundertüte - a lucky dip bag of interviews with wonderful people who made the 2017 Langfest event what it was. Thank you so much to all of these lovely people - Langfest was motivating, informative, energising, and of course very, very multilingual.

Here's a taste of what you'll find inside the episode:

Could you become a multilingual parent?

We've all seen the feats of Bella Devyatkina, who speaks 8 languages at age 5. But how does that work? In my interview with conference organizer Tetsu Young, we touched on the everyday actions that he and his wife create a multilingual environment for their three (!) kids.

Applying your outside skills to language learning

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You might not know this, but all of us have hidden skills that help us learn languages. I interviewed Benny Lewis and Tim Pelletier to find out what theirs are.

Impressions of Québécois

From how to make those dipthong sounds to religious swearing, be a fly on the wall during our French-language lesson on the Québec dialect.

Learning in Your Coffee Break

In an interview with Mark Pentleton from Radio Lingua, we discussed how language learning can fit into anyone's busy life - and why doing a little bit less might just help you learn more.

Meeting Langfest Founder Tetsu

Meeting Langfest Founder Tetsu

A few words in Romanian

Listen to me try as hard as possible to get my Romanian pronunciation right with the kind help of presenter Mihai. Ooof!

Unconventional Motivational Techniques

Jana Fadness is a polyglot, translator, traveller, and introvert. She shares her insights on the most popular motivational techniques - and how she found her own unconventional ways of making things work. Jana's interview was amazing, her honesty stood out among the crowd.

I will share more about my talk with you as soon as the Langfest crew have put the finishing touches to their videos.

In the meantime, get the travel bug with me and check out 8 Life-Changing Language Learning Events Around the Globe.

Learning Languages at Intermediate Level: My Language Goals, Routine, and Progress in Detail

Feeling stuck on that plateau of "invisible progress"? Here's how to keep going! Here's a snapshot of how I make progress in my target language step-by-step, even after 18 months of study. You’ll learn about my goals for April 2017, and how I fit in learning 2 languages at the same time.

I use the Language Habit Toolkit, a study system I created for learners like me who are self-guided and want to track flexibly.

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How An Encounter With Tibetan Monks Inspired Christine To Learn Three New Languages

What is it that makes me so happy about language learning?

It's not just about showing that the human brain is capable of miraculous feats. It's also about using language as a lmetaphor for understanding other people.

When Fluent reader Christine McKenna contacted me by email with her story, I was drawn to it immediately. She speaks of language changing her perspective, and tells a story of how incredible it is to dive in and let your studies lead you to a new life. Christine is a yoga teacher living in the US, and has been studying languages for more than a decade.

Her language choices are Tibetan, Sanskrit and French. Intrigued? Then read on to find out how she connected to those languages.

If you're curious about diving into the languages mentioned in this post, you can download a little bonus page full of great resources from Christine and me. Click the button to get our recommendations.

It Started With Tibetan Monks

Before my current life as a yoga teacher, I was a software developer for 23 years.

In middle age, I developed an interest in broadening my horizons to something beyond full-time engagement with technology. I encountered Tibetan monks who had come to perform rituals at the Sackler Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC. They explained that they lived in India as refugees.

This was late 2001 and they were doing a healing ritual for Americans after the 9/11 attacks. Impressed by their generosity. These people lived as refugees, yet were concerned for us! 

Exploring further, I met a translator and teacher of Tibetan philosophy who said there were linguistic and cultural nuances that were difficult or impossible to communicate in English. Drawn to find out more about this phenomenon, I began to study Tibetan language.

After a few starting pains (there are many dialects and variants), I found my solid grounding in literary Tibetan. Later I went to India and lived in a Tibetan refugee community. I took courses, helped out with various tasks (teaching technical skills, editing English translations), and developed my spoken Tibetan. After about eight months, I traveled to Nepal, to live in Tibetan communities and study.

My most engaging learning occurred while listening to conversations in public places. In Tibetan communities in India and Nepal, Tibetan conversations would flow freely as I visited teahouses and other public places. I was listening for cultural assumptions and how the language was being used. Listening was easier for me than constructing sentences of my own, so this helped move my skills along.

After I had learned a certain amount, I decided to take my next steps in conversation and scholarship. I returned to the US and a move to the East Coast gave me the opportunity to study Tibetan and Sanskrit at the University of Virginia.

Next Steps: Sanskrit and French

As part of my History of Asian Religions degree, I found myself adding more languages, too. I took up Sanskrit to better understand literary Tibetan.

While exploring history and availability of Tibetan-language manuscripts, I realized considerable research had been published in French! The French have a long history of Oriental studies - you need only visit the Website of Bibliothèque nationale de France and enter tibetain in the search to find out more. So after a while, I became persuaded I should study French to be the best and most responsible researcher for the history of Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhism.

In the university environment, I was typically more than twice the age of the next-oldest student in my classes. This was not a problem; I never felt out-of-place. I seemed to have fewer social distractions, knew exactly what I wanted from each class and remained very focused. Contrary to stereotype, I was often more comfortable with technology than some of my classmates. I seemed to be the only one in my French class to prefer an electronic dictionary to the traditional printed versions.

Language and Culture

In the Tibetan community, I encountered a philosophy and culture in which compassion is emphasized.

This shows itself in the language in wonderful ways: Verb tense and aspect differ significantly from English, in ways I hadn't imagined. Initially, I would ask a bilingual Tibetan, "How would I say [something or other] in Tibetan?" and they would respond "You wouldn't."

Puzzling, but I finally understood that the world-view is significantly different and the language corresponds to that. Also some distinctions have historically not arisen; Tibetans have black hair, and there are traditionally only two words for hair color, black and what they were calling “blonde”. I was informed that my dark-brown locks are blonde for their purposes.

Tibetan Poems and Proverbs

Tibetan Poems and Proverbs

To immerse oneself in traditional Tibetan writings is to immerse oneself in a culture that values kindness and compassion over material concerns that pervade English language. This is not to say all Tibetans are saints or that I have not encounter Tibetans behaving badly. However, I find the mainstream culture inspiring. The centers of learning have long been monasteries; the head of government until very recently was also a spiritual leader--the Dalai Lama, said to embody compassion. Meditative practices are part of the culture.

To immerse oneself in traditional Tibetan literature, and much of their modern media is, typically, an effective way to pause and creatively re-direct thoughts based on Western cultural biases.

Everyday Language Immersion

There is much more I’d like to learn about these languages and the cultures they express! Right now I type most of my notes in Tibetan and Sanskrit; I would like to spend more time on hand-writing and calligraphy.

I often choose to immerse in language, sometimes simply crossing the border and spending time with French Canadians, or with Tibetan refugees in the U.S. or abroad. I may spend a day at home watching videos and reading books in a particular language, and I find that fluency develops - or resurfaces - and I lose some cultural baggage. Languages make me better at taking a new perspective.

Currently, I need to stay close to home, with little opportunity to travel. However, spending a day totally immersed in French or Tibetan - videos, reading, writing, even thinking in a chosen language - feels like a vacation because I make a mental shift. I also have occasional access to a Tibetan language conversation partner, or can video chat with one of my French Canadian friends.

Start Learning Tibetan and Sanskrit

Have you studied any of these ancient Asian languages? What is your experience with the compassionate world view of Tibetan culture?

If this story has made you curious to try out the languages for yourself, don't forget that you can get Christine's recommendations as a bonus to this post right here.