Right before the dawn of the Chinese commie covidian era I made a life decision. In late 2019 I decided to rid myself of any and all clutter, and get really good at a few things, rather than being super average at a lot. I just had too many hobbies and too many time sucks. I decided to jettison the banjo and gave that to my daughter. Also shot into space was my anti-library – I decided to either read it, or get rid of it. I had a few other small time hobbies that I got out of. So what was left was for me was to keep my regimen of physical fitness, work, and to learn French. When I say “learn French”, I want to be fluent.
I took some French in high school and college, and after many years found an interest in it again. I downloaded an app or two to my phone, but that quickly got boring. After picking around with different things online, I decided on a much more traditional way to learn the language – start from square one, and go back to school, specifically adult continuing education. I know how to work, and learning a language is work, no matter what the ads you hear that say “ten minutes a day” want you to believe.
After thinking about it, structured book learning and progression is the best way for me, and the schedule that I have. And adult continuing education isn’t graded or have a high pressure environment. All of the people in the class are taking it for enjoyment or professional reasons, and are, well, adults.
I am fortunate to live in a town where there is a big assed university, so I hit the UW Madison website and they did indeed offer French in their adult continuing education offering. So I signed up for French 1, wanting a full review of things I already knew. The course was under $200 for 12 weeks of assignments and 1.5 hours per week of in person class. That’s quite a value. The assignments are a mixture of cultural things, grammar, video, audio, etc. All of this is hosted on the UW website. Towards the end of French 1 we got booted from the buildings because of the commie crud, but we finished with Zoom. I have to admit that it was sort of fun going back to school, walking on campus, and getting back to an institution of higher learning even though it was just basically “night school”. I hadn’t been to a structured class since 1990 and my days at U of I in Champaign.
French 2 was done on all zoom, and I am now nearing the end of French 3, same thing. Each class was about the same price and the classes are very well run and extremely enriching. Already I am certain that if you dropped me in the middle of France and I had to get along, I could. I am well on my way to being fluent. My original plan was to be fluent in five years, but I think I can do it in three at my current pace.
I will have to re-take French 3 as that level is exponentially tougher – it takes a little longer to progress to French 4, which are basically fluent persons who are brushing up or moving into the finer points of the language.
In addition to this I hired a French teacher for some private lessons. We just log onto Zoom and talk for an hour at a time and she corrects my grammar and pronunciation. Invaluable. $50/hour. I bought ten lessons.
I have also supplemented with some online items from the Coffee Break series. Coffee Break offers full blown courses and short weekly passages that test listening and comprehension skills. Again, minimal cost.
I think that all of this would have been possible in the past, but harder to do. Zoom didn’t exist just a decade ago, so you would have to lose the time to travel for a face to face lesson if you were doing privates. While the in person classes would have been the same, the amount of video and audio resources available for free online are innumerable, and the ones in our class would have been much harder to distribute, versus just going to the UW website and downloading everything.
With the numerous choices online I had to pick a certain strategy and avoid the noise. The competition is intense for this market.
I got a mass market email today advertising an Air B and B like service in France (when it opens up). You can stay at someone’s house in France for a week who will speak French to you and take you around town and cook two meals a day for you. For $1500 a week. That is incredible and will be my next phase when I can do it.
I don’t really have a point to the post outside of showing that to further yourself, all you need is desire and a little money (and not even that much money). Which certainly brings into question how a college can charge what they do to teach what they teach.