How to Learn French in 17 Days

Chinese - Mandarin, English, Chinese - Cantonese
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I recently read an old article that's been making its round again on social media ( The writer claims that he achieved conversational fluency in French in 17 days. Regardless of whether it's true/possible, he describes his daily routine:

1) Write out regular and irregular verb tables for 1.5-2 hrs a day, while listening to a French language learning CD

2) Listen to catchy French music while running (45 - 60 min)

3) Go to lunch with French friends who won't slow down for you

4) Spend afternoon reading children's books in French, e.g. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

5) Spend an hour writing basic essays about himself, e.g. where are you from? and have a friend check for errors

6) Learn filler words (alors, en fait) to buy time in conversations

Do you find any of techniques helpful while learning a new language? Which one do you think is effective? What are some other methods that you use?

Personally, I am mostly a textual learner. I can read in a number of languages, but will probably sink like a rock to the bottom of the ocean in a conversation. My favorite way of self-learning usually involves reading a familiar text written for basic learners. Most recently, I read a basic version of Les Miserables in French. 

The thing that struck out to me is the importance of writing things out. It actually brought up a lot of memories of learning Chinese as a child, where we would fill up whole notebooks, just writing out the characters, over and over again. I will try and incorporate more writing in my learning. 

Posts436Likes220Joined4/9/2018LocationCaracas / VE
Learning German, Italian
Other English

Yes! Writing helps a lot, I'm a visual learner so I try to write or draw what I want to learn. 

#1 I do it, but not for that long. 

#2 I do it while I work, I don't run that much o.o.

#3 I would love to have friends in here who speak my target languages, my boyfriend speaks some Italian and he teaches me some words sometimes.

#4 not yet.

#5 not yet.

#6 I do it.

I paste post its to stuff to slowly learn their names in another languages by repetition. The words I can recall from when I started learning German were the ones I learned using this method :/ (I had a looooong pause and started again). I also try to use the verbs I'm learning while I'm performing an action, like "I'm eating" I start thinking "Ich esse" and "Io mangio" and then I start to change the person and number to help the verbs stick faster.

Posts927Likes581Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Learning Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

Excellent post.

meifeng wrote:
Regardless of whether it's true/possible

(this is a rant – I’m critiquing the article, not the OP) I promise to get back on topic in a minute, but I wanted to talk a bit about this. We can’t tell what he accomplished by reading what he wrote. Assuming that he truly did reach “conversation fluency in 17 days” in his mind, we have no way of telling what he meant by that. The word “fluency” means many different things to many different people, so we don’t know where he ended up. In fact, he doesn’t even clearly state that he had a zero base in French when he began. What was his level when he started? What was his level when he finished? How much did he improve? It’s a mystery.

Do you find any of techniques helpful while learning a new language? Which one do you think is effective? What are some other methods that you use?

I believe there are 7 main facets to language learning: conversing, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. When I evaluate a method, I see how well each of these are covered. 

Conversation was well covered; in addition to (3), he was fully immersed and had to use French all the time.

Listening is a little weak imo. Music (2) isn’t very comprehensible at that stage (although I admit I don’t know his actual level), the CDs (1) are grammar CDs. The best listening practice he got was during conversation (3), but I feel he should have stolen time from his writing and listened to more comprehensible input. Listening is the most time consuming skill imo and thus requires more attention.

Reading (4) is well covered, but I doubt he was reading Charley in the chocolate factory as a true beginner with a whole lot of comprehension, unless it was a simplified version. I’m not a fan of children’s books because they aren’t interesting to me and the language is often strange. In the early stages, reading a book that you’ve already read in your native tongue is a really good idea though if you are trying to find something that’s more comprehensible.

Writing (1) and (5) is way over covered imo. While writing is very important, and we should never leave it out of our program, I feel he could have completely done without the writing in (1). It’s unfortunate that he chose to listen to the Michele Thomas grammar CDs while writing – dividing one’s attention like that really reduces the effectiveness of both exercises. On the other hand, the essay exercise (5) sounds great, maybe even a bit much all by itself. Writing too much can cause or inflame tendonitis, so we should keep that in mind.

Vocabulary – I’m going to say he could have done better. Yes, practicing all the other skills is the main way to learn it, but I think he’d be surprised by how much reviewing vocabulary for just a few minutes a day would help. I’ll give him credit for “filler” words (6) though. Those would just be a natural part of vocabulary reviews in my method.

Grammar (1) he covered, but in a somewhat inefficient way. Tons of writing out verb forms while listening to some excellent grammar CDs. Imo he should have just listened to the CDs, and formed the sentences as recommended. 

Pronunciation wasn’t covered well at all. Some people are naturals at it, but most benefit greatly by first learning to pronounce the phonemes, then words, and finally sentences. It doesn’t usually take a lot of time to do this, and it’s really important, so it’s a shame so many people skip it. 

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posts62Likes27Joined22/9/2018LocationLagos / NG
Other French

Very deep and helpful. I will use it to make a checklist of things to accomplish in language learning. Thanks Leo

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