In March I went to a beginner’s French course. It was a 3 weeks intensive course, 5 times per week, 3 hours per day, so overall about 45 hours in class, plus about 1-2 hours per day for homework, learning vocabulary etc.
The course was an A1 course, so absolute beginner. I had already known many words and most of the grammar because I had been practicing for almost a year on Duolingo. I still decided to start with A1 because I hadn’t done a lot on Duolingo and I had had zero speaking experience. Especially for French it was very important to me that I learn the pronunciation from a native French speaker who can correct me, not from a computer program.
At the beginning we were around 25 people but many people dropped out during the 3 weeks and at the end only 13 people took the test. This was quite good for me because in smaller groups you can talk more often and I wanted to talk as much as possible.
Since I already had some previous knowledge, I didn’t have to start from zero. Instead of simply doing the often very easy and dull exercises I tried to be more creative and use other ways of expressing myself. I was always there early and on one day I talked to the teacher about different things before the course started, in French! Not very well, but I tried my best.
What I didn’t like was the book. We had two books actually, a course book and an exercise book. The course book felt totally unstructured, with lots of big pictures but almost no text. In the whole book there were no longer texts except for the dialog transcriptions at the end and even those were pretty short. I really disliked that because personally I think in French it’s very important to read a lot, but the book didn’t provide much for reading. So most of the time we were talking it was just a sentence or two, or even just a word or two.
The exercise book wasn’t really better. I found that many exercises were extremely simple and most of the time I felt pretty unchallenged. And no, I don’t think the reason was that I already knew some of the stuff. But I don’t find it very challenging to simply fill out some gaps with words which were usually written at the bottom of the page anyway. Every other exercise book I used (Spanish, Japanese, Swedish etc.) had so many great exercises that really helped. These French exercises were just boring. And here too the pages were filled with big pictures that were totally wasting space. I would have preferred more exercises instead.
Otherwise I loved the course. The teacher was great and I learned a lot from her. The people in the course were also nice and it was usually pretty funny, we laughed a lot. Actually I think that I really like learning in a classroom setting.
At the end we had to sit a written exam to get our certificate. And this exam was pretty demanding. At the beginning there was some listening comprehension, which went pretty well for me (including the phone number) except for one sentence about the date of appointment… even when the teacher read it the next day I couldn’t understand what was said. Then there was a pretty big grammar part. She really asked a lot of things. At the end we had to write something about ourselves (at least 80 words). I wrote an entire novel, I think I hit around 600 words or more, lol.
The next day we got the results and I had 99/100 points! The only missing point was for the sentence that I couldn’t understand. Here and there I had some very small mistakes (like a missing accent on a word which we hadn’t learned before) but she didn’t count those small things.
I’m very happy about these results. I was one of the worst students in French in school and had the feeling that I was too stupid for the language. But this showed me that there’s no thing such as “being too stupid for a language”. I think what’s really important in the end is how much you like something and want to do it. I hated French in school, so I was bad. Now I really want to learn the language, so my motivation helps me to achieve good results.
During the summer I will go to an A2 course. After this I need to check which kind of courses the language schools around me offer and if there are any good options I will continue learning in the classroom setting (besides other types of (self-)learning of course).