Review of my French A2 course

From April to July I went to a French A2 course. My first impression of it was rather bad, but it got better after a while.

Actually not many people dropped the course, even at the end we were 17 (it was 23 at the beginning). Sometimes I still felt like the teacher took people randomly and some people could say a lot while I sometimes couldn’t say much, but I guess after a while I didn’t care much because I was too tired of my language studies anyway.

While in the beginning I felt like the teacher made people look bad sometimes, this stopped happening. Actually she’s a really nice person, though can also be quite strict sometimes (not necessarily a bad thing). And I was very impressed when I found out that she’s still teaching students even though she retired some years ago.

We had some really boring topics in the book, which our teacher liked a lot though, so sometimes it was really hard for me to stay motivated. I still tried my best and wrote a lot in our written assignments. The best moment for me was when I had to read the biography I wrote and she was praising it a lot because she found that it was written really well.

I also really appreciate that she offered one additional class on a Saturday because our regular class had to be canceled a lot during the semester (we have soooo many public holidays on Thursdays during spring…). Sadly, in the end we still couldn’t completely finish the book.

The final exam was okay. The listening comprehension part was fine, but some of it was rather hard. And they talked so fast for A2 level! There was no grammar part even though she said there would be, so I was a bit annoyed that I wasted time on some last minute learning (which I will forget anyway because it was just cramming stuff into my short term memory). Instead we had 2 text understanding tasks (not very hard) and then 2 text production tasks (about boring topics, yay).

And I made a huge mistake: I didn’t take a watch with me. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem because I usually work quickly through exams but this time I was really surprised when she said we’d only have 5 minutes left (I wasn’t slow, I just wrote much more than was necessary…). Which means that I couldn’t proofread everything again so I probably have a millions of mistakes. I’m pretty mad about this and I will definitely always take a watch with me now. Never underestimate things!

Overall I’m pretty happy with the course and I did learn a lot in these 3 months.

I don’t have any immediate plans for how to continue with French. For now I will take a small break because I have other languages to focus on. I’m also not sure I want to continue learning in a classroom setting. While I really enjoyed it in my French A1 course, I found it sometimes a bit annoying now, especially because you have to do what’s in the book and some topics are just boring. So after my break I will probably try to explore some other learning strategies and resources.

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First impressions of my French A2 course

Since mid-April I’ve been going to a French A2 course. I’ve only had 2 sessions so far, but that’s enough to give some first impressions. It’s not an intensive course like my A1 course. I have one session per week, 3 hours per session, and it lasts 3 months. Because of public holidays 3 sessions will be canceled though.

The course is very full. In the first session we were 23 people and in the second session we were still 22 people. That’s not really ideal because the more people, the less you can talk during class. I probably wouldn’t mind so much if this teacher would do it like my previous French teacher: everyone gets the chance to say a bit regularly during the session.

But no, this teacher picks random people and they have to do a lot while the others are just sitting there. I can say something maybe 2-3 times (if I’m lucky) during the 3 hours. So I will need to develop some strategies so I can talk more during class.

What I also find annoying is that in the last course we didn’t finish the last two chapters of the book with two very important grammar points. Our teacher told us we would look at them at the beginning of the new course. But no, we didn’t. But the new teacher expects us to know everything from A1.

Very often when someone is not so sure or makes mistakes she’s like “This is from A1… you should already know this”. I feel like she’s sometimes putting people down for making mistakes. Just because you learned something in A1 doesn’t mean you can do it perfectly. People forget things if they don’t use them often and many of us learned French A1 in 3 weeks so we don’t have a lot of practice.

Besides this, I find it very important to make mistakes. You have to make mistakes to learn from them and improve. And what a teacher really shouldn’t do is making people feel bad for making mistakes. Then people might be afraid to even say something and this will hinder them in improving their language skills.

What I also still don’t like is the book. Of course the book is split into A1, A2, B1 so you have to buy each course book and workbook separately and they’re pretty expensive. The A2 one is of course like the A1 one, lots of big pictures, not many explanations.

Overall my first impression is unfortunately not really good. With my A1 course I was looking forward to every session and had fun doing it, now I don’t really feel like going to the A2 course. Of course I will still continue going there and I will try to make the best of it.

Review of my French A1 course

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).