Having joked about the state of my French at a recent Linguascope webinar, I’ve been giving Paul Noble’s audio French course a whirl to revive and resume my secondary school language skills. Like the very similar Michel Thomas courses, his series is just magic for improving your language production.
Following a gradual, layering model of tuition, the courses provide a solid blueprint for producing language in the learner’s mind. Step by step, they build up a working grammar and lexicon in the gentlest way possible. As no-tears, get-up-and-running-quickly approaches, they’re honestly very hard to beat. And as a refresher for my français, it’s doing a grand job; I’m already thinking of getting the next steps follow-up.
One Way Street?
What I still miss, though, is language training in the other direction. As audio courses, both the Noble and Thomas series are necessarily a little restrained in terms of teaching comprehension. They give you grammatical tools and vocabulary, but using those alone you are more or less back-engineering any input that comes your way in the real world.
This deficit, of course, is largely down to the format of all formal courses, not just these select few. Thanks to the nature of the medium, they are necessarily finite. They can’t possibly contain enough ‘input training’ to improve that aspect of your fluency.
But thankfully, we can fill the other side of the equation through DIY listening techniques that provide a good comprehensible input model. Comprehension skills arise largely through exposure to unpredictable, everyday language, training your brain to be ready for anything in the target language.
The solution, in this case? A bit of podcast hunting, incorporating resources like News in Slow French into my weekly listens. Together with the Paul Noble course, they’ll make an excellent pairing: production and reception, covered.
Gap in the Market
There’s no doubt about it: courses that focus on production, through building a practical mental grammar, are based on sound learning principles, and are incredibly effective. They’ll form an indispensable part of my language learning arsenal for as long as they’re available.
So, not to take anything away from their usefulness, this recent experience is just more support for a blended, multi-resource learning approach, rather than reliance on a single course. Nothing new there. I do wonder, though, if there’s an opening in the market for a really clever resource that combines all of these elements.
Quelle bonne idée!