Yesterday I finished the "First Wave" of the Assimilº Learn French With Ease book. I thought now would be a good time to reflect on how useful it was, and what my next steps are for learning French.
Covid-19 is going on currently, and since social-distancing was first recommend, I have managed to do one lesson a day since. Each morning, after having gotten up and performed what was still possible of my morning routine, I would make a coffee, put it in my thermos, and begin a new lesson. I would portion out the coffee, trying to make it last as I would work through the steps that constitute a normal lesson. Then I would practice with Ankiº for about 20 minutes. I tracked my time as I went, but I haven't yet built the functionality to analyze that data with Firnº . But from looking at my logbook currently, it seems that I was spending an average of forty-five minutes to an hour on French each morning. This is the most that I have ever done, so I'll chalk that up to being one of the few positives of the situation with COVID-19.
The lessons certainly get more difficult, although this didn't really dawn on me until I started the second wave of lessons. Only once starting back at the beginning to translate from English to French did I realize how much slower the audio is. This is a satisfying thing to experience.
Translating from English back to French seems to me to be an important exercise - it challenged a part of me that I didn't realize I needed to practice. The same thing happened when the Anki deck I was using began showing me flashcards that asked me to translate from English back to French (after having done all the French to English cards).
I found the later lessons in the book difficult to follow along with the first step of a lesson (Just listening to the recording and trying to understand what is being said). Sometimes my mind would simply wander off while the recording played, and I would have to exert the will power to make myself start step one again, instead of moving along to the next step (reading along in your native language). The process seemed to work though; as I completed the requisite steps for the lesson, by the time I was re-listening to the lesson for the 7th or 8th time, just listening with my eyes closed, I was able to understand it.
The final step of a lesson, to repeat the audio back without reading the target-language is difficult. I often could not repeat back an entire sentence in the later lessons and would have to pause playback every few seconds to repeat sub-sections and small phrases.
As a whole, the translations and the content of the lessons feels largely relevant today. The copy of Assimil that I have is from the late eighties I believe, but I did manage to compare it to a newer publication and most of the content was the same.
Unfortunately, until I get to spend some time with Francophone friends again (or maybe doing online lessons), I won't really know how on-point the lessons, or more specifically, some of the phrases are. My decision to follow through on the book was influenced by what other language learners had said about Assimil online.
I will say that I feel that my pronunciation has improved significantly — I can read along with some of the earlier lessons at the same pace and sounding out words is coming more naturally. I have also recorded myself practicing a few lessons out loud, but those are more for archival / personal progress metering. Maybe someday I will stitch snippets of recordings spanning several years to get an at-a-glimpse of my progress.
I've gotten back into the flow of using Anki, so I will keep at that. The review heatmap plugin is a good inspiration to keep my streak going, and I am now at the point where I am learning some new phrases and words again, after having caught up on some old cards since I last took a break from Anki.
I will continue doing the second-wave of Assimil, translating lessons from English to French until the book is finished.
Other than that, I am a few chapters into Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours and also have a French translated version of the first two books of 1Q84 from the library, which I might flip through and read a few chapters of from time to time. The only two goals I have written down are to complete Assimil and to read a book in French this year. If I get both of these things done I might look into taking some lessons proper, and just trying to make a daily routine of listening to some French podcasts.