How would YOU teach my mom French?

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been a long-time follower of Steve’s videos on youtube, and have found LingQ a really excellent way to boost my language chops. I used LingQ on another account for a number of years in order to learn French more or less fluently-- in addition to language classes, living in France, etc. To say that I’m a French language nerd would be somewhat of an understatement.

Now I’ve been wanting to share my passion with my family back home in the US, in particular with my mom. I’ve been thinking about the best way to organize my teaching activities, and I thought I’d ask the LingQ community for suggestions.

I’m pretty convinced that LingQ is one of the best ways to move quickly from intermediate content to native materials, but I’m not sure how to get “non-language nerds” excited about the prospect. My mother, for example, is highly motivated to learn French, but she’s also very busy, and I’m looking for ways not only to get her started, but keep her motivated for the long haul.

So what do you think? I’d like to post regular updates somewhere, share videos, postings, inspirational quotes, texts, etc. I’m thinking I might start a blog to document the process, but it might be a little too much work.

Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!

Let’s start with the simple things: is she tooled up to listen whenever and wherever? Otherwise, a nice MP3 would make a good present for her!

What is she interested in? There used to be wonderful beginners’ material provided by MissTake. I don’t know whether it’s still in the library. Serge, Marianne, Fabrice, etc etc have produced very good stuff, too, not only for beginners.

What I also like about LingQ is the personal relationship one can develop with the tutors. It is so nice to be able to chat to someone whom one considers a friend.

I doubt that you can teach your Mom French. If she is highly motivated she can learn. I can only recommend the methods that I use. So first step is make sure your Mom is acquainted with the MP3 player, and can download content to iTunes. To me that is the most convenient place to keep playlists of different things I like to listen to. I mostly use a iPod nano as my go to MP3 player and also use my iPhone for language learning, for listening, for reading and LingQing and for Flash Card review. I also use my Ipad and computer.

I would tell her that the first few months will be a little painful, lots of boring content, most of which is difficult to understand, with one word flowing into the next. It will appear as if French people don’t pronounce very clearly and speak too quickly. This is what I feel with every language I start. The grammar will also be confusing and hard to remember and all of this can cause frustration. However, this is compensated for by the fact that she will start to understand a few things and be able to say a few things. Gradually the cloud lifts and more things make sense.

When this starts to happen, after 3-6 months she will be able to start reading and listening to things of interest to her in French, especially if she uses LingQ. There follows a long road to fluency. Just as surely as fluency is a realistic goal, the road towards it is long. Therefore it is best to find ways to enjoy the journey. That means choosing things of interest to listen to and read, spicing it up with movies , with sub-titles at first, even if comprehension is not always that strong. It is important to give oneself credit for what has been achieved and not to worry about the gaps , mistakes and man awkward moments. It is just a matter of staying the course. I am sure everyone here will be happy to provide encouragement.

I have been thinking of doing a “10 tips to learning French” and if I do get around to it I will let you know.

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Thank you all for your comments, they have been very helpful. I suppose what I’m most interested is moving away from the individual language learner, and thinking in terms of language teaching. I think we’re all rather good at self-motivation and finding interesting materials for our language study precisely because we know the system works.

I don’t completely agree that learners who are motivated will necessarily find their own way to learning a language. I think there are lots of people who need to be educated about the power of regular activity and motivation for success in languages. I’m interested in finding ways to “bootstrap” new language learners into the tools like LingQ that might seem intimidating at first.

Naturally, Steve has been doing this for years, teaching people how to teach themselves, and I’m looking for tips on how to teach someone on a one-to-one basis, with the goal of making her an independent language learner.

Sorry for thinking aloud here, but I thinking about doing it like this:

  1. Creating some kind of a webpage of facebook group where I can post texts and exchange comments with her.
  2. Starting with Assimil, and walking her through chapter by chapter until she can start accessing the more interesting basic and intermediate French materials on LingQ…

I agree with Steve, there’s an initial phase that is somewhat unpleasant that you have to get through, and that’s where I think an individual tutor/coach can help the most.

How does that sound?

Thank you Sanne, yes, that was the very first thing I talked to her about: the need to get a dedicated MP3 player, reserved only for French. She’s not quite as computer literate as I think most users here are, so I’m probably going to have to show her how to use iTunes to import the content of her language course.

There’s a book your mother might find interesting to read before she starts getting demdotivated: “Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language” by Richard Roberts and Roger Kreuzer. Another LingQ member, solanderdog, tweeted about it and it sounded tempting enough for me to get it. Adults going towards ‘elderhood’ may find it very useful. I certainly do.


Thanks so much for this reference. I have just check, there is also an audio version on Amazon.

“If she is motivated, she will find it.” I don’t believe in this at all and it’s an oversimplification after reading the comments here. Even if you’re motivated and eager to learn, I still think asking for help is fine. I’m very eager to learn Russian and I want to find all the content there is, but I still need the help of the community to point me to the right resources. BTW, where can I find Russian movies and shows with Russian subtitles?

How do we find new music, movies, and books to read? Well, we usually find them from word of mouth from our friends for starters.

Without having to go through all the comments here, could you tell me which comment said “If she is motivated, she will find it.” just so I can understand the context.

As for finding resources for Russian or any other language, I have usually found what I wanted by myself, because my interests are different from those of others.

As for PeterM’s mom, I presume he will help her with resources but in the end she will find her own way. She may like some of what Peter suggests but should also look things that she likes.

To Peter I would say make sure that this becomes your Mom’s project, not yours. She may not want her French learning experience to be on Facebook etc.

“How would YOU teach my mom French?”

If I assume that this question refers to the way in which I would teach MY mom a foreign language I had learned, I would be unable to answer. She is in the middle of her 90s. She is able to read the newspaper in Japanese, but I don’t think she is willing to read English newspapers. If I had read this interesting question 10 years ago, the answer would have been different.

Yes, that does look very helpful, I’m going to order two copies! :slight_smile: Thanks Sanne.

Thank you for your advice, Steve, helpful as always.

Part of my motivation for this project is to keep in better touch with my mother back home, who is close to retirement and looking for things to do to stay active. We’re looking at this as a two-person project, sharing ideas, going back and forth about the language and the culture, etc.

She’s quite a good cook, for example, and is teaching me how to cook French cuisine, while I teach her the language. So we cook and talk and she gets to share a little bit of my life in Paris. My feeling is that the more she is involved in French cuisine and French culture, the more she’ll be engaged with the content and structure of the language. The idea is to create a mutually reinforcing cycle of learning: she is enthusiastic about cooking and learning the language, while I’m enthusiastic about staying in better contact with her (and eventually learning how to cook myself).