/ Learning French

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Sam Simpson - on 09 Nov 2012
I have started to learn french, has anyone got any tips for a absolute beginner, so far I am just listening to very basic lessons over and over again.. If anyone has any good tips, it would be appreciated.
Tim Chappell - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

Uhmmm... Visiter la France??
Daithi O Murchu - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

Michel Thomas CDs

are available via peer to peer file sharing technology
Tim Chappell - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

Acheter et voir des films francais. Il y en a quelques, on m'a dit.

<desole qu'on ne trouve pas ici d' accents..>
cap'nChino - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Daithi O Murchu:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Michel Thomas CDs
>
> are available via peer to peer file sharing technology

+1
Hugh J - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Daithi O Murchu:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Michel Thomas CDs
>
> are available via peer to peer file sharing technology

+2
yorkshireman - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Daithi O Murchu:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Michel Thomas CDs
>
> are available via peer to peer file sharing technology

Or here's a crazy idea. You could buy them?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/French-Michel-Thomas-Method-Series/dp/1444133012/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=...

I can vouch for MT, they're great for listening to in the car and give you a good grounding, but you'll need to get as much variety as possible once you get the basics.

Try the Coffee Break French podcasts, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of them now, lasting 5-10 minutes so nice and easy to get into and listen on your iPod regularly. There's premium material if you subscribe but the free stuff is great.
dissonance - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

SPEAK ENGLISH LOUD AND SLOW.
works for any language.
ERH - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

I am usually fine with language rules but cannot do vocabulary, so:

-write each word out large in french on a piece of card
-cut it out
-write the english on the back
-blutack it french side up on your wall
-have a HUGE wall full of words
-every time you walk past, check the words
-when you have a word down 100%, take it off the wall, put it in a big bag of words
-keep adding new words!
-every now and then go bag-dipping to make sure you still know the old ones

I suck at learning languages, but this method is ever so slowly helping me learn German vocab
ERH - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to ERH:

Also, read children's books in the language. Any words you havent met before, add to the wall!
Sam Simpson - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: great advice...
dissonance - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

more seriously.
The bbc has some decent language lessons at varying levels (although i have only looked at the Spanish section).
Find someone to practice on as well.
Jamming Dodger on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson: Seconded for reading kids books. Theyre good for learning unusual words (like fluffy, grizzly, etc)
jon on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to samsimpson)

> <desole qu'on ne trouve pas ici d' accents..>

No problem, ^^^^
Professor Bunsen - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

Once you get started, if you have any foreign language television channels, you can often get subtitles in French. If you have a digital TV you can often select French as the subtitles language. Even French channels like France 2 have french subtitles on most programmes, especially dubbed ones like US dramas. Of course, subtitles are often not verbatim but they are good for building vocab and common phrases while allowing you to recognise particular grammar in conjunction with the audio if that is in french too.
What can be very confusing is a programme with german or dutch audio and French subtitles but you can still watch these with the sound muted.
jon on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Or perhaps I should have said: Tiens, ^^^^ .
Epic Ebdon - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Daithi O Murchu:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Michel Thomas CDs

+3, although I found the German ones in my local library. They're certainly good enough to get you started... but then you might want to go to France for a bit an make an effort to have a go at actually using it. My German was good enough to understand stuff and form sentences, but I only really got properly comfortable with it once I was using it daily.

Tim

Bimble on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

Just keep repeating whatever you want to say in English, but increasingly louder each time until Mr Frenchie understands. That's the spirit, old chap.
In reply to samsimpson: Michel Thomas, plus get a partner using My Language Exchange and talk to each other on Skype. Do something everyday. If you're motivated, you'll success; if you're not, you won't.
In reply to Submit to Gravity: succeed*
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Matt Vigg - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to ERH:

Or use Anki if you want to do the same thing with a bit of technology thrown in, very useful for language learning:

http://ankisrs.net/
teh_mark - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

I always found, being a very logical sort of person, that grammar was the key in learning for me. At secondary school we did very little in the way of looking at the various tenses in detail, and I found it hard to work out exactly how and why things worked the way they did. I went to a different school for 6th form and did A-level French, who focused a lot more on grammar. Suddenly _everything_ made sense.

Helpfully, French is mostly a very logical language and not too difficult to work out once you're on the right path.
Fultonius - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson: I've been using Michel Thomas and I find it works well.

Personally, I can;t do it in the car. It requires too much concentration.

I would also advise you that, if you can, try and listen to french people as well as I am now finding that my comprehension of "French" french is laggin behind my comprehension of foreigners speaking french.

I use the BUSUU apps on my phone too - they seem quite good.
In reply to Matt Vigg: I've downloaded that - thanks! I'm at the stage now where I just need to learn shitloads of vocabulary.
Dave Cumberland - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:
> I have started to learn french, has anyone got any tips for a absolute beginner,

Buy a Berlitz pocket guide, go to France and use it. Work there if possible.
rockchomper on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:
...any french/english dictionery (try charity shops) that also shows how to pronounce words/breaks down the sounds of each syllable is a really good way to get to grips with the correct verbal inntonation....
middlevern - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to ERH: get onto quiz let.com. Amazing for learning vocab, and available on mobiles too. Loads of fantastic vocab on their already set up, and you can make your own in minutes. Been a revolution amongst the kids I teach, and I find it useful too!
Dauphin - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

get a french bird

d
In reply to Dauphin:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> get a french bird
>
> d

I think I covered that under "motivation" )))
Hugh J - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Dauphin:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> get a french bird
>
> d

Vous voulez dire un oiseau ou une jeune dame?
Trangia - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

As someone has said, go to France. Spend your next few holidays there, and go to areas off the tourist track where the locals don't speak English, so that you are forced to speak French. The area round Font is quite good for that. If a French person tries to speak to you in English, answer in French and ask them to speak in French.

I know someone who spoke no Spanish at all. He got caught by the Spanish customs with a small amount of weed on him when he went there on holiday and spent the next two years in a Spanish prison. He is now fluent in Spanish. I'm not suggesting that you go to that extreme, but you could consider joining the French Foreign Legion!
In reply to samsimpson: I think this "throw yourself in at the deep end" advice is mis-guided. You have to study. Otherwise you just end up alienated, and never knowing what's going on.
Doug on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity: Depends, being "thrown in at the deep end" (postdoc in a French speaking research institute) worked for me, although agree you have to study a bit as well in order to get some of the grammar - but reading French helps with that

To the OP, try listen to French radio (eg FranceInter (bit like Radio 4) on LW or others on the web)
Dominion - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Daithi O Murchu:

> Michel Thomas CDs
>
> are available via peer to peer file sharing technology


Or legally from your local library...



I've also tried the Pimsleur Short Courses in both French and Japanese


Watashiwa Nihongoga sukoshi wakarimas, demo mada jordsu ja'aarimasen

Dominion - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Doug:

> To the OP, try listen to French radio (eg FranceInter (bit like Radio 4) on LW or others on the web)


Also, I use TuneIn Radio on my android smartphone to listen to language tutorial podcasts - in my case Japanese, which wouldn't be available via normal radiowaves in the UK but only via the internet
Hugh J - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Dominion:
> (In reply to Daithi O Murchu)
>
> [...]
>
>
> Or legally from your local library...

Well, Michel hardly needs the money, does he?

Dauphin - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Hugh J:

vieux poulet fait une bonne soupe

d
Hugh J - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Dauphin: Oooooooo.... vous tes vilain! :-)
Al Evans on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson: The best thing is to learn it at school when you are young, I learnt french that way and was never particularly good, but I have lived in Spain for 10 years and I am virtually illiterate in Spanish. Though I do have to say it is a much harder language than French to learn, I'm sure you get thicker as you get older, but I know if I had lived in France for 10 years I would be speaking French reasonably just from my base of GCE French classes.
Doug on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Al Evans: you keep saying Spanish is harder than French but everyone else I know says the opposite, I'm amazed that after 10 years you can't speak reasonable Spanish (do you spend most of your time th non-Spaniards ?)

But clearly starting early is the best solution but difficult when (as in your case) you find you need to learn a language many years later
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Epic Ebdon - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Al Evans:

You're right, if you learn it when you're very young, then it is a lot easier. On the other hand, I think it depends how much you use it, and how much you are forced to use it. Living in the country is all well and good but I know plenty of people here in Germany (mostly US with a forces connection) who speak very little German, because they don't have to, or don't need to. To be honest, you can get by in Germany pretty easily with just English, but if you live in a family and speak it at home, or have to spend your whole day speaking it at work, then it comes on remarkably quickly, even if you're older. Certainly, I have one American friend who could speak almost nothing until she had a job in Germany where she needed to speak some German and now she's pretty good.

As for being thrown in at the deep end, that's all well and good, but I suspect it helps if you have a very basic amount before you start. If you don't know a single word, then it is very tough to start with. If you have a basic bit of knowledge, such as what you could get from the Michel Thomas French first course, then you can pick up enough clues in conversations to put the rest together. It's a bit like those Engima code breakers during the war - a plain string of letters is extremely difficult to decipher, but small clues and snippets of information were enough to let them crack the code.

Incidentally, for the OP, the Michel Thomas CDs are not your typical "holiday" language. You wont be able to say (initially) "Where is the train station?" Count to ten, order in a restaurant in the classic way etc., but you will be able to build sentences fairly quickly, which in the end lead you to being able to speak the language comfortably.

Tim
Trangia - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Doug:
> (In reply to Al Evans) you keep saying Spanish is harder than French but everyone else I know says the opposite, I'm amazed that after 10 years you can't speak reasonable Spanish (do you spend most of your time th non-Spaniards ?)
>
>

I'm with Al on this one.

I can speak French well enough to make myself misunderstood. I've struggled since 2005 with Spanish, having owned a property over there, and found it an incredibly difficult language to get an "ear" for. It sounds gutteral and harsh.
In reply to samsimpson: When I started a thread at the start of the year about learning a new language, the opinion from language experts was that the theory about not being able to learn language as an adult is bollocks, and that it's simply a question of how motivated you are. My experience has borne that out.
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to samsimpson) The best thing is to learn it at school when you are young, I learnt french that way and was never particularly good, but I have lived in Spain for 10 years and I am virtually illiterate in Spanish. Though I do have to say it is a much harder language than French to learn, I'm sure you get thicker as you get older, but I know if I had lived in France for 10 years I would be speaking French reasonably just from my base of GCE French classes.

Have you actually studied it, or have you relied on the immersion of being there?
jon on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

I think it's more the speed and ease of learning that you lack as an adult. Also, no matter how fluent you are, as a Brit you'll never lose your own accent. This is borne out by listening to French speakers speaking English. Their accent is always the same, but in varying degrees. But Spanish... I'm most definitely with Al on that one!
Douglas Griffin - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:

My wife is French, we speak French at home here in Scotland at least 50% of the time and our kids are fully bi-lingual. I have been told that I don't have much of an accent, that seems to be borne out by the number of times I've been taken for a French person while in France.

(Incidentally, my wife doesn't sound particularly French when she speaks English - she is often asked which one of the Western Isles she comes from!!)

However... the one thing I always fall down on is genders. I think you need to learn those very young. Sooner or later (usually sooner) I get one of those wrong and I can see the person I'm speaking to wince.

So my advice to the OP would be - learn the genders of nouns as well as their meaning.
jon on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

You are very lucky and, I think, quite unusual, given that you only use French 50% of the time and then only at home in an English speaking country. By your own admission, you still have an accent, though. I know many mixed French/English couples/families here and it'd be fair to say that all of them still have their native language accents in their partners language.

Watching the TV news here you quite often get Brits, Americans, Italians speaking French and their accents are immediately recognisable, even those who've maybe lived here most of their lives. I understand that after puberty it's very hard to make your body make the little nuances that that another accent requires. When we first moved here their was a French/European news channel in which the news reader was English. I remember thinking how very good he sounded - something to aspire to. The programme finished quite a long time ago, but just recently I saw the same guy being interviewed and I was struck by how English he sounds! I think that your ear for this develops even though it leaves your voice way behind!

Yes, I agree, genders are a real trap, aren't they. Quite how they decide on genders for non French nouns is a bit beyond me though!
AlunP - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

I ve tried a couple of langs to a survival standard as an adult. spanish,welsh,german & thai. spanish is easiest - thai a nightmare (tones).

Nothing beats daily use & practice in language learning - best done with a friend or a native speaker. I'm currently learning French at night classes - but progress is slow unless you hit the books/net every day.

Pob Lwc!
Doug on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to jon: I have an American friend here in Paris who my (French) partner thought was French when they first met - he really has no/little trace of New York in his voice But apparently his written French (at least in emails) isn't so convincing
pneame on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Doug:
One of my favorite language-based memories is sitting on the ridge below the top of the Chapelle de la Gliere in the Aig. Rouges.
Chap climbs towards me, looks around and says "A bit crowded isn't it". "Indeed" says I. "Where in the States are you from?"
"No, I'm French"
Big grins all round.
Douglas Griffin - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Doug:
> I have an American friend here in Paris who my (French) partner thought was French when they first met - he really has no/little trace of New York in his voice But apparently his written French (at least in emails) isn't so convincing

I really struggle with my written French. When the kids were young and I used to read them stories in French I was always learning - "Ah, so that's how it's written!".

In reply to Jon:
> Quite how they decide on genders for non French nouns is a bit beyond me though!

There doesn't seem to be any pattern to it at all. I remember being totalled puzzled with the idea when I learned French at school, it being the first foreign language I'd ever studied. Now of course I realise that English is very much the odd one out in this respect.

Something else in which English is unusual - I've never come across another language that doesn't have the formal/informal 'you'.

Doug on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Douglas Griffin: what did thou say ?
Kimono - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Doug)
> [...]

> Something else in which English is unusual - I've never come across another language that doesn't have the formal/informal 'you'.

thou and thee...though a 'little' out of date :)

As for french/spanish...well, i spent 2 years in a francophone country and learned a reasonable amount of french. I then, 2 years ago, moved to a hispanophone country and have had to learn spanish and i have to say that my spanish, after 2 years is a lot better than my french!

But then i think your second latin language is always going to be that bit easier as there are so many similarities

Douglas Griffin - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Doug and kieran_b:

It doesn't really compare though, does it? As Kieran says, a little out of date.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

We have a really great system over here in Canada where I send my kids to a French Immersion school. This means that they are taught entirely in French from a very early age and become bi-lingual.

I don't speak a word (well perhaps a couple) and nor does my wife but the system is set up for this.
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Doug)
> [...]
>
> I really struggle with my written French. When the kids were young and I used to read them stories in French I was always learning - "Ah, so that's how it's written!".
>
> In reply to Jon:
> [...]
>
> There doesn't seem to be any pattern to it at all. I remember being totalled puzzled with the idea when I learned French at school, it being the first foreign language I'd ever studied. Now of course I realise that English is very much the odd one out in this respect.
>
> Something else in which English is unusual - I've never come across another language that doesn't have the formal/informal 'you'.

Thou
Douglas Griffin - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

> Thou

Look up the thread a bit. When was the last time you used this form of address?
It hardly compares with 'vous/tu', 'sie/du', 'vyi/tyi' etc., does it?

In reply to Douglas Griffin: Alright grumpy!
In reply to Douglas Griffin: There is also some dialects that use the plural "you" - like Scouse "youse" and Southern American "y'all"
Douglas Griffin - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

:-)

I tend to say "youse" a lot as well - it's my Airdrie upbringing.

Not quite the same, of course. I just find it odd that we seem to be about the only people who use the same word for "you", whether we're talking to our best friend or someone we've never even met before.
In reply to Douglas Griffin: Having two forms of address does lend a bit of nuance to language.
Kimono - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:
can also depend where you leant it.
I learnt my french in west africa and very few people used vous there.
I tend to get strange reactions in france as i always forget and tutoyer everyone :(
deepsoup - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to kieran b:
> thou and thee...though a 'little' out of date :)

Not so very out of date in Yorkshire. :)
Kimono - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:
ah, but yorkshire is itself not of this era :)
jon on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to pneame:

Don't know whether that says more for his English or your American Peter!
AlisonSmiles - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

Apparently listening to music is helpful, it repeats themes and I sound so old as I say this but more modern pop music tends towards simpler words and phrases.

I say this as I'm bimbling around France, trying to speak French to folk who keep offering to have conversations in English, while I protest and keep trying to speak English. Every conversation I've had for the last ten days has started with Bonjour, je suis anglaise ...
In reply to AlisonSmiles:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Apparently listening to music is helpful, it repeats themes and I sound so old as I say this but more modern pop music tends towards simpler words and phrases.
>
> I say this as I'm bimbling around France, trying to speak French to folk who keep offering to have conversations in English, while I protest and keep trying to speak English. Every conversation I've had for the last ten days has started with Bonjour, je suis anglaise ...

When I went to Moscow a friend of one of my Russian friends said to me "How are we supposed to learn English if you keep speaking Russian!" I knew there was a reason I went...
James Gilbert on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to TryfAndy:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Just keep repeating whatever you want to say in English, but increasingly louder each time until Mr Frenchie understands. That's the spirit, old chap.

Someone tried this on me today in one of the FNAC stores in Paris; except it was an elderly Russian lady. We had quite a long conversation (her in shouted Russian, me in French) about compact digital cameras, until I pointed out I didn't actually work there.

Anyway, back to the thread; I'm for the 'in at the deep end' method of learning French. I knew the really basic stuff from doing a GCSE, but spending a year of my degree in France made a 3000% improvement - I can now talk to a French person for between 5 and 10 minutes before they realise I might be a foreigner. The accent really doesn't matter though, they love an English accent here!

As mentioned above, word genders are the one area where you can never be perfect if you haven't grown up speaking French.
Bingers - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to samsimpson)
>
> Acheter et voir des films francais. Il y en a quelques, on m'a dit.
>
> <desole qu'on ne trouve pas ici d' accents..>

But avoid anything with Louis de Finess, they're crap.

Mr Bean goes to Cannes would do a job.
BoulderBus - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

I have 2 methods,

the first is learning nursery rhymes (comptines). They are very good at teaching you words that rhyme, which helps with pronunciation, they are good for cases and tenses, and they have a very wide vocabulary. Listen, read, memorise and translate....

try http://www.youtube.com/user/comptines
In reply to BoulderBus: What's the second?
seankenny - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:

I really wouldn't worry about the accent thing. My Sri Lankan father-in-law has lived in England since he was a teenager, speaks fluent English, still has a fairly strong accent. I don't know about living in other languages, but in English it doesn't matter so much. We're very used to hearing foreigners speak English, and the different varieties of English (American, Australian, Indian, etc). But perhaps it's different in French?
jon on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

No, I don't think it's any different in French. My point was simply that I don't think you can lose your accent if you learn a language after the age of puberty. I certainly don't worry about it, and in fact I actually like to hear an English accent in French - it's part of who we are
seankenny - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:

Sorry Jon, when I said different I perhaps meant less understanding or tolerant of accents. English comes in a lot of varieties, perhaps French less so. In London huge numbers of people have a foreign accent of some sort or another... no one really cares.
Doug on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny: maybe less than with English, but plenty of accents in French - Quebecois, Marseille, W African, Paris, Ch'ti, Wallonia etc
jon on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Doug:

Did you forget Swiss, ou bien?
Douglas Griffin - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:

> My point was simply that I don't think you can lose your accent if you learn a language after the age of puberty.

I simply don't think that's the case - some people can and some can't. I do think it's the case that some people don't have the ear for accents and will never lose theirs nomatter how long they've spoken the language.
cliff shasby - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: the bbc ones are good but i find i cant get on them sometmes..a lot of peeps must be learning french..!
Murko Fuzz - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

I'll second the suggestion of kids books, starting with books for age 5/6 for example. I now know all about the lives of piggies, wolves, fairies and witches in french.

As for later on, the Parallel Text series is very good. French on left page, British on the right.
Sam Simpson - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Murko Fuzz: I have just been repeating Michel Thomas on my Ipod, no annoying music, finding it really helpful. Childrens book idea sounds good. Are there any particular exercises while watching tv series with french subtitles/dubbing I should be doing other than watching? Parallel text sounds good too! Cheers

I am also thinking of doing a ski season next winter so has anyone got any suggestions for the more french speaking resorts. I would prefer to go to a more french speaking place than an English speaking place. Over the next year I hope to learn as much as I can so I have some kind of basic foundation before I go.
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the real slim shady - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson: I would agree, go to france for as long as possible. But watching movies and reading books etc is a BIG help. At school we get told to immerse yourself in the anguage, basically surround yourself in french, on the radio, tv, news websites....everything

HTH
Murko Fuzz - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to samsimpson:

I find french films tricky because the sort of films I like usually involve characters with heavy accents and lots of slang. "Hidden" is a good thriller with UK subtitles, the dialogue is not too fast or furious. I used to listen and then glance at the subtitles for confirmation or clarification, unless I knew I'd understood correctly.
I'd reasoned that radio would be spoken more clearly and some times that was certainly the case. Even in the UK I could browse channels whilst driving by using a french radio phone app.
Frenchie tabloid newspapers pretty handy too, simple language.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GCLYYNmu5g

Try that. It encapsulates some good ideas.
ERH - on 14 Nov 2012
In reply to Matt Vigg:
> (In reply to ERH)
>
> use Anki if you want to do the same thing with a bit of technology thrown in, very useful for language learning:
>
> http://ankisrs.net/

This is awesome! thanks Matt!
Sam Simpson - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to ERH: http://www.memrise.com/home/ I have found this which is actually brilliant for me! dont know if it would be help for anyone else who is also wanting to get the basics?

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