Now I’m Ready for Anything!

French Street

Je parle et comprends un peu le français, et j’écris un peu le français. Mais pas très bien.

Translation: I speak and understand a little French, and I write a little French. But not very well.

My phone drowned in a puddle while camping at Flite Fest in July and I lost all of my time-tracking data, so I’m not quite sure exactly how much I practiced, but I’m fairly sure it was 12–13 hours—not quite the 20 hours, but it is nice to be back in the double-digits again. After self-control, travel is the greatest bane to rapid skill acquisition.

Learning French has been a lot of fun! I have the ability to do some very basic communication, have decent pronunciation and accent, and can sort of figure out how a word is spelled, just from hearing it. Duolingo says that I know 134 words, and there are even more that I learned with Pimsleur, so I probably have a semi-working vocabulary of over 150 words! This source says that the 300 most common French words are enough for everyday life, and just 600 words make up 90% of French texts. If the word/time learning curve is linear,  just fifty hours of practice would give you command of 600 words, and make you a somewhat capable member of French society! A diligent and motivated learner would be quite ready to live in France with just 2-3 months of language preparation.

Like any other skill, it seems that language is quite readily grasped with 20 hours of practice, and is really quite enjoyable. If you’ve ever wished to learn a language, go ahead and make a goal of practicing 20 hours, and go for it! You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can learn, and how enjoyable it really is.

Est-ce que vous êtes Américain?


I shall go to France!


For now though, I shall be content with the greatest rapid skill acquisition experiment of the year: learning a language in 20 hours! This would be daunting, if it weren’t so easy. People say that learning a language is difficult, especially for adults, but the truth of the matter is that adults can learn languages faster than children. Traditional methods of rote memorization and vocabulary lists are unengaging, and as such unmemorable. Modern tools and methods can aid in learning a language much more quickly, and teach words and phrases that are actually useful. Through the month of July, I am making use of two different methods:


Duolingo is a fairly new business (only two years old as of June), but they apparently have more users than the total number of people learning a language in the US Public School system. They work based on two main principles: two-way written language translation, and audio transcription. In this way you quickly learn proper pronunciation, while also being able to read in that language. Duolingo also has a neat feature where more advanced students can translate Wikipedia pages into other languages for practice.


The Pimsleur method was developed by Paul Pimsleur in the 1960s, and teaches through the use of 30-minute audio lessons. This method keeps the mind engaged by prompting the listener to speak the translation of an English phrase, as opposed to simply repeating after the teacher as some other methods do. Pimsleur also employs graduated-interval recall, which is supposed to help get the language into your long-term memory quickly & efficiently, by bringing it up just prior to the point where you would forget it. Besides these learning techniques, the Pimsleur method focuses on core vocabulary that will actually be useful to you, instead of learning the French equivalent to words like “elephant”, and “acrophobia”.

Between the two of these, I should have the basics of French writing, grammar, and conversation down pat. The only real challenge I face this month is practicing a full 20 hours, as I have fallen far short of that goal during the last few months’ skills.