Languages, prices and the ups and downs

Well-Heeled talked about this recently with paying a tutor to help her brush up on her Mandarin.

For me, I am taking a different tack, and the tack has a name: FREE.

  • No paid tutor (BF is free and willing to help me learn one-on-one).
  • Free French/English book here and there using Swagbucks.
  • Listening to French radio and watching movies in French.
  • BF only has French friends who speak a passable, painful English, so they are more than happy AND RELIEVED to speak in their native tongue.

Total French Immersion.

In case you’re wondering, Jaka on Twitter asked if I was Parisian French or Quebecois French, and the answer is Parisian for everything.

The internet has literally become my only English refuge.

(That, and calling my mom every week.)

Getting a Free French/English Visual Dictionary

I decided to redeem my free Swagbucks points for gift certificates to buy a French/English Visual Dictionary.

(45 Swagbucks needed for each $5 gift certificates at

They were finally posted to my account a whole 17 business days later, but someone tweeted to me that they actually pay out the cards on the 1st and the 17th of each month.

So if you happened to JUST miss the 1st, you wait until the 17th.

Ahhh.. *light bulb* That makes more sense.

If you don’t know anything about Swagbucks , read this — you can get free cash and gift certificates just by searching with Swagbucks .

The Firefly French/English Visual Dictionary – $22

Firefly French/English Visual Dictionary

I pawed through it at the local Chapters, and I like how everything is laid out and clear.

Some said that the book didn’t have masculin or feminin indications for each word, but if you lean your face up very close to the book and squint, each word has a little ‘m‘ or ‘f‘ to indicate what gender each word is.

By the way, I also learned the single most important, eye-opening trick about speaking the French Language I thought I’d pass on, because beginning English-speaking French-learners out there may not know.

Memorizing all of the verb conjugations is not (really) required at the start!!

Unless you are writing a formal book, there is no immediate need to memorize all the conjugations.

Apparently, for everyday, quick, workable French for beginners, you just need to know:

  1. Présent (Present)
  2. Passé Composé (Past)
  3. The verb Aller (To Go) for all future tenses

Example: The conjugations of I have, I had, I will have:

Présent (Present) = I have = J’ai

Passé Composé (Past) = I had = J’ai eu

The verb Aller (To Go) for all future tenses = I will have = Je vais avoir

And all of this damn time, here I was memorizing Imparfait (Imperfect), Futur (Future) and other exceptional situations for verbs, and it was not necessary for just speaking colloquial French in the beginning!!!

This was taxing on my brain because there are SO many verbs, and with each verb having its own set of 22 conjugations that change for each person makes you want to tear your hair out.

Sorry. I just couldn't resist. :P

Sorry. I just couldn't resist. 😛

Apparently, not even the French use every single one of those verb conjugations perfectly on a day-to-day basis.

They DO use them occasionally, but if you are a beginner in French, stick to the major 3 until you’re comfortable and then work out from there.

Sure, they learned it in school, but if they were to try and speak and write perfectly using all the conjugations, they’d have to look up a couple of verbs here and there.

And apparently they even find it odd if you try to use perfect French conjugations for every situation, teasing you with “What, you’re trying to be a Professor of French now?

(True story.)

Things I hate & love about learning French

I hate Masculin/Feminin genders for each word:

Very confusing.

Why is my belly masculine when I am a female? And how can a chair be feminine?

Very odd.

I love that having to learn another language forces you to learn the structure of your own language first.

This is really an eye-opener for me.

I love this. Now I can learn more about my own language as well as the new one.

I love that if I don’t know the word in French, some of the time, it’s English with an Frenchified accent

A lot of French verbs that are used regularly, are actually old English verbs that have fallen out of colloquial use.

None come to mind right now, but it makes it easier for me to learn when I kind of know what the word means in English.

Sometimes, I’ve pulled words out of the English vocabulary, added a Frenchified accent to it, and have been pleasantly surprised that it was the correct word! Score.

I hate having specific conjugations for each person:

I, You, Her, Him, Us, You (Formal), They (Male), They (Female) each have their own conjugation within each verb times 15 conjugations depending on the time frame and position of the verb in the sentence.

I am always losing time conjugating the verb after seeing who I am addressing. It’s getting easier, but sometimes I get flustered.

On average, you have to memorize 8 x 22 = 176 conjugations PER VERB.

A single verb has 176 ways to conjugate that verb.

Thank GOODNESS they only use Présent (Present), Passé Composé (Past) and the verb Aller (To Go) for all future tenses. 😉

In English, it’s just one conjugation for Present, Past and Future.

I am going. I have gone. I will go.

It doesn’t matter if it’s We are going, or You are going, or He is going.

It’s always conjugated for the Present tense with the word going.

English also has a lot more words to describe everything, in any situation & for every emotion

… and if we don’t have the word, we steal it from other languages.

Like schadenfreude from the German language to mean “taking pleasure in another’s pain”.

A French friend once asked me: “What is the difference between weeping, crying, sobbing, tearing up and all the other words you have to describe the action of crying?

FB: From what I understand from reading books, weeping is like a sorrowful sob. Like if a widow just lost her husband. She quietly weeps for him without screaming or making a lot of noise.

Or “the flowers in the rain weep and mourn for those who have passed”.

Crying is like a baby crying. You can say the widow is crying but it doesn’t denote the emotion of the situation of WHY she’s crying. Crying is more general.

Sobbing is like chest-wracking tears, it’s loud, it’s wet and you half scream. It’s a cry of anguish and pain.

Tearing up is just little tears dripping down your face, but no sounds. Usually when someone pinches you, you tear up. Or if you watch a really sad movie. It’s a little bit of emotion.

Frenchie: …. Merde.

FB: *pat pat* Don’t worry.

I don’t understand how a name of country can be masculine or feminine either, or why you have so many conjugations for a single verb.

So that’s where I am currently.

Fairly comfortable and fluent with the language, but naturally as in everything we do, it all comes down to the details of speaking it properly. Not just speaking it haphazardly.

A long trek up but a good one.

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About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.