What is FRC?
The acronym FRC stands for “For Real Conversations”. It’s a language learning system that focuses on learning a real language.
What do I mean by, “real language” ?
I mean a language as it’s spoken. A living language.
First we need to understand that a language is not reducible to formulas and rules—unless it’s undergoing linguistic examination.
Second, languages are alive. They are in a sense an extension of the people who speak them, and so they can be said to have a sort of immortality. They’re kind of like vampires, they can live off of people for thousands of years or be killed by other people or overrun by other vampires. The potential life span of a human language is much longer than any other living organism on this planet. And to be more correct, a language like all other species can evolve. So to put it simply human language in general has and will exist so long as there are humans, in the sense that we use the term today.
What makes FRC different from other approaches?
FRC departs from the belief that as humans we adapt to what’s given to us, (within reason). With this in mind FRC gives language learners authentic, unscripted, unedited natural encounters with a language.
Most of the time we study a language, instead of learning a language. We dissect it and say, here are the verbs, here are the nouns, when you want to say this, you follow this formula, when you want to say this and that, you need to combine these two formulas. And don’t forget the rule for combing these two particular formulas! Confusing right? And that’s only the beginning. Imagine this abstract example that sounds more like some version of a math problem, but further complicated by an impressive list of rules, exceptions, formulas and formulas for the exceptions! And yet all of that has very little in common with speaking the language with other humans.
Where did FRC come from?
I wanted to capture authentic language use and interesting topics for all levels of learners.
Upon arriving in France after having studied French for about 2 years, I considered myself nearly fluent, I was able to read books and have conversations with teachers and friends. I could express most of the things that I wanted to say and on the occasion that I couldn’t find the right words I could explain what I meant using other words in the language.
All of this was great. But, I quickly realized that the French I knew and spoke was not the French that was being spoken. And I’m not talking about encountering slang. When I went out to a bar or was in the high school cafeteria, hallways, library. There were words and sounds I’d never heard, phrases that I didn’t have a translation for.
I attributed this gap to the same reason many of my students had trouble understanding me when I spoke quickly or naturally. Oftentimes when we learn a language we learn something like the phrase, “I am going to the store tonight.”
But when you hear this phrase, it sounds more like, “I’mgoinuhthestoretnight” which is, as far as the traditional language learner is concerned, is a different language. So FRC was designed with this in mind, aiming to solve this problem.
Why does FRC work?
I believe that as humans who have endured a variety of conditions on this magnificent and unforgiving planet, we’re pretty great at adapting to what’s given to us. FRC doesn’t waste your time adapting to hearing a language segmented and slowed down, but believes that with a little help you can dive into the real stuff from the beginning. In addition, FRC attempts to address one of the most important aspects of learning: interesting, non-traditional content.
If you give people textbook language, they’re going to adjust to textbook language and they most likely won’t be able to speak the language. Which I could argue is one of the main points of learning a language, not to mention one of the more interesting aspects. By taking this away from people, you’re eliminating a large percentage of potential language learners. The only ones who will make efforts and eventually do well are those who can see beyond the textbook language and actively go out and try to use the language and be expose themselves to real language.
But if you give people the real language, real speed, real conversations, from the start, while holding their hand in way, the results will be better. They’ll be able to dive into the culture and start consuming things that interest them. The other bonus is, unlike learning textbook language and then the real language, if you learn the real language first textbook language will in many cases appear easier. The only hurtle might be new vocabulary, but even this won’t have too negative an impact because overall comprehension will be there.
People don’t want to hear about how Martha got a job interview or how many pairs of pants Jerome tried on, they want things that are really happening, or things that are absurd and funny. I’m probably not just speaking for myself when I say, that I’m ten-times more likely to watch a youtube video of someone talking passionately about an experience or an opinion, than to read an invented dialogue in a language textbook. Most of us spend hours on Facebook or other social media sites, reading, commenting and sharing information. That along with messaging friends having interesting or silly conversations on Skype, should be among the goals of language learning.
How do I use it?
There is no short answer here.
You start with a language pack. I’ve condensed nearly everything you need to know about any language into roughly 4 pages. You can memorize this, if you’re into that sort of thing, or you can use it as a cheat sheet.
The next step is listening to the self-introductions/podcasts. Look for the patterns, get used to hearing the sounds of the language and then watch the videos that break down the podcasts. Either myself or a native speaker will be “slowing down” what you’re hearing and explaining any phrases that might be difficult. You’ll also have transcripts of the self-introductions, for reference.
Now you can follow that advice and progress onto the “more difficult” podcasts that will go into abstract topics and longer conversations, or you can say F*#&! it and do whatever you want. This is kind of geared for self-motivated individuals. Hand-holding will be minimal.
This is not a method that claims to be, THE ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL, (shout out to all my LOTR fans), but rather this is for people who want to start speaking a language and watching youtube videos, movies, or listening to music. I HIGHLY, (and in all caps) recommend finding things that interest you that you can read in the language.
One really great website for just about any level is lingq.com aside from that, something I like doing, is reading a book in a language I know well while at the same time reading it in the target language. Generally you’ll have an easier time reading something that’s geared for children or young adults, but if your a bit of a masochist, feel free to try some literary masterpiece— because at the end of the day, what matters is how motivated and interested you are. I’m a bit lucky because I can find pleasure in reading even the trashiest of fantasy or science fiction, and there’s plenty of pretty decent stuff for kids in that genre.
That’s all for now, the FRC section of this website should be some kind of functional by February, and there will eventually be another website devoted entirely to that. Also coming soon, will be links to my youtube videos. Until next time language learners and polyglods!