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Monroe Mann – 7 Years of French To Finally Learn The Basics!

Dive: Linguist - French
Description: Can read, write, speak, and understand French
Level: Level 2
Level Requirements: Can read, write, speak, and understand French at an advanced-basic level
Certified On: May 31, 2020

Editor’s Note: On all dive certifications, we try to edit the writing as little as possible to preserve authenticity, personality, and writing style. We typically fix spelling errors, but minimally modify grammar and sentence structure (just enough to ensure readability).

Monroe Mann

Name: Monroe Mann Break Diving Level: Level 1 Number of Certified Dives: 14 From: United States In: United States

1. When and Why Did You Decide to Pursue This Dive At This Level? What was your inspiration and motivation?

I look back and am not sure initially why I was interested in French. I believe my high school offered French and Spanish, and I preferred French. I think I just stuck with it because it was offered at my high school and it seemed like a fun thing to do.

French wasn’t the first language I studied. I first studied Spanish in 6th grade. Then I moved to Maine (from New York) and the middle school up there did not offer foreign languages for middle school students (as far as I remember), so I either stopped or did self-study.

For 9th grade, I was back in NY and ended up studying Latin again. Finally, sophomore year of high school (again back up in Maine) is when I believe I finally started studying French. I was the only guy in the class. Was that why I chose it, haha? I think it was because French seemed more interesting to me than Spanish.

2. How Long Did It Take For You To Accomplish This Dive At This Level From The Day You Decided To Pursue It, And Why Did It Take That Long?

French for me took SOOOO long until I was even remotely confident in my abilities, even at a basic level. I had trouble speaking, my pronunciation was terribly American, and most importantly, I couldn’t understand what ANYONE was saying to me.

Even though I eventually became quite the linguist in the years to come (French, Chinese, Italian, some German, some others), learning this first language even at a basic level was tough for me. I did well on my exams, but I couldn’t really do anything with the language. I’d say it took about two years, maybe three, of high school French before I even had a basic ability to communicate. And I mean basic. I still could barely understand what anyone was saying even after a few years studying French.

3. What Was The Hardest Part About Achieving This Particular Dive Level?

The hardest parts: the pronunciation of the French language, and the weird spelling that makes the weird pronunciation even weirder, making listening comprehension even more of a challenge. Looking back, I wish I had studied Italian first, and then French. Italian pronunciation is a lot easier. I lost a lot of confidence in myself thanks to French pronunciation and my inability to understand what others were saying to me.

Truly, choosing the right FIRST language is so important because the hardest foreign language to learn is always going to be… your first. After you learn one, the second is easier, and the third, even easier. It’s the same with studying computer languages, and my advice there is the same: start with an easy language to start, and then move on to the more difficult ones. Otherwise you risk nearly giving up, as I did with French (and computer programming as well).

You see, one of the first object-oriented programming languages I studied was C++. It destroyed my self-confidence. Decades later, I found Ruby and Javascript, and suddenly, I didn’t feel so stupid. Going back to C++ (and now Java) today, I am not so overwhelmed. It’s the same with linguistic natural languages: build your confidence up with a relatively easy language first. Then go on to the tall mountain. But… if French is truly your only love, then go for it with a boat load of patience.

Also difficulty I had: back in the day, it was very hard to find anyone to practice with. Even today, it’s hard, but thanks to the internet, and sites like BreakDiving.io, more and more opportunities abound. These days, I now have opportunities to practice my French each week… even in good ol’ coronavirus quarantine!

4. What Was The Easiest Part About Achieving This Particular Dive Level?

The easiest part about really becoming comfortable with the basics of French was the allure of France. In high school, and then in college, I really wanted to go abroad to Europe, to France, and to ultimately speak French very well. This motivation inspired me to work hard and keep up my studies despite my numerous frustrations. And it paid off, because today, I speak French at an advanced (though not quite fluent) level—more on that in future French certification posts!

Bottom line: make sure you have a very clear purpose in mind for learning French—why are you learning French (or doing anything)? Make sure you have a good answer, because pursuing any language (particularly French) to any level of competence is going to require a lot of stamina, patience, and dogged perseverence!

5. What Is Your Advice For Someone Who Is Pursuing This Dive And Level?

  • Don’t be discouraged about French pronunciation. It’s really hard until you figure it out.

  • You don’t have to lose your accent, but the pronunciation MUST be correct, or you will sound really really stupid. There is nothing worse in life than foreigners speaking a foreign language with terrible pronunciation. Don’t be that person.

  • Practice listening constantly. French is one of the hardest languages to understand acoustically because of the strange pronunciation and spelling—often, the same pronunciation could be four or five different words. You have to get really good at understanding context to understand French.

  • Until you get fairly good, the French won’t speak to you in French. The south of France and the west is better than the north, east, and Paris regions. Even now, with my fairly high level of French, sometimes the French I meet in France want to speak English. It’s very annoying and very disrespectful, but be prepared. Just because you learn French doesn’t mean you will get to practice it simply by moving to France, haha. 😀

6. What Are Some Of The Best Resources You Recommend to Those Pursuing This Dive At This Level, And Why Do You Recommend Them? Please Include Relevant Weblinks, If Applicable.

  • On Youtube, watch the talk show, “Dans L’Air” (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvg4_wSz4Cmo4xRPXaKU47A). It’s very advanced, and if you’re at a basic level, you will understand next to nothing. But try. Even try to hear one word they are saying.

  • Download the TV5Monde App for your phone. It’s fantastic.

  • Memrise (a phone app) (https://www.memrise.com/) has an awesome daily videocast of short 2 – 4 minute videos, all in French, with optional subtitles in French and English. They were better before quarantine hit, but maybe they will get back on top of their game in time.

  • Go visit France, French Switzerland, or French Canada!

  • Join the French Fluency Project language community at breakdiving.io (https://www.breakdiving.io/). It’s a friendly supportive group where you can practice in the all-French chatroom, post in French and get it corrected, and participate in live video practice sessions with other French speakers around the world. There is also a general language lab where you can write in Frenglish.

Resource 1: Break Diving's French Fluency Project - Come practice with us!

Resource 2: Dans L'Air - An advanced French political talk show.

Resource 3: Memrise French - A great app to help you learn French.

Resource 4: -

Resource 5: -

7. Tell Us A Story Of One Of Your Adventures While Pursuing This Dive (At This Level).

Après le lycée, je suis allé au université pendant deux ans aux étas-unis, et puis, j’ai transferé au université en Suisse, à Lugano, en Ticino. Ticino est le partie italienne de la Suisse. C’est pourquoi je parle aussi l’italian.

Alors, j’ai étudié le Français là-bas, et je voulais le faire beaucoup mieux. En fait, je voulais parler couramment. Je l’ai étudié pendant 4 ans au lycée, 2 ans à l’université aux etats-unis, et un ans en Suisse. En totale, 7 ans de Français.

J’ai fini par passer l’été en France, habitant dans deux familles françaises, et étudiant à EFLCA (École de la Langue Française de la Côte Azur), et aussi à la Sorbonne, en France.

Alors, j’étais en train de manger avec ma famille à Paris. En fait, c’était dans les banlieues, dans un village qui s’appelle Boissy Sous St. Yyon. Je ne savais pas ce que s’est passé, mais tout à coup, j’ai réalisé que je ne comprennais rien! Pendant dix minutes, j’étais complètement perdu!

Les émotions ont arrivé! Je commencé à pleurer. Oui, à la table! 7 ans des études, et encore, j’avais des difficultés avec le Français! C’était un moment triste, et un moment humble. Je me souviens ce jour trés clairement. J’en suis sur qu’ils se souviennent aussi!

Je me souviens cet été parce que cet été, j’ai compris le roman, ‘La Firme’ par John Grisham. Ce soir là, j’ai ouvri le roman, et c’était horrible: je ne pouvais pas lire même le premier page!

Pour plusiers années, mon confidence était affecté. Il m’a fallu quelques années pour me rétablir. Après avoir fini mes études en Suisse, je suis revenu aux états-unis, et j’ai abandoné le français pour un peu de temps. Mon ego a été blessé, et je ne voulais pas continuer mes études du Français.

Mais, quelques années plus tard, j’ai changé d’avis. J’ai décidé finalement, “Je vais parler le Franâis couramment!” C’est peut-être aprés je suis revenu du Iraq—oui, c’est ça. Aprés mon retour, mon zeste de la vie était revenu! J’ai décidé que je ferais ce que j’avais à faire pour réussir.


I won’t ruin the surprise about what happened in detail (that’s for another WYSEguidance post), but I will tell you that I speak French pretty well now. I have been back to France a number of times, and even ended up hanging out with a bunch of French speakers in Shanghai, China for a year. Today, I can have conversations with anyone on virtually any topic, and when anyone speaks to me, I can understand them almost all the time. I am still not fluent, but now, when I watch French tv shows and movies… I can actually follow along and understand what’s going on! And a little discussion at the dinner table… that’s quite easy for me now.

Bottom line: learning French is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Learning that first “second language” is hard too, but once you figure it out, learning 3rd, 4th, and 5th languages becomes very easy and very manageable.

8. What Evidence Did You Submit to Prove You Met the Requirements for This Dive and Level?

  • The Break Diving dive committee verified my written (reading and writing) French language abilities via live text chat in the Break Diving Fluency Project FP-French chatroom for the current level.

  • The Break Diving dive committee verified my spoken (speaking and listening) French language abilities via live video chat in the Break Diving Fluency Project live video classroom for the current level.

  • Monroe has led numerous ‘French Only’ live chats in the Break Diving French Fluency Project chatroom, and also has led numerous live video chats in the Break Diving French Fluency Project video conference room.

9. Will You Be Pursuing The Next Level For This Dive? If Yes, Why? If Not, Why Not?

Indeed! The next is Level 3, moving into the ‘intermediate’ category. I look forward to sharing more about how I broke through the ‘basic’ and ‘beginner’ levels to become reasonably proficient.

10. What is the Break Diver's Creed?

No Rules. No Excuses. No Regrets.

Certificate photo:

And having made this post, and provided adequate evidence to the dive committee, Monroe Mann is now hereby certified by Break Diving, Inc. as: Linguist - French - Level 2. Congratulations ! Thank you for being an inspiration to others!

Certificate number: 42

The author above wrote this WYSEguidance post as one of the certification requirements to become certified by Break Diving, Inc. for a dive completed. Would you also like to find greater success, happiness, and friendship, and make genuine supportive connections with others around the world pursuing your same dreams? Come join us at Break Diving and soon your story will be the next one you read about on this site!

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