Last night, very late last night, I decided to startle my credit card by shelling out $159. Now, I'm usually quite stingy when it comes to throwing cash at language resources, especially since there's so much free stuff out there - and ESPECIALLY in major languages like French. Ah, but there is a caveat: although the interwebs are awash with free material, it usually caters for two groups: bare beginners and the very advanced, i.e. those who can watch films or listen to the radio without weeping in frustration. If you're an intermediate learner, though, it's a completely different ball game. You need input that challenges you, while, at the same time, being somewhat intelligible. And at that level, at least in my experience, it's a desert out there. Unless you're prepared to pay.
My hard-earned money went to newsinslowfrench.com. There's a new episode every week providing a selection of news & analysis (spoken slowly or at normal speed, you get to choose), plus a new French expression, a grammar lesson and quizzes for testing yourself. I paid for the premium version that includes everything, but there are a number of more economical options. If you just want the audio of the news section for listening practice, for example, it's something like fifty bucks a year. The back catalogue is so enormous that I won't get through it even if I managed to "process" an episode every day. Not such a bad deal for 13 bucks a month, methinks.
I didn't buy the cat in the bag, you understand. I am, in fact, a repeat customer. I subscribed to the Spanish version (newsinslowspanish.com) years ago, which created a little problem for me when I first moved to Spain. I knew so many Spanish sayings and expressions that people assumed I had a much higher level of conversational Spanish than I actually did.
I should probably also mention that I took out a six-month subscription to the French version a year ago, but it turned out to be too early - I was still very much a beginner back then and deciphering just a single news item was too much of a chore.
So, the plan is this: I want to get from upper beginner's to upper intermediate level within the next eighteen months or so. When I wrote a post last week about how much I was enjoying my Portuguese, I suddenly felt the urge to go there with my French. I shall let you know how it goes...