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How to learn French, the Frank Harris way

I just came across this passage in volume 1 of My Life and Loves, and felt it should be more widely appreciated. Here's how Frank Harris taught himself French, in a week.

I first spent five whole days on the grammar, learning all the verbs, especially the auxiliary and irregular verbs by heart, till I knew them as I knew my Alphabet. I then read Hugo’s Hernani with a dictionary in another long day of eighteen hours and the next evening went to the gallery in the Comedie Francaise to see the play acted by Sarah Bernhardt as Dona Sol and Mounet Sully as Hernani. For a while the rapid speech and strange accent puzzled me; but after the first act I began to understand what was said on the stage and after the second act I caught every word and to my delight when I came out into the streets, I understood everything said to me. After that golden night with Sarah’s grave, trainante voice in my ears, I made rapid because unconscious progress.

Next day in the restaurant I picked up a dirty, torn copy of Madame Bovary that lacked the first eighty pages. I took it to my room and swallowed it in a couple of breathless hours, realising at once that it was a masterwork; but marking a hundred and fifty new words to turn out in my pocket dictionary afterwards. I learned these words carefully by heart and have never given myself any trouble about French since.

Take that, Duolingo! Coming soon: Frank-o-phone™ - the only truly codological language system.


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