Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Reader Question: What is the best way to practice a foreign language?


A reader question for the community:
I have been trying to keep up my French through listening to podcasts and watching French news.  How do other people keep their foreign language from atrophying in this day and age, given all of the technology at our fingertips?

15 comments:

  1. I watch french shows that stream on Amazon or Netflix as well as well as using Duolingo which is great for reviewing basic through intermediate french (and other languages)

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    1. Speaking of Netflix, they have a really good series available...A French Village. It is about a small French village during WWII. It's in French with English subtitles. Very good series and helpful for picking up the cadence and sounds of the French language. ARH

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  2. Riad, read, read. Online, or physical materials. Fiction, or non-fiction. It also helps to listen to any one of a number of national radio stations broadcasting online. Even just playing in the background, the language will seep its way into your head and keep things sharp. The news, commentary, and cultural features are interesting too. Online listening has really kept my Norwegian reasonably sharp on the one hand, and helped improve my German immeasurably on the other.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  3. If there is an Alliance Francaise in your city, they usually hold gatherings for French speakers as well as classes. Also, depending on where you live, Meet Up might have some gatherings. I've also translated shows from English to French in my head, or when I have time, I take a paragraph from a classic book and translate. It's also a good idea to read French out loud. Your cat or dog might look at you in a funny way, but it definitely helps.

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    1. Yes! Reading your French out loud is very good exercise. Goes with any foreign language.
      The practice forming the words is very helpful when one actually uses the language with native speakers or when travelling. 20 minutes a day will give you a big boost when you arrive in the City of Lights!

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  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/ws/languages

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  5. I see that YDM mentioned Duolingo.
    I am not personally familiar with it, but I have friends who swear by it.
    And, it's free.
    I believe it can be easily explored at YouTube and various other sites.

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  6. All very good suggestions above. Also, watch French films, especially films that you already know, and don't turn on the subtitles. You'll be surprised how well you keep up with, even anticipate, dialogue. Read French newspapers and magazines available online. Listen to music, your favorite French songs, and sing along! Have your local library order some short stories by Colette in French and read a page or two when you find yourself with a few minutes to fill. Above all, don't put pressure on yourself. Enjoy the process. A little bit everyday is more rewarding than an hour once a week. Suzanne

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  7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/

    https://www.thefrenchexperiment.com/review

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  8. For French-- if you are in the northeast US (as I assume many SWNE readers are) it is not so far to travel to the Quebec province of Canada and be able to be in a French-speaking place. Otherwise newspapers, books, films, and courses (local college/university, local school district adult ed could be some resources).

    Depending where you are located there might be a French-speaking expat community who would be looking for a language tandem exchange, or just someone to meet up speaking their language but can also introduce them to the local culture.

    --EM

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  9. Consider becoming a host family for a foreign exchange student.

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    1. Hosting an exchange student is lovely for a variety of reasons - but keep in mind that they are likely hoping to practice and speak English as much as possible!

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  10. I always find that watching French films, particularly those whose subtitles can be switched off, very helpful. The trick is training the eye to not automatically drop down to the bottom of the screen.

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  11. Something else occurred to me this morning. Many language professors or TAs and undergraduate students at colleges and universities organize weekly language tables, usually in the late afternoons or early evenings during the academic year, to foster conversational skills in the target language. My experience at UW-Madison 20+ years ago was that non-students (adults) as well as native speakers/visiting faculty/grad students are usually very welcome additions to these. Most effective, perhaps, for intermediate and advance level students though. Well worth checking into if one lives near a college or university town and you don't mind putting yourself out there. Fewer things give a shot to your language learning arm than navigating a conversation successfully in your target language.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  12. As a new language learner I found that switching my cellphone to the new language has been helpful. It's a little unsettling, but you'll see that your social media accounts and Google Maps navigation will see it and automatically switch over as well. Relying on foreign language navigation has a way of sharpening one's ear!!

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