When you’re not in school, living abroad or working in another language, foreign language maintenance can be hard. It’s amazing how fast my French skills dwindle when I practice. But it’s also amazing how fast they come back when I put in a little effort.
If you’re struggling to maintain a second (or third) language, or curious as to things you can do to be exposed to your language, here are some tips to keep up with a foreign language.
1) Find someone to talk to in that language
I’ll admit I have the hardest time with this one as I am naturally extremely self-conscious in my native tongue, so speaking French is very nerve-wracking for me if there is pressure to do so. I had a much easier time with this when I was actually in France, as there was nothing to lose (in my mind), so I’m still working on finding a friend here willing to speak French with me!
2) Music! And radio
I’ve been on a big French rap kick lately. Not sure why. But it’s been great fun in listening to the lyrics on repeat to figure out what they mean (not to mention learn some new slang). My listening comprehension has definitely improved as I’m constantly listening at high speed. If music isn’t your cup of tea, check out the app TuneIn, a radio app where you can listen to radio stations from all over the world. You can search by language to find something in your target language. If I’m bored, I will check out some French news (there is even a news station in “easy” French where they speak slower).
3) TV shows and movies
With the prevalence of Netflix and Amazon Prime, it’s hard to find an excuse not to watch a TV show or movie in your language of choice. I try to watch something French every week (with French subtitles on if available and English if not). Not only do films and TV shows give you more insight into a particular culture (French cinematic history is fascinating!), it’s a great way to pick up a few vocabulary words and up your listening comprehension.
This isn’t weird if you don’t get caught. If you live in a fairly international place, chances are you’ll come across people who speak your foreign language. I come across dozens of people speaking French on a good day and spend as much time as I can listening to their conversations. Sometimes it’s difficult if they have thick accents (sorry, Quebec and the south of France) but a lot of the time it’s nice to pick up some non-English conversations that I can understand. Plus, it’ll make you feel super smart and superior.
5) Read a book or the news
With the internet, it’s very easy to get access to news in your language of choice (if you need suggestions for French news, lmk!). It’s harder to come across literature in a different language depending on where you live, but if you can, it’s great, both from a reading point of view and from a language practicing point of view. If your reading comprehension isn’t that high, check out some children’s books or young adult books. Harry Potter is a great option if you’ve already read it in your native tongue because you will know the story and be able to quickly immerse yourself in the plot.
6) Talk to yourself
This isn’t as weird as it sounds (or maybe it is ha!). But, trust me. When I’m in my apartment alone, I’ll talk to myself in French. It will be about the weather or what I’m currently doing or going to do during the day. Fairly easy stuff that I could easily think in English in my head, but speaking the French out loud is a super easy way to practice my pronunciation and keep up with my [minimal] verbal confidence.