Maintaining French skills in an all English speaking world is more difficult than I imagined it would be when I was back in France plotting out all the grand things I was going to do over the summer. You arrive back home and reality hits – you are not in France anymore and no one cares whether you speak French or not.
By the end of our first three months I was feeling pretty confident about my French. I’d stopped worrying about whether people spoke to me in French or English and used French as much as possible. As my confidence grew so did the amount of French I was speaking and the amount of fun I was having. A key element to success. You have to have a little fun otherwise it is just a chore to be dropped as soon as possible.
Back at home with just weeks to go before we return to France I’m trying to hold on to the progress I have made. Internet radio and television are excellent for practicing listening skills. My favorite stations are RFI Monde radio interviews on a variety of international topics – music, politics, linguistics, etc. and Telematin a daily morning show based in Paris that is much more sophisticated than its US equivalents, covering everything from gardening and home projects to health and fashion and of course a dash of history and etymology. The French do seem to love their intellectual topics.
On a completely different register, I can’t find a US source for Plus Belle La Vie, a soap opera out of Marseille. I found this show to be a great way to listen to more every day rather than formal French, albeit with a Marseillais accent.
For practicing reading skills I like, iYahoo.fr, an easy way to scan a variety of short articles on a wide range of subjects. And last but not least there is my beloved ANKI (computerized flash card system using spaced repetition) for learning and maintaining all that great vocabulary I’m collecting. Productive skills such as speaking are more difficult to maintain with no one to talk to in French. There are, however, plenty of things I could be doing – Skype, meet-up groups etc. but for the moment I haven’t pursued any of these options.
The real test will come when we arrive back in France and I see how much my French has slipped over the summer. Hopefully it won’t take too long to regain what I’ve lost.