How I keep up my French

Mes chatons, j’ai une confession. One of the things I have found really hard when returning from my year abroad was keeping up my competencies in the French language. Once you return home for good, it’s really easy to slip back into your old ways and trust me, I can tell that my French has become a little bit on the rusty side. C’est tellement triste, believe me*.* But there are many ways you can keep those skills fresh in your mind, and I’m going to fill you in with some of the things I do to keep them up.

Reading news articles and literature

As a Politics and IR graduate I am forever keeping up with the world’s current affairs, and reading the news in French has played such a massive role in helping me retain my French. That being said, reading is one of my favourite hobbies and so whenever I get the chance to actually sit down and have a little read I make sure to do so in French and aloud.

Here are a few reasons why you should start reading some books and articles in your chosen language:

  • It’s a great way to see international events and stories from a different point of view: you will most likely have some knowledge on a particular event or breaking news as you would have probably seen it in a news notification or on Twitter timeline in English. Therefore, it will be easier for you to have an understanding of what’s going on.
  • You get to keep up with the things happening in your host country or the city you resided in. Maybe someday you’ll read about an event or incident that took place on the street you use to live in or party at, I most certainly have.
  • By reading some literature you’re able to get a refresher on all the tenses you were repeatedly taught all those years ago, for example the extensive use of the passé simple which isn’t used in everyday, spoken French. Plus, you might stumble across some really juicy stories.

There are loads of news outlets that have tons of free articles available to read online: on your mobile phone, your tablet, or your workstation (obviously, make sure you’re concentrating on the tasks you have do). I know that you can purchase of small pocket books in French since I have a few livres de poche myself, and I’m sure you too can get them in your chosen language. And if you can’t then try your local library and borrow a book or two. That’s if they’re open of course (thanks a lot Corona).

Tip for students or graduates: if you are unsure as to what books to purchase or borrow to read, try reaching out to your current or former language lecturer and ask for a reading list. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you out a little.

Listening to the language through your electronic devices.

I use any excuse to sit down and watch a new series or documentaries, and keeping up my French is my perfect one for me, and now it’s the perfect one for you! There are loads of new series out there, on Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, I can go on. You can always put subtitles on while you watch and listen to the drama, that way you’ll be able to pick up on new vocabulary to add to you everlasting list.

As great as watching films or series are, another accessible and passive source that is great for keeping up a language is listening to podcasts: from your smartphone, your laptop or tablet podcasts are super easy to absorb while you complete your tasks whether that’s washing the dishes or completing an essay. There are tons of podcasts out there that talk about a range of topics and concepts, it can be comedy or sports, politics and wellbeing… they are super interesting and again, they allow you pick up some extra vocabulary. I tend to listen to podcasts on my commute to places if I don’t end up reading a book and honestly, I do kind of get the feeling of still being in BXL.

Tip for everyone: Just type in “French podcast” or whatever language you’ve learnt, have a little scroll and just listen to wait’s out there. You might just stumble across a great podcast that makes you laugh or that gets you and your friends discussing something new.

Catch-up with your friends and make some new ones.

Make sure you keep in touch with the friends you made during your year away! It’s great for two reasons:

  1. It allows you to keep that bond you made while studying out there. Yes, you may be in a different country from those friends but there’s still that link you guys have, and who knows you can create some more memories through plans you make. But this can only happen if you make the effort to stay in touch with them.
  2. You basically have loads of pen-pals who can give you suggestions for new series to watch or inspiring books to read.

You can always develop new friendships by attending events that enable you to meet new people who also speak the same language as the one you’re trying to attain, like language cafés. Now, I haven’t actually attending any events as of yet but it was something I did while living in Brussels, and actually it was pretty fun. It’s a nice way to have a chilled evening with people on the same boat as you, trying to keep up a language, and people who are fluent in that language.

Unfortunately, with Miss Corona in the way I doubt that there are many opportunities available for you to go to language cafés. But, you can always check out Facebook or Eventbrite to find out more about what’s going on near you, or if there are any virtual events available. And it’s alright if you’re feeling a little nervous about attending them, but you just have to remind yourself of your goals. If you want, drag a good friend with you! Just think of how good you’ll feel once you just get up and do it!

There are tons more things you can do like online course and translating pieces of texts in your spare time, but I thought I’d share some of the simple, more fun ways I regularly do that have massively helped me in this personal goal of mine, and I hope it helps you too. I think I’ll write up a mini-post with some links and recommendations for those of you who want to keep up your French specifically. But until then, have a lovely weekend!

Bisous bisous!

Elda xx

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