What are you passionate about? That seems to be a popular question these days. Well, if I had to answer that, I would have to say that I have been passionate about language learning all my life… starting with English. Grammar totally clicked with me from a very early age. In 6th grade when it was time to choose an elective for my transition to 7th grade in Junior High, my teacher recommended that I take Spanish over Home Economics. Little did she know that this choice would direct the course of my life. Long story short, I spent many years studying the Spanish language, immersed both through family and friends in the Hispanic culture, and employed as a teacher in a variety of positions that required me to speak Spanish. Along the way, I studied French and Portuguese as well. But as the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So, as we look ahead to a future life in France, it’s back to the books.
There are without a doubt many ways to study a foreign language from traditional rote memorization to complete immersion. Memorization was always my strong suit. I am great with lists of vocabulary and grammar rules so borrowing the French teacher’s textbook is a good tool for me. However, I am well aware that while this method yielded endless good grades back in the day when I first began to study Spanish, it does not produce a fluent speaker. With less time and more wisdom, I am inclined to take a slightly different approach in order to achieve my goal of being able to speak at least some passable French on our next trip. As an introvert this is a challenge. My husband is more of an extrovert and happy to let the French he is relearning roll off his tongue in what sounds like a most authentic way. He jumps right in and isn’t afraid to make the effort to speak, but grammar is not his forte. In the end, we make a great team because we can build on each others’ strengths.
Over these past few months, we have combined our previous knowledge and experience with language learning to put together the most useful and productive resources possible that incorporate a variety of techniques. We know it’s really important to include reading, writing, speaking and listening exercises in our study. Technology has greatly enhanced this process. So here’s what our French classroom looks like… For immersion, we invested in Rosetta Stone, a sequenced language learning software program centered on learning patterns rather than memorization. The Duolingo app makes the perfect mobile classroom interface and we love to use it when we are out and about relaxing at our favorite coffee house. The website FluentU provides a wide range of video-based lessons. We’ve even returned to an old resource, French in Action, an outstanding television series produced in the 80’s which is now available free online. For more traditional study and reference, the French 1 textbook, Bien Dit!, comes in handy. Online or as an app, Quizlet flashcards and study games serve as additional practice and reinforcement. Along the way, we take notes in the Evernote and Penultimate apps. Finally, we access LanguageGuide.Org when we need further explanation of certain concepts. Most importantly, we try to use the skills we are learning by messaging or speaking to each other in French at least a little bit every day.