So your kids have a ton of target language DVDs, books, websites and toys to fast-track their bilingualism, but what about you, the parent? If the target language isn’t your native one, you’ll be wanting to maintain and improve it any chance you get. But as we all know, being a parent doesn’t give you the luxury of long stretches of free time for language-learning! The best way to keep up your language skills is to work it into your day-to-day life. You can’t beat simply talking to friends, colleagues or tutors in the target language, but when that is an impossibility, or just not enough exposure for you, you’ll need to turn to other methods!
As a new iPhone user, I’m loving some of the French apps on there. ‘French Word A Day’ can’t compete with the unconnected and very wonderful website of the same name (http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour), but it is useful for those ‘bus-stop’ moments to grab a new or even a familiar word on the run, with a phrase to put it in context. Learning the odd, extra bit of vocab like this can connect you to the moment you learnt it, as it’s so specific – Oh yeah, I remember that word, I discovered it en route to my Aunt’s house!
Another great app is the French gender one – it gives you all the major gender rules for nouns and then sets you quizzes. Again, quick and simple, you can learn on the run (as I usually am). Then there’s ‘TuneIn Radio’ that brings you radio stations in almost any language you can think of. There are many French talk stations, so it’s great for listening in the gym, or as you get ready for the shower, etc.
Of course you don’t need an iPhone, as any smartphone will give you access to some great language-learning tools. And if you don’t have a smartphone? There’s lots to rely on elsewhere, starting with that old-fashioned technology: books!
If I’m reading a book in a non-native language it has to be a real page-turner, which is why I was so chuffed to discover Guillaume Musso (http://www.guillaumemusso.com) – the French equivalent of John Grisham. He uses very simple vocab, so there’s less time running to the dictionary, and his stories hook you straight in, so you’re prepared to put up with the extra effort to find out what happens next. I found his first book while on holiday in France, and I’m now on my third, which I bought yesterday from one of the three French bookshops in South Kensington. When I read in French I always keep a pen handy to underline all the unfamiliar words, then look them up en masse later on.
If French is your target language, you are going to be spoilt for good films, with all the gems of French cinema to discover. And it’s not just art house – the new romcom ‘Heartbreaker’ is being called the most accessible French film yet! Great for filling in gaps in your vocab and keeping up-to-date with current ‘argot.’
I love surfing the net, but haven’t yet found a French website to fall in love with, either for chatting or grammar refreshers.