It’s embarrassing. I used to be mildly fluent in French. I’ve conversed with native speakers (ok, maybe I was talking like an 8-year-old, but that’s decent). I’ve tutored 3rd level French and been a substitute teacher on several occasions.
But my French has been getting awkward, rustier, more informed by the few French things I keep in touch with, like my recording of the Notre Dame de Paris musical. I haven’t studied it in a few years, and then I took Spanish…which is similar enough that it was harder for me to keep my French straight when I try to speak it. I randomly throw in Spanish words like desafortunadamente. Which you have to admit is a great word.
I like the language. I like approaching bilingualism. My mom has a PhD in linguistics and my Dad is a software engineer. I was brought up in a household where learning languages—programming or spoken or dead was just the thing to do. So I’m launching a little personal campaign to recapture my French.
First, start checking out French movies from the library. This won’t be a chore at first, since there are some that I only didn’t watch before because of laziness. Last night, we watched La Femme Nikita. I enjoyed it very much, it’s a fortunate start.
Next week I’ll be watching a film that I saw back when I was processing videos at my college. I watched them all to make sure the videos were in working order and got some ideas.
Eventually, inevitably, I’ll run out of films. Then I’ll have to figure out what to do—whether to watch them again or starting digging up more movies from other locations or do something else. It’ll be a while, we have a phenomenal film collection for a county library.
Ideally, when watching DVDs in another language, watch it with the subtitles in that language. So for Notre Dame de Paris (I have both the DVD and the CD), I put them in French. It keeps me better immersed in the language so I can’t be lazy and just read without listening and thinking. This may not work if you don’t know the language well but if you’re trying to recapture one, give it a try!
Second plan, reading books in French, probably children’s novels. I checked out a French copy of Prince Caspian last week. While one French past tense in novels is different from the spoken past tense (another post in itself, but not for this blog), it’s still a good exercise.
In this case, it helps to read it aloud so that I get the full effect of the words. I can practice speaking and won’t skim either.
So that’s my plan. It’s something I can do on my own time instead of signing up for classes. It’s something I can do at my own level—many classes in the local community are only up to French 3. I could use a refresher but I know the material quite well. I took it when I was 15 and again in college when I was 18. I’ve also tutored it twice. It’s also something I can do for free. My local library is a tremendous resource. If yours isn’t, they may still be able to borrow materials from other places for you.
So that’s my plan. Happy Sunday!