Christmas has arrived and the streets of Montpellier are full of festive cheer, gifts and decorations. I love this time of year and to be spending it learning French in Montpellier makes me feel very lucky. I would have loved to go back home to see my family but it just wasn’t feasible this year so I will be spending it in France as I await the new year and the restart of my French course. A few of the other students at the ILA French Immersion School had told me they were a bit worried about losing some of the speed in their language skills over the break. After all 3 weeks is a fairly long time in terms of language learning, you feel a bit behind if you miss a day so it feels like a long time. Learning French is often compared to learning any other skill in that it requires practice to maintain and constant practice to improve and if you stop working at it it will fade. All of the students are returning to non-french speaking regions so not only are they stopping the lessons they don’t have the continuous interactions that keep you on your toes here in Montpellier. That’s why an immersion course in France is so effective.
I believe there is a certain level you can get to and it will stick for a long time. My dad for example speaks German fluently but when he hasn’t been back to the country for a year or two he says it takes him a couple of days to get back into it.
Texting With Other French Students
As me and my friends are not quite at that level yet we have resolved to stay in regular contact and message each other all the time. This is particularly good for me as my written French is one of the weaker areas within my language skills. Most smartphones will have the option of adding a French keyboard so you have access to all the accents you could hope for. I personally recommend changing your entire phone to French which although may slow you down a bit is a great way of learn without even realising it. You are so used to seeing words like ‘share’, ‘send’, ‘draft’ etc. that you will instinctively know what words mean just because you know what would be there in English. Predictive text is also great because if you are struggling to remember the spelling of a certain word it will be there waiting for you and when conjugating a verb smartphones are clever and will look at what you have typed before and offer the most likely one.
I talked about doing this with several of my friends at the ILA French Language School so now I have a pretty much constant stream of texts and messages that I can work on to keep my French hot. The other benefit of this is that I talk to certain people a lot about certain subjects and different subjects with other people. My Swiss friend Nico and I for example have a similar taste in music so spend a lot of time talking about that and we use lots of opinion orientated language; ‘love this’ ‘I can’t stand that etc’. Whereas Malin, my German friend, and I discuss cooking a lot so we use lots of past tense stuff as we describe what we have had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She is a way better cook than me though so she is often advising me which is great because then I am practicing what I have learnt on my intensive French course as well as learning more about cooking. Still I feel lucky to be still learning French in France rather than at home because I do have that extra edge of being surrounded by native speakers but hopefully my friends can stay on top of it and we can help each other out.