7 ways to maintain your French language as a native speaker in New York
Are you finding that your French is getting a little, comment dire… rusty? C’est normal. Linguists state that it is natural to forget a language when a person does not use it often or is no longer exposed to it. Fortunately, many linguists have also found that a ‘forgotten’ language can be reactivated with enough practice and exposure. Here are some ways you can keep your French parfait while living in New York.
1. Speak French at home:
The home offers the perfect place to use daily spoken French with little risk of embarrassment. Encouraging the use of French as the main language at home will also expose the whole family to new vocabulary and reinforce grammar. When you encounter an object whose name you do not know in French, translate it and write it down! This is especially effective when you have an emotional attachment or sense of ownership to an object since your brain will associate the word with its image.
2. Take a French class:
Diving into a French class is the best way to train your language muscles since you will get training in grammar, vocabulary, and speaking. Our eight-week courses of all levels guide students through the foundations of the language, while emphasizing modern spoken French. Taking a French class does not mean you have to start from scratch. With our placement test, we can help you decide what parts of French you need the most help with (how to use the subjunctive? When to use y or en as pronouns? Improving your pronunciation?) If you’d like to know more about our course offering, send us an email at Bonjour@learnfrenchbrooklyn.com
3. Read the news in French:
Staying up to date with the news in French is a great way to make sure you maintain continual exposure to the language, while also expanding your vocabulary and exposing yourself to different styles. Read about politics and current events on Le Monde, catch up with pop culture on Vice France, or get your fashion fix on Vogue France. Additionally, dive back into the classics of French literature by visiting a French bookstore or ordering online.
4. Visit French-speaking countries:
Whenever possible, take trips to countries where French is spoken since immersing yourself in the language is the best way to work your language muscles. There are 29 countries around the world where French is spoken, as well as 11 French territories! There, you’ll get the chance to connect with locals and ask them about their culture in French, while exposing yourself to a variety of accents and dialects.
5. Find French speaking friends:
Did you know there are over 81,000 French speakers in New York? Most likely, there are a few who you will get along well with and with whom you can speak your mother tongue. Try finding French activity groups or sports clubs, or host your own French dinners. Conversely, you can encourage your non-French speaking friends and loved ones to start taking French classes so you can include them in your conversations.
6. Keep up with French culture:
A Netflix show, a podcast, or a good novel will help you maintain continual exposure to the French language. Have you watched Call My Agent? Have you read Nobel-prize winning author Annie Ernaux? Have you checked out ARTÉ’s selection of documentaries and television series? Qu’attendez-vous?
7. Attend French cultural events:
Staying connected to French culture is crucial to maintaining your mother tongue. Fortunately, the French government is very proactive in encouraging the sharing of French culture in many cities across the US. Look into events hosted by the French Embassy or L’Alliance Française, which range from art exhibitions, food festivals, film screenings and literary readings. You’ll be sure to meet fellow French speakers with whom you can converse.
By Gerardo Bandera
Gerardo is a writer and editor with a passion for literature and languages. He has lived in Paris—his favorite smelly city—where he studied economics and literature at La Sorbonne. When he's not helping students understand tricky concepts, he's either reading Proust in the park, writing about environmental justice, or learning another language.