Canada is a bilingual country but not many of us are actually bilingual. Most public servants are required to be bilingual but usually everyone either speaks English or French. Some people try to learn another language and get frustrated because they lose it after time.
I don’t consider myself fully bilingual but I hope that I am pretty close. Here are some of my tricks for maintaining my language level and perhaps they will help you too. Also note that as this is a Canadian article, I am referring to practicing my French but you can apply this to any language:
- Read the news in French. Some websites are: Radio-Canada, Cyberpresse and Le Devoir.
- Do you have any friends that speak French? Work out a deal to always speak in French to this person. If you see this person often then try immersing yourself by speaking in French for one entire week with them, and English for a week then back and forth.
- If you are brave enough to try it, move to a French area. Then you will be forced to speak French in your daily life and you will meet more people who speak the language. A good way to ease into this is to go to university in a French place that is relatively bilingual like Montreal.
- If are into Facebook and other social media, try switching your interface into French.
- If you have a DVD collection, look for the ones that have been dubbed in French. Watch the movie but switch the language into French. If you have problem, add the French sub-titles. I did this during university and it really worked. I highly recommend the blockbuster movies (ex. Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, etc.) as the French dubbing is really good.
- When you are interested in a particular topic and you have a little bit of time, look up the French words. I call this a brainstorm. I start by writing down all of the words on a particular topic that I can think about, for example about weddings. Then, I look up all of the words in a French-English dictionary so that I have a vocabulary list. I can study it whenever I want to know that it is created.
- After reading your favorite books in English, trying reading them in French. Good online bookstores in Canada are Renaud-Bray and the French books on Amazon and Chapters. I read a chapter in French and I underline all of the words that I don’t understand so that I can look them up later. If this is a book that I borrowed or that isn’t mine, I note them on a paper pad as I am reading.
- Develop a language binder with vocabulary lists. Flip through it from time to time to refresh your brain.This really helps if the vocabulary lists are about topics that you enjoy, in my case, sewing and knitting.
- If you talk to someone in French and you pick up new terminology, write it down. Add it to the vocabulary binder so that you won’t forget it.
- Take French language classes. If you are a student, trying making it your minor. If you are not, try an evening class.