Learning French has never been easy. Maintaining it? Well, that’s been even harder.

Like many Canadians, I studied in the immersion program, where every subject from kindergarten to the end of high school is taught in French (yes, even gym class!). After finishing high school, I moved to Ottawa for university. There, not only did I study study the language as a minor, but I also immersed myself in the fully bilingual city. It was easy to maintain a high proficiency in French. But since graduating from university three years ago and moving back to Toronto where very few people speak le français, keeping up with my French has been an increasing challenge.

But in a country that recognizes English and French as its two official languages, maintaining my bilingualism is everything. Over the last few months I’ve found various opportunities, as well as picked up a few tips and tricks, which have helped me to keep up mon français. Whether you’re learning from scratch or simply looking to preserve existing knowledge, the following conseils (tips) are some great ways to help you maintain French as a second language, post-graduation. Donc, allons-y!

Take a French class

Enrolling in a language class is one of the best ways to maintain and improve your French. The reasons are obvious: A classroom setting provides structure and requires less self-discipline, while having the support of a qualified teacher is an invaluable resource. I recently enrolled in a seven-week conversational class at Alliance Française. Just five weeks in, not only have I been able to brush up on my French, but I’ve also learned several new expressions (as they’re not “proper” French, these weren’t taught in school). Alliance Française has locations around the world, guarantees students small class sizes and provides them with an entirely French cultural experience. As enrollment requires a significant financial and time commitment, I suggest visiting the location closest to you to ensure the school is the right fit before registering.

Download a French language app

While a classroom setting will likely provide the most structured learning environment, that’s not to say you can’t brush up on your skills in the privacy of your own home. There are several apps that provide an easy, efficient and at-your-own-pace means of learning and practicing a new language, at little to no cost. While Duolingo and Clever Deck (available for iOS only) are two of my favourites, I highly recommend the first. In addition to being one of the most popular learning-language apps out there, Duolingo is also among the most effective.

Meet up or “Meetup” with French speakers

A lack of confidence can be one of the greatest barriers to actively pursuing opportunities to practice French outside of a classroom. In order to overcome this hurdle, I’ve begun to practice speaking with friends who are Francophone or fluent in French and with whom I’m comfortable. But for those who are more comfortable practicing with strangers, Meetup.com is a great resource. The website allows you to connect with and meet local people who share the same interests. While searching for French activities, I’ve come across both weekly conversational meet ups and actual classes. Many of the activities are free of charge and require no formal registration. For many, it’s a quick and easy alternative to registering for a structured French class.

Lifestyle changes

While the above tips are important, I believe the key to maintaining your French is to immerse yourself in the language. It’s simply not enough to spend a few hours or days a week practicing. Instead, it requires a consistent, dedicated effort. In recent months, I’ve made several small lifestyle changes, which include switching my iPhone to French and listening to French radio. Not only have these simple changes helped me to keep up my bilingualism, but they’ve also allowed me to expand my vocabulary. (Who knew the official French word for “podcast” in Quebec is «un balado?!»).

Bilingualism is an invaluable asset that has numerous psychological, social and professional benefits. For those who, like me, have spent years studying a second language, it would be a shame to lose such a skill. While keeping up my French post-graduation is a challenge, it’s one I gladly accept.

I hope these tips were of use! Always remember that just like with any new skill, maintaining your French requires three things: practice, practice, practice.

But that’s just According to Adrienne.

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