That dreaded question inundates your every thought. Just days ago, you were sipping rosé at a fabulous Parisian café and now you’re back home with many joyful memories, but only $5 to your name. Even worse, the language skills that you have acquired over the last four months in Paris will only last as long as the Ladurée macarons you’ve brought back with you. (I mean, seriously, I could eat a whole box in one sitting!) Luckily, many major American cities offer a plethora of resources to keep your language skills sharp. Technology is also a time and money saver for those looking to keep up without emptying their bank accounts. Since studying abroad in Paris in the spring of 2016, I have discovered various organizations and apps that support language learners of all types—from novice to fluent. I am going to share my favorites for keeping that second language up to snuff!
Duolingo, Meetup and Facebook
These are two of my favorite (free!) apps of all time. Duolingo has been around since 2011 and offers more than 20 languages from which to choose. Although there is a paid version, users can access most of the material at no cost. The application allows the user to practice basic vocabulary like food, clothing or transportation. They also have a “stories” function, where the user must follow along and answer comprehension questions. Users can also take tests to bypass easier levels in order to focus on material that is appropriate to their ability range.
Meetup, on the other hand, is actually an online platform that organizes in-person meet-ups for any hobby or passion ranging from wine tastings to knitting groups! In the greater Boston area where I live, for example, there are a handful of French conversation groups that meet regularly at local bars or cafés. Guests sign up with the commitment to exclusively speak that language, regardless of their level. It’s a very calm atmosphere where there is no pressure of grades or tests; guests simply enjoy a coffee or cocktail with other like-minded adults who are also studying the language for pleasure. Users simply download the app and then search their preferred language. Pro tip: Make sure to set the app to your “current location” to get the most relevant results.
Though the last app may seem pretty straightforward, Facebook has many hidden gems when it comes to languages. About a year and a half ago, I came across a private Facebook group called “Boston French Connection,” which has more than 8,000 members. To gain access, users must answer a few questions in French, proving their ability to hang with the best of them. Inside this online community, users post anything from roommate ads, to garage sales, to bakery and restaurant recommendations. I myself have actually had a pretty fruitful membership with the BFC, getting many tutoring and babysitting gigs. A quick search under Facebook’s “groups” page should bring up any relevant language groups in the area.
The Alliance Française and other international organizations
The Alliance Française is an international organization with more than 800 locations worldwide, all unified in promoting the same goal: widespread appreciation for Francophone culture and language. In Boston, the Alliance Française offers classes in language and cooking, summer camp for children and teens, conversation groups, book clubs and an entire library full of resources! The list goes on and on. They offer memberships for everyone’s needs; there are individual, family, student, and senior options. They even have a special one for French teachers!
Last on my list is the French-American Chamber of Commerce, which has locations in most major U.S. cities. The FACC boasts more professional opportunities like networking and seminars on how to improve and expand your business. Young entrepreneurs should definitely take advantage of the FACC’s individual and business membership offerings.
The benefits of speaking multiple languages are far too great to let time pass by without consistent practice and reinforcement. However you choose to stay current, you can’t go wrong with any of the above suggestions. Bonne chance !
Erin Foley is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad during the Spring 2016 semester. She is an alumna of Quinnipiac University.
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