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When I was in elementary school, we had a new boy in school who had moved to the U.S. from the Soviet Union. He spoke five languages. "Wow," I thought, "one day I want to speak five languages." When we finally got to learn a foreign language in school, I picked French for the not very deep reason that a cute boy also picked French. I did well enough in school, but I found out as an adult that I suffered from the classic case of being able to read and write but not being able to speak. Worst of all was understanding the spoken language when a native speaker spoke at a normal speed. This was before the internet and simply getting enough "input" without living in a foreign country was nearly impossible.

Eventually, I married a Francophone and moved to Quebec. A few years later, I got divorced and returned to the U.S. Whenever someone asks how good my French is, I never know what to say. To say "fluent" feels like I'm exaggerating, especially since it was so hard for me to learn. I feel like I've been learning and forgetting French in alternating waves.

Back when I still had a t.v., I would watch the news in French when the reception came in well enough to not drive me nuts. Unfortunately, most of the time I couldn't watch it. For a time, one of the radio stations in New York carried a French language news program. Still, these were fairly limited opportunities to hear French and I had to schedule my life around them. This is one area in which the internet has really helped.

Most people here can pobably find things like Radio France on their own. For people who like listening and watching things in French, I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite programs with which most Americans are unfamiliar. It's a science magazine program from Canada called Les années lumière. Personally, I prefer radio programs to television programs because I can listen while doing boring things like exercising or cleaning.

Radio Canada, which has both television and radio programs, generally airs fairly high quailty programs and is worth checking out. Another enjoyable science oriented show, this time with video is, Découverte.

Here's an example from a year ago on a subject I know will interest many people here, shale gas.

I'm something of a cranky and unconventional francophile. While I've always enjoyed myself immensely when I've been in France, the all the French clichés that most francophiles seem to love make me cringe. Enjoying French language materials from the rest of la Francophonie has been one way for me to deepen my knowledge of French with out having to suffer boring nonsense about romance or fashion.

What do you do to keep up your knowledge of a foreign language?

Close up of a honey bee.

While I was gathering the links for this diary, I happened upon an interesting article about bees. It seems that the bites of domestic bees contain a natural anesthetic, like that of spiders. Bees bite invaders of their hives which are too small to sting, like Varroa mites and wax moths. Temporarily paralysed, the bees can eject them from their hive. Researchers believe that the anesthetic, 2-heptanone (2-H), may have application for human medicine.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We are still hoping to relocate to France. (4+ / 0-)

    Thank you for your lovely piece.

    I will try to share the slow French news my DH listens to, as it really helps.

    Thanks again.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 02:41:48 AM PST

  •  May I suggest Fip (3+ / 0-)

    We listen to Fip radio here in the UK, but our friends from PA who visited just last week said a friend in Mexico turned them on to it.
    It kind of reminds me of KERA radio in Dallas before they went to all talk: a little alternative, a little swing, some chansons, French and fun.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 03:32:41 AM PST

  •  My latest car came with Sirius radio (3+ / 0-)

    Now I have a choice of three French music stations on my drive to and from work.

  •  Radio France and classical music (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FourthOfJulyAsburyPark, jessical

    I'm a fan of francemusique, one of internet stations broadcast by Radio France (there are other stations which do rock & jazz & almost everything else).

    The reason I like francemusique so much is the quality of the LIVE performances (at least 2 concerts a day and plenty of opera and chamber music as well as big orchestras with dynamite names), but I get to listen to newscasts and commentary and top-notch announcers.

    Check it out on your computer:  http://sites.radiofrance.fr/...

    The sound quality is stellar, especially if you have good computer speakers.

  •  Far better reader than speaker here (2+ / 0-)

    Le Monde, for the news, instead of (or in addition to) the NYT.  

    Neat diary idea and diary.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 06:38:23 AM PST

  •  Nice diary. Is there an Alliance Française (2+ / 0-)

    chapter in your area that offers language and culture programs?  Also, one thing I do to keep my Spanish language conversation ability active is Skype language exchanges with native Spanish speakers in which we talk 100% in English for 30 min and then 30 min in the other language, helping and correcting one another as needed.

    •  When I lived in New York City, I used to go to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Miggles

      the Alliance Française. Since I moved I haven't looked to see if there's something like that near here. I'm sure there's probably at least a French language meet up. That's useful, to some extent, but many of the people there are also Americans practicing French and it was once every couple of weeks which isn't nearly enough. I'm really bad at learning languages, especially listening. I actually need literally hours a week to improve.

      I used to practice French with native speakers on the internet, but I stopped because I would be trying to work and people would contact me and want to talk. I never could figure out how to say no without being rude.

      I spent several years during which I didn't speak English much at all, so I guess nothing is really going to replicate that.

      I know I sound like this tremendous complainer, but I really hate the version of French culture that Americans seem to love so much. As an adult, I would have never chosen French as a second language. That's why I like this radio program so much. It's something I'd listen to even if it was in English.

      •  I know what you mean about the meet ups. I (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

        never went to any Spanish language meet ups because I didn't want to reinforce bad habits by talking in a group mainly of fellow learners.  And that's the complaint that I have seen of people who attend such meet ups, regardless of the language.

  •  The best way to learn: fearlessness! (2+ / 0-)

    "I'm afraid to make mistakes" is the most common reason why people don't practice the second language they learned.

    Well, of course you will make mistakes! You are SUPPOSED to make mistakes!! But always remember: you are not asked anything more than to communicate, not to make speeches in front of the nation! Be fearless! Totally let go of any fear! That is the key!

    To keep up with the language? Well You Tube is a dream, especially since it is readily and easily available. Ordering DVD's from tv shows in that languages is another way.

    Reading newspapers and books is a great way to expand your vocabulary. Try books you've read that are translated into that other language.

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