Maintaining a Foreign Language
I’d like to recommend one method of retaining a foreign language that you studied in the past but may not be aggressively studying at the moment. Reading blogs.
The key to selecting foreign language reading material is going for content that you are truly interested in reading about. For French, I did a few dictionary and web searches to find personal development blogs and found this blog, Habitudes Zen, which publishes about 2-3 articles a month about living life with a better outlook. I added it to my Google Reader and now, without even thinking about it, I regularly get prompted to read an article in French, on an interesting topic. No hard work here! If I’m busy, I just read, but if I have a little more time, I plug the article into Lingro.com. This is not a translation tool per se, but renders the article in a format so that when you click on a word you can see a dictionary translation of that word and easily add it to a study list. Excellent tool. I go a little further by copying entire sentences into Anki, a great smart flashcard system.
Now I’ve also found an excellent blog to follow in Spanish, Blog de Viajes, with frequent articles about travel and technology.
Some tips on selecting a blog:
Depending on your level, you might need to use a dictionary to come up with some key words and phrases to use in your search. I found the French blog I use with the search term “productivité blog”. You can also use the advanced search in Google to specify that you want websites from certain countries (.fr for France, .cn for China…)
Look at how often the blog is updated. You want this to serve as an aoutomated reminder to spend a little time with that language, if it isn’t updated often it won’t serve your purpose, maybe you’ll choose to follow several blogs in that case. Conversely, if it’s updated too many times a week you may be feel overwhelmed, or find that the number of times you have to put off reading the influx of articles to bring you down- not good for motivation!
Use an RSS feed, I use Google Reader which is on my home page and on my iPhone. If it’s not automatically coming to me from one of these systems, I know that I won’t study as often so it really works for me. Maybe it will work for you too.