How to Maintain Your Fluency in Spanish and French
I actually wanted to entitle this post, “How I maintain my fluency in Spanish and French as a non-native speaker,” but that title was too long. However, I really am going to tell you how I do it and, hopefully, you will get a few ideas for how you can stay fluent as well.
I am highly motivated to keep up my fluency in Spanish because I hate humiliation. I remember the knot in my stomach and the sweaty palms when, as a novice teacher with barely-fluent language skills, I had to call non-English-speaking parents. And then there were the times I was called upon to interpret in the office for a non-English-speaking parent.
Here’s me on the phone: “Repita, por favor.” (I have trouble hearing on the phone in ENGLISH!)
One lady in the office asked for another interpreter, even though I understood her perfectly. THAT is humiliation!
Although originally a French teacher (with near-native fluency), I began teaching Spanish early in my career because of the huge shortage of Spanish instructors. I went back to school, got my Masters, studied in Spain and Mexico and, thus, polished my language skills and built up my confidence.
However, those skills evaporate in a short while if not maintained. And, I still have many opportunities to embarrass myself as many of my buyers speak only Spanish and would prefer to speak to me in THEIR main language, not mine.
So, one of my priorities is to stay fluent. And, not only fluent, but literate.
HERE IS HOW I MAINTAIN MY FLUENCY IN SPANISH
- READ, READ, READ IN SPANISH OR FRENCH.
We need comprehensible input just like our students do. Reading, my favorite pastime, is a reward as well as a fulfillment of a goal. There is never a shortage of good books and I have read many notable ones.
Here is a list of books I have read that I highly recommend for Spanish:
- Amante japonés by Isabel Allende
- Retrato en Sepia by Isabel Allende
- El tiempo entre costuras by María Dueñas (Read it twice and was spell-bound both times. SO well written!)
- Cajas de carton by Francisco Jiménez
- Senderos fronterizos by Francisco Jiménez
I have read Senderos fronterizos five times, and each time, I am so moved I never fail to shed a tear or two. My students loved it, too. It’s a wonderful read for Spanish Four or AP Students. If you would like to assign it, here are all the vocabulary and quizzes you will need to teach it. Senderos fronterizos Vocabulary and Quizzes
- En el tiempo de las mariposas by Julia Alvarez
- La Quinta Montaña by Paulo Coelho
- El mapa del tiempo by Félix J. Palma This author is so gifted! It’s not only a work of art but great for building your vocabulary. I’ve never seen so many words I’ve never seen before! 🙂
- La distancia entre nosotros by Reyna Grande (Quite a few grammar errors and typos, missing or misplaced accents, but still a great read and well-written.)
- La catedral del mar by Ildefonso Falcones: It’s quite violent and the injustices are soul wrenching but once you get past the beginning, you get into the characters and it holds your interest.
- Caperucita en Manhattan by Carmen Martín Gaite
There are many more in my “Books to Read” Pinterest board. Click on my Board to see all the books I recommend. I only post books I think are so good they MUST be on your bucket-list read: Books to Read
Here is a list of books for French (recommended by other French teachers):
- Si c’était vrai by Marc Levi
- Chanson douce by Leïla Slimani
- Les fleurs du Coran by Monsieur Ibrahim
- La délicatesse by David Foenkinos
Since I have not read the French books above, I would love to hear your book reviews!
In addition, I welcome any and all book recommendations. If you have read a Spanish or French (or even English) book that you LOVED, please share in a comment.
By the way, a good source for foreign books is Alibris.com. You can get new and used books at that site for really low prices.
- SPEAK SPANISH OR FRENCH REGULARLY WITH A NATIVE-SPEAKER FRIEND.
My friend, Isabel, is Ecuadorian and I visit with her every few months to chat in Spanish. It helps that she was a Spanish teacher and her grammar is flawless. I also talk with a Spanish friend of mine (I love the Castilian accent) twice a month via Zoom or Messenger. We speak English for half an hour and Spanish for the other half.
So. Much. Fun. I highly recommend both companies. For a reasonable price you can talk to a native speaker via Skype. I spoke with a French lady and a man from Spain. Here is a blog post I wrote about it: How to Get Your Students Speaking the Target Language Outside the Classroom
- WATCH TELENOVELAS WITH A FRIEND.
My neighbor and I are currently crying, laughing, and shrieking our way through weekly episodes of Gran Hotel. (Again, excellent CI for your students.) We watch with the Spanish subtitles on, so we don’t miss anything. If we hear or see a word or expression we don’t know, we pause and whip our our www.wordreference.com.
I recommend Gran Hotel for AP Spanish students. They will be captivated!
- TELEGRAM AND TEXT NATIVE SPEAKERS.
Many teachers contact me through those platforms, and I respond.
- LISTEN TO SPANISH OR FRENCH RADIO AND PODCASTS.
Songs are a fun way to keep thinking in the target language. And it beats sitting quietly in the car at a stoplight. I also listen to episodes of Radioambulante to keep my mind occupied while in the car.
- TEACH UPPER-LEVEL SPANISH OR FRENCH COURSES.
- When I was teaching only lower-level Spanish, I was speaking lower-level Spanish, i.e. using simple vocabulary and basic sentences. Nothing keeps your Spanish polished like teaching heritage and native speakers. The heritage speakers keep you fluent and keep you on your grammatically-correct toes as you enlist their help with synonyms while gently teaching them correct grammar and academic language. Also, the academic language in the advanced readings keeps you mentally sharp.
- TEACH UPPER-LEVEL SPANISH OR FRENCH COURSES.
- I USED to be quadrilingual. Yep. I spoke Italian. Now all I can say is, “Mangia.” I USED to play the guitar. Now my fingers have forgotten how to play the chords and how to finger-pick. Use it or lose it. It’s like working out; it’s a life sentence. If you don’t keep it up, your skills will get flabby.
Click on the following link to read about more ideas about how to maintain your fluency in Spanish: Stay Fluent: Ten Ways to Maintain Your Foreign Language Skills
- What do YOU do to maintain your fluency? Do you conduct your PLCs or department meetings in Spanish? Eat lunch with native speakers? I hope some of these ideas will work for you.
- Speaking of ideas. February is around the corner and students LOVE to talk about love and relationships. A good way to take advantage of that interest is to teach them vocabulary related to Valentine’s Day. I have all the resources you need to do that. The PowerPoint has eye-popping visuals. The hands-on Interactive Notebook Activities have fun clipart and keep students engaged. And the Google Drive Activities are always a winner. I get 100% student engagement with digital activities. Here is the link to El día de los enamorados PowerPoint and Activities.
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