Re-learning an old language with the help of some tools…

Surviving French through GCSE, As and A Level is something I will always be proud of. During the final two years of school, our very small class had six teachers over the five terms. Between the subjunctive and the disruption caused by the turnover in teachers, I think we’re all quite proud that we passed!

Our one constant was the wonderful Mme A. I remember one class in which one of us had to explain that not only was she teaching us grammar in French, but she was teaching us grammar full stop. We had fallen between the cracks as the national curriculum was tweaked and tweaked again, and had never been taught the basics of grammar in English.* The look of astonishment and disbelief on her face when we told her this was quite something.

Mme A taught us grammar, in English and in French, and drilled us on our pronunciation and vocab. She was a fantastic teacher (she retired a couple of years ago) and as we get older and wiser, we have come to appreciate her hard work and belief in us that bit more.

It has been eight years since my last French lesson with Mme A and, with only a stray evening class to support it, my French has deteriorated considerably.

Over the past few months, I’ve (re)discovered three great tools to assist in language (re)learning that I thought it might be worth sharing.

Speaking with a friend – I found this the most useful of the three. A few months ago a new friend, who just happens to be French, made an appearance in our lives. It initially took a little Dutch courage to overcome my fear of speaking French and looking like an arse. However, with C’s encouragement and kindly corrections, my confidence was thoroughly boosted and I remembered why it’s so fun to speak another language.

Google Translate – C has now retreated overseas, so I am back to the written word. I was looking some phrases up in Google Translate earlier today and thought ‘man, it would be awesome if I could save these to some sort of electronic vocab book’… And then I noticed a little button in the corner of the screen.

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Lo and behold! Google have created a little electronic vocab book!!

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The small grey button in the top right that looks sort of like a table exports the vocab list (or the items you want from you vocab list) to a Google Docs spreadsheet. From there, it is yours to do with as you please!

Duolingo – A friend sent me an invite to this app a while back. I love the little owl and found the app really enjoyable to use.



I think it’s very well suited to people learning a language from scratch and is great at teaching the basics. I started using it for French, but found it too basic and switched to German. I spent five minutes working through a task that matched pronouns and nouns and by the end it had (mostly) sunk in. The app sent me little reminders over the next few days, nudging me to practice. I would definitely recommend this app to anyone seeking to learn a new language.


My quest to retain French vocab and grammar will continue. I’ll share more apps and tools as I go… Let me know if you have any apps or tools that you would recommend – drop me a line on Twitter!



* I’m about 87% sure this is true. Will double check with old classmates.