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Staying sharp while not taking classes.


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I spent some time abroad studying French and Arabic. Now that I'm in the US, not taking language classes, I don't want to lose all of the skills I learned. What do you guys do to keep your foreign language skills sharp when you're not in an academic setting?

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Your best bet would be finding other students of the same languages you are studying online, then set weekly online conversations.  I did that with a guy from Israel, it was really nice and fun... we were both interested in practicing our english, so we actually developed a friendship.  I'd not go after native speakers tho... since they might not be very interested in a language exchange with you.  It's better to pick students :)

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I think the biggest thing for me is immersing myself in the language regularly in a variety of settings....so if it's not a formal academic setting, all the more reason to integrate it into my daily life. I try to read books and even just things online regularly in the language I'm trying to maintain, I'll write and have conversations online with others in the language, I'll do a few "word of the day" kind of things to keep my braining interested and making new associations. Sometimes something as simple as listening to music or watching TV shows/movies in the language can be helpful. Sometimes I'll take something simple...from a single word to a phrase to a small poem even, and try to translate it smoothly into as many languages as I can. I find that it helps to be able to think in multiple languages naturally.

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For me, the easiest way is reading some magazines or fun books and listening to music. It's not interchangeable with serious learning but helps not forget the language until you're ready to tackle it again.

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Find French and Arabic forums. You'll be surprised to know how much they will help you maintain your language fluency. I've spent the last few years (five to be exact, going six) in a non-English speaking country, but I've also spent all those time on English forums like Linguaholic. Find forums that covers your interest, and start posting there. For example, my biggest interests are music and TV series, so I've been spending the last few years on a few forums that covers them. You might want to note that you're not a native French/Arabic speaker though, because people can be jerks and they might bully you for not being fluent at the language.

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Incidentally, if you are a beginner (A1/A2) in a language, it's not worth spending time to maintain. That's because it takes as much time to maintain as it would just to continue learning. In other words, if you don't have time to continue learning it, then you don't have time to maintain it.

If you are advanced (C1/C2), you don't need to maintain it. You can go for years without using the language, and in a matter of hours/days/weeks regain your level. So maintaining isn't necessary.

It only makes sense if you're an intermediate learner (B1/B2), and even then only if you actually have the time to maintain it.

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I would try to find a language partner either online or in real life. I also think that watching shows or listening to music in different languages helps us learn. So you might want to try that if you can't find a partner.

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I think unfortunately it is difficult to keep your language skills sharp unless you are continuously speaking it.  A good way to keep up with it is to speak it, even if you are speaking out loud to yourself.  You can also join clubs or groups with native speakers.  While it may be more difficult to speak that language unless you have friends that also speak it I think a good way to stay sharp is to listen to it via shows or books. 

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