This Webmaster and Tour Guide has long advocated that visitors to the American battlefields have some knowledge of the local language and culture before they begin their tour. Being able to read the many French monuments and markers, the basics of the restaurant menu, etc. allows participants to have a more comfortable and rewarding tour. Also, locals are often very forthcoming with tips and information; if one can communicate with them. Luckily, there are a plethora of language-learning options available to today’s battlefield pilgrim.
As one might expect, individuals living in cities or suburban areas have a wider range of choices available; but there are also plenty of internet options available to those who live in more rural settings. Readers should explore these options and find the alternative that works best for them. The important thing when learning a language is to practice, practice, practice.
Adult Education Schools often offer a French for Travelers course or other introductory language course.
County Colleges can offer one of the more cost-effective means of language instruction. Of course, the timing of the courses might not be convenient for all participants.
Local Universities are more expensive than county colleges; but one should still explore this option.
Language Schools such as Berlitz offer a wide range of courses from one-on-one instruction at a premium price to on-line, small-group instruction that is much more affordable. Courses are often at convenient times.
French Institute Alliance Française is a cultural institution in New York City and Montclair, NJ that offers a range of language courses as well as cultural evenings. There could be a similar institution available in a nearby city or major suburb.
Finding a Local Tutor is ideal, if one can afford it, and if the chemistry is right between teacher and student.
Meetup is a good way to find local language groups. If one can’t find a local group, why not try to start one? The cost is minimal. The Webmaster participates in two different Meetup groups in the New Jersey suburbs; and this gives him the opportunity to practice speaking three times a month.
Internet-based Duolingo has become quite a popular learning method. Although the Webmaster has never used it, many participants in the Meetup groups spend about twenty minutes a day on Duolingo. Duolingo is free.
Facebook is often over-looked as a way to practice speaking foreign languages; yet many battlefield associations and tourism offices have FB pages or groups in French. By liking the pages or joining the groups, one can practice reading French. The Meuse-Argonne.com Facebook Group has over 1,600 members; approximately 27% of them are European. Thus, there are occasional postings in French.
Rosetta Stone remains a viable computer-based, self-learning option for those who cannot find a local tutor or course.
Radio France Internationale on the internet offers a ten-minute daily news broadcast called Radio France Facile. The pace of speaking on this broadcast is rapid, but the vocabulary used is relatively simple. The Webmaster listens to this twice: The first time without reading the transcript and the second time reading the transcript. The downside is that the topics covered are world news, not travel-related language exercises.
Readers are encouraged to find an alternative that works for them and feedback is always welcomed! Are there other methods or alternatives that the Webmaster failed to mention? What methods do readers prefer? And remember: One does not have to speak a foreign language fluently or flawlessly; one only has to be able to communicate.