In coming to France, one of my primary goals has been, voila, to learn French! (Very original, I know...) Having lived abroad in the past, I knew that learning a new language would be hard--it always is. However, I'm discovering that this time around it's a bit more difficult because I'm not living with a host family. While I love sharing this experience with my own family, from a language learning standpoint, it's more challenging because I'm not really immersed in the language. Our family forms a little micro-cosm where despite our good intentions to parle le français chez nous, we usually slip into English. While I'm grateful that my work gets me out of the house, I don't use much French as an English teacher. In other words, I suffer from a serious lack of linguistic input. While my reading ability in French is adequate, thanks to high school Latin and lots of cognates, my speaking and listening skills are still pretty abysmal.
And thus, I am searching for advice:
What interesting recommendations do you have for learning a second language?
Does anybody know of good French language learning websites, podcasts, etc.? Any suggestions for how to overcome the fear of striking up conversation at the playground? Or worse yet, the sheer terror at the thought of having someone talk to me? For all you linguists out there, the floor is open...