This article reports on the findings of a study into the conditions which promote spontaneous learner talk in the target language in the modern foreign languages (MFL) classroom. A qualitative case study approach was adopted. French lessons, with school students aged 11–16 years old, were observed and analysed with the aim of identifying tools and techniques used by the teacher to foster spontaneous learner talk. A sample of learners was also interviewed. Thematic data analysis showed that the teachers employ two tools, referred to as target language management and context management. These comprise a variety of techniques which encourage spontaneous target language use and which help learners develop features of more dialogical conversation in their talk. The skilful teacher can combine these tools to create a ‘target language lifestyle’ where the target language is the natural means of communication in the classroom. The article argues that the development of spontaneous talk is an essential aspect of language learning and that teachers can stimulate originality and creativity in learners' language over time by careful planning of their own target language use.