Question for French Teachers

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14 thoughts on “Question for French Teachers”

  1. Steven like many in our PLC I was trained in schools, attracted by my heart to the language and willing to memorize rules to get at it in any way I could. I did the Jr. Year Abroad and when I came back from France I couldn’t speak much since I spent my time there (Strasbourg) with my American classmates. I was a typical four percenter who was kind of an imposter at the language when I first started teaching it. For 24 years I taught as I was taught, rewarding four percenters, pushing for passing grades on the AP.
    So I never really learned real French. Never had the chance. Even now my classes reflect that but I love French so much I am willing to keep trying year after year to get better at it. That is just background to say that if you are lucky enough to actually speak the language as the real people of the country speak it, teach that – the real language. Most of your kids could care less about academic French.
    The ‘on’ pronoun for ‘we’ was also a shocker to me. With the change we are in now, however, I feel sure that the real teachers of kids in schools in the future won’t be four percenters. They won’t really have to be experts at grammar either, in my view. People who can speak it best should teach it, not people who can analyze it best. There will always be experts at grammar and they could even be a part of a program that honestly bills itself as teaching different classes, those for acquisition and maybe one or two at the higher levels for those who want to have a grammar party.

  2. Steven, I teach only Level 1 (stretched out over middle school, not every day).
    I do exactly what you do and for the same reasons. Occasionally I’ll use inversion in a simple sentence, either orally or written, and they understand because they hear the verb. If I taught the high levels, I’d expose them to the more formal ways as they’d come up in reading and writing.

  3. I also didn’t really get the “on” form until I got to France–after six years of classroom learning! Crazy. I remember feeling annoyed that my teachers never used it more.
    In my classroom, I use both nous and on. “On” is nice because it’s the same conjugation as il/elle, so it feels more familiar to students. I don’t use a lot of inversion since I don’t use it when I naturally speak French. We mostly come across it when reading. For me, reading and seeing these structures is not a big deal if students are already familiar with the meaning of the verbs. Or I’m being lazy? I don’t know. I don’t feel like doing a whole big lesson about inversion any more. Maybe if I get AP next year! (or if students really start asking).
    By the way, I’ve had a few students really start asking about accents. Some of my students feel stressed when they write because of them (most don’t care though). I have given a few mini explanations, but really, I don’t want to talk about accents too much because it confuses even me. My instinct says to not talk about them unless they change the meaning of the word. Does any French teacher have any tips they can share about how they deal with accents?

    1. …does any French teacher have any tips they can share about how they deal with accents?…
      No corrections, no explaining, just lots of reading. They’ll slot into place after awhile. Just like with all other aspects of language acquisition, it happens unconsciously over time. Getting the kids to think consciously about the accents is foolish. It harkens back to a time when the four percenters and the teacher would gang up against the rest of the class.

  4. What language do you want kids to acquire? Conversational? Writing? Academic? Textbook?
    Granted, you yourself would have to have acquired the conventions of that style.
    Only 10-50% of a textbook is high-frequency (Davies & Face, 2006).
    I think they still say in Spanish textbooks that “así así” means “so so,” in response to “How are you?” So embarrassing. That’s a literal translation. “Así” means “like that” and “así que” means “so” but you can’t say it twice to mean “so so.” But a Spanish teacher may not know that if their exposure was largely limited to a textbook.

  5. I agree with most who have answered this thread: it’s important to consider the speaker’s ability level.
    With beginners, an easy rule of thumb seems to be asking: how would I say this to my preschooler? (We speak French at home.) In the Communicative Approach, Krashen talked about “caregiver speech.” Parents automatically modify their speech for little ones in a manner that’s similar to how we talk to non-native speakers.
    That notion makes sense to me.
    It just sounds plus claire. 😉

  6. I agree with everything above! I just wanted to share that my students seem to get excited to know how a French person would “really” say something, for example dropping the ne in the negative construction (like j’sais pas). It’s cool that it is easy to slip stuff like that in, like pop-up grammar, and it communicates to the students that French is a real language spoken by real people, not just some silly thing we do in class to talk about ourselves. I teach middle school, by the way, so I am not yet interested in teaching them a literary form the language. Hopefully they will enjoy French enough to continue studying it, and there is plenty of time later in their academic careers to learn academic French.

    1. Yes. I agree Carly. When I give establish meaning I say the expressions multiple times and sometime provide contracted forms like “j’sais pas” when speaking. I tell them it’s how they speak in France.

    2. And Carly the coolest part is that we get to have fun learning French as long as we are teaching. I have always wondered what it would be like to teach my own L1 of English. I don’t think I could do it. Diana and Annick were doing a training in SF a few years back and they had to use English and Diana said that it was very weird for her.

      1. I’ve wondered that as well. I think it would be so hard to go slow enough and stay in bounds if I taught in English. There’s a group of Korean teachers here in the Portland area who teach at a private after school Korean language school for heritage speakers. They’re really interested in learning more about CI and tprs and I was thinking about doing a demo for them in English since it’s not their first language. But I was also thinking it would be weird teaching in English. I also have an endorsement in esol and I’ve pondered the possibility of using tprs approaches in esol. Though the kids have various L1s. Anyone got thoughts or experience in CI in giving demos or teaching esol?

  7. Funny you mention Korea. I went in 2009 with a couple of ESL Teachers and professors at the University of Tennessee to present for two weeks with Busan City Schools. My fellow presenter presented on TPRS and I was focused on SIOP, both very useful methods of creating comprehensible input in any language, including ESL (or English as a Foreign Language).
    Last year, I presented to my ESL colleagues and I was the only one of 60 teachers who had even heard of TPRS. Even though it has great potential, it hasn’t taken off in the ESL community.
    I’m afraid there are few venues for ESL teachers to discuss using TPRS– none of substance that I can find. Ben kindly offered to help us find a home on this site somewhere, but I can’t get in touch with his ESL colleague. Email me and we can chat. I would love to share some ideas with you. Otherwise, I’m afraid I can’t think of any resources for would-be ESL TPRS teachers.
    Don’t be afraid to do your demo–seeing live, in person is the best way to learn. But why not do your TPRS demonstration in French? They might even get the message better. Plus, you’ll be confident. Good luck!

  8. The three things that must change for ESL in my opinion are:
    1. Much more highly personalized and compelling input that is connected to the actual lives of the students.
    2. No social studies classes, no “support” of other classes across the curriculum.
    3. No focus on discrete grammar.
    Those things right there are what we do in TPRS, and since it works for us, it can work for them. I’m sure that there are other points to make and we had a very good thread on this here about three weeks ago, but my expertise is not at all in ESL so I would love to see Claire and Tina and Stephen Cook (in my school here in India) feel free to light up these pages with insights as they go about deconstructing the old ESL model to align with the research of the dude who originally did his research in this area in the first place, Dr. Krashen.

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