Bonjour tout le monde. In the weekly Talk in French newsletter sent to email subscribers every Sunday, I feature a question from subscribers.
The questions cover everything---French language, culture, travel, and even totally random ones---and a lot of it are quite useful. So in the interest of helping more readers, I am also publishing some of them here in the blog.
Today, I will be sharing with you a question sent by Daniella.
« My Core French classrooms in Southern Ontario read your article about not worrying about sounding French! It was last week's article! These students, most are not personally invested in learning French, although it is one of Canada's two official languages.
My question: how can I help students improve their oral French in an Anglophone environment? There is no immediate reason, beyond required curriculum, to learn and practice oral French.
They can conjugate a verb. They can't put together a couple of sentences without a script.
Do you have any suggestions? »
Here is my answer:
It’s a very challenging job to teach when people have little interest in your topic. I don’t have a magic formula for that and I am not sure how free you are to implement some of my ideas, but here are some suggestions that I hope would help.
1. Focus on the culture rather than the academic part of the language
Learning the grammar rules or conjugating verbs can be really boring for your students and they’ll just be doing it mechanically. But maybe if you try to connect the lesson with some cultural elements (like learning tenses with some catchy music in which the lyrics refer to some grammar point), it would pique their interest and give them additional motivation to learn.
Students like movies, music, food, TV shows, and other pop culture topics so I am sure you can find a lot of activities related to that. You can perhaps introduce a boring topic together with an interesting cultural aspect. I have plenty of resources in the Talk in French website about culture topics, so you might be able to make use of those.
2. You can also work on some projects with your students
For example, by the end of the semester they should be able to produce something:
- A presentation about some aspect of the Francophone culture (not necessary about France, it can be about Swiss, Belgium, Togo…)
- Write a song in French and sing it in class,
- Do a fake cooking show where students have to share a recipe in French.
Projects seem to work well for students, and those above are just a few things that you can perhaps implement in your classes.
3. Immerse them into the language through fun activities
There are plenty of ways you can immerse your students into the French language. Here are some of them:
- Listening to a French podcast: you can check out the Talk in French podcast here.
- Watching a French TV series: here’s a list of French TV shows for all levels.
- Reading a French comic book: you can also look at this list of French comics.
- Listening to French music: here is a playlist of more than 600 French songs with lyrics.
Another thing you can try is to explore Facebook for some groups where you can find pen pal students for your class. These could be students from French-speaking countries who also want to learn English.
Anyway, these are just few things at the top of my mind. I hope it helps.
For other French teachers who are reading this article right now, feel free to share other ideas as well. It would be greatly appreciated by the readers.
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Some fun things we did in French class when I was in high school:
We each chose a famous person that we wanted to be. We could bring props and wear a costume. We would research our character in order to present the audience which person we were. The class got to ask questions of this famous person and you had to answer them- All in French, of course. It was very popular. I was Moses, and had a grey beard, sandals, and a staff. I made sure I knew all the 10 commandments and about the parting of the Red Sea!
The other activity we did was to have a game show all in French. We had a host, and contestants, and questions etc. It was a lot of fun. We had a pretend trap door for the losers lol.
I started a French club in China and here some things I’ve done:
– making crêpes
– making pain perdu
– coloring in stencils of the Parisian skyline (Eiffel Tower, trees, French flag)
– music lesson (giving opinions on songs)
– teach them French sounds and slang