Teaching French: Curriculum for an Undergraduate Class

 

Teaching French as a foreign language inIndia makes it essential for a teacher that he keeps his mind open for new ways of teaching. It must be flexible and creatively open. Listening, speaking, reading and writing in French with certain level of comfort for the students is the aim of French as a Foreign Language (FFL) class and it needs a versatile and creative teacher. Books, cassettes and CD’s, the internet and various audio visual aids ought to be used in tandem to develop an effective and efficient learning and teaching classroom environment. A FFL class generally begins with an introduction to French language – a language that held sway all overEuropeas the language of culture and politeness. A good introductory class must aim at making students aware of the spread and importance of French language in the world and the advantages one gets from learning this beautiful language.Franceand francophone countries may be introduced through printed material, audio visual aids and the internet. This must be done in such a way that students fall in love with French people, their language and their culture. Students must be asked to explore the internet on their own to get information regarding France, French people etc.

 

Once the students have become interested, the same level of interest and momentum of the class must be maintained by taking them straight into learning the language itself. First of all, the sound of the French alphabets must be given by the teacher to the class and it will be followed by the class practicing the same in chorus. Later the students’ pronunciation may be refined with the help of recordings of native French speakers pronouncing the alphabet. Accents are very important in the pronunciation of French language and they must be taught with various examples to make their individual effect on pronunciation clear.

 

Once the class has learnt the pronunciation of French consonants and vowels, its journey towards acquiring spoken French skills begins. An adequate vocabulary is a must if one wants to learn a language, as words are the means through which communication is largely made possible. Articles of daily usage and words for common everyday use purpose must be taught in the first few classes, so that students may start using them. As practice makes one perfect, every opportunity must be utilized for speaking French whenever time permits. Common ways of greeting and useful expressions must be taught in introductory classes and students must be encouraged to use these expressions regularly.

 

Numbers, days in a week, months in a year etc. must be the next to be taught as they are very important for those who intend to learn French. They must be taught and then inspired and encouraged to practice more and more. Use of mnemonics, mind maps etc. must be introduced at this stage so that so many new words in a foreign language can be learnt comfortably, retained adequately and recalled successfully and satisfactorily as when the need arises. Setting the words into popular lyric tunes has always made learning them easy. Common expressions of greeting can be taught very easily if students revise when the pre-decided tune is played softly in the background.

 

One peculiarity of the French language is its articles that change form according to the gender and number of the subject. Le, la, l’, les, un, une and des may be taught using the words of common use along with these articles. The first few lessons of Un cours de langue uses this method in question answer format.

 

Affirmative, negative and interrogative sentence structures must be taught and practiced. Students must practice making sentences based on the same pattern in paired or group practice sessions. As most elementary and essential kind of sentences in any language depend on verbs in the present tense, some important French verbs must be taught in their present tense so that students can understand and use at least some basic verbs and sentences. Verbs etre and avoir are two very important verbs that may form the point of departure for any beginner. Affirmative, negative and interrogative sentence forms in the present tense of these verbs may be taught in the natural order of skills acquisition in language: listening, speaking, reading and writing. First of all, students must listen to the teacher or to the audio visual material that produce sentences using the verbs under question along with the meaning of sentences. A bonus will be teaching avoir with various body parts, e.g. J’ai un ……

Tu as une ……. etc. and teaching etre through sentences that are produced in response to the questions beginning with “En quoi” with all personal pronouns.

 

Learning language needn’t be boring and colourless. Colours may be added to the class by teaching adjectives of colour, shape and size etc. Various colourful objects may be brought to the class and 8-10 colours can be identified and used in sentences made with etre/ avoir. Students can be given practice in sentence formation and in  speaking French by making them respond to questions like “De quelle culeur est le/la …?” etc. Verb repetition and revision will be a bye product of using adjectives of various kinds. Etre can be used with adjectives that stand diametrically opposite to each other with all the personal pronouns e.g. “Je suis grand. Tu es petit” etc.

 

Prepositions are essential for sentence formation and beginners may do well to learn certain basic prepositions, e.g. sur, sous, dans, devant, derriere etc. These prepositions can be used in response to questions beginning with “Ou, quand etc.” e.g. “Ou est le livre? – Il est sur la table.”

 

Common French expressions viz. “Il y a, qu’est ce qu’il y a, voici, voila” etc. must be taught carefully with their English equivalents. Now the students have reached a level at which they have some command over the fundamental vocabulary and the correct pronunciation. They may be attracted towards looking at objects and speaking a couple of sentences about them in the class. Table, chair, blackboard etc. and the adjectives related to them are already known to the students and they are in a position to use them in either their own sentences or by following the pattern provided in the class. It can be followed by and supplemented with dictation, dialogues and reading aloud in the class.

 

After the student has learnt the basic vocabulary and expressions, the time is right for introducing the concept of three categories of verbs in French – again a surprise – as the students are habituated to English and their mother tongues that do not resemble French at all in this aspect. The first group of verbs (ending in -er) is the natural choice to begin with. Personal pronouns and the respective conjugations with, e.g. “Parler” will be a good point to start at. Once the class has mastered the endings of the verb with various personal pronouns, practise other verbs like habiter, ecouter, demander, aimer, appeler, inviter etc. Sentences must be made in present tense in affirmative, negative and interrogative forms. Students must be encouraged to practice sufficiently so that they internalize these verbs. There are some verbs ending in –er that are exceptional in conjugation, e.g. Nous mangeons, instead of the usual Nous mangons according to the rule, as the conventions of pronunciation demand.

 

After having learnt etre and avoir, and some basic –er verbs, students are ready to write small dialogues and short messages under the teacher’s supervision first and then independently. Writing and reading aloud what one has written gives the practice required and a continuous supply of new areas of vocabulary must be made. Adjectives of personality and physical traits; sports, parts of a house, types of clothes, health, food etc. are the areas related to which new words may be introduced progitably.

 

As the teacher is open to using both the direct and the grammar-translation methods of teaching French, students can be asked to do exercises and exploration on their own too. They will not face any difficulty if constant guidance is available. Quizzes and games based on French language and culture must be organized in the class tom make the subject more interesting. Documentary films and short animated films with French sub-titles may be introduced at this stage so that interest generated is kept at a high level and effective learning may take place in the class.

 

Les articles contractes (a la, a l’, aux, au, du, de la, de l’ and des) must be introduced in the class. New prepositions and conjunctions must be given so that the students find themselves capable of making their own sentences. Seasons of a year and weather in those seasons must be taught with help of colourful pictures and by making comparisons of the same with the weather in those seasons inIndia. Moreover, important festivals that fall in these seasons must also be compared to their Indian counterparts. Till now, the students have learnt numbers up to 20. they must now extend their vocabulary up to 100, and must also know how to make ordinal forms of the numbers learnt.

 

The second group of verbs, those that end in –ir, must be given to students at this point of time. Verb finir may be taught in affirmative, negative and interrogative forms of sentences. Once the students are confident enough in –ir verbs, they ought to be given ample practice in conjugation with verbs like grosser, jaunir, rougir, blanchir etc.

 

Daily life scenario must be chosen and the teacher must play dialogues in the class related to these scenarios. Students may choose to play part in the activity. Dramatization and role play have always been enjoyable activities in language class and French will be learnt in an easier manner with the elements of fun and play involved. There are many books in the market in which every lesson begins with a specific locale and situation and how people react in French. While doing this, students will expand their vocabulary and will also become aware of the fact that there are many verbs that do not follow the rules of conjugation given for the verbs  that end in –er or –ir. These are called the irregular verbs. As there is no set rules for conjugating such verbs, students will have to learn the conjugations by heart and also to practice a lot. Verbs like aller, dire, faire, repondre, entendre, attendre etc. must be conjugated in present tense in their affirmative, negative and interrogative forms. It is at this stage that students may be asked to learn the French possessive adjectives (Mon, ma, mes, ton, ta, tes, son, sa, ses etc.) and learns their uses with the description of their family members, e.g. ‘Mon pere a soixante ans’.

 

Passe compose(simple past tense) of some important verbs must now be taught. Conjugation in past tense of “er”- ending verbs like parler, montrer, marcher, fermer, chanter, regarder  voler etc. must be given. The time and its irregular expressions and conjugation of verb sortir in three forms in present tense, expressions “etre en retard” and “etre en avance” etc. must be taught after that. An introduction of  imparfait, future proche, passé récent, future simple must be given so that students are able to form useful sentences in these tenses.  Regions, famous monuments, gastronomy and beverages ofFrancealong with an interesting peek into the life of the French people through their celebrities must be the point where the class departs at the end of the session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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