Tuesday, September 22, 2020

French Learning: Skip the Boring-Start Speaking

As my husband and I prepare to launch the first of a half a dozen French programs I have been dreaming up for years now, the topic on my mind most often is how to best help someone who wants to speak another language. This has been ruminating about for some time; since I was 19 and noticed that many of the exchange students went back home after a year abroad fluent in French, yet others were still woefully inadequate as speakers of anything other than their native tongue. Why? I had no special skills or gifts in learning, I was certainly not the kid who finished my year with no accent. I did, however, end the year with fluency in French. Were we not all immersed and thus in the most favorable conditions for acquiring a new language? It was not the old disadvantage of age; we were all between 16 and 19 that year. In the following years, patterns would emerge, some involved method, some the company one kept. 

I went on to successfully teach English to the Spanish and later to the French, then French to Americans. The running joke between my students and myself was; 

"How did you learn French so well?"

"I live with my teacher. Don't suppose your partner would object to you moving out for six months, would they? Get a local fellow/gal." 

Right, how about that  of French we were working on again?

The idea of learning with a partner stuck with me, and grew into a plan to make it easy to do. Speak each day with the one you're with? Oui. Sure, you can wake up and say; "Let's speak in French today," and way to go, if you do! But having a method that incorporates meaningful dialog and a script makes it easier to implement. So I wrote one; the original French with Kids, for people home with children, to accompany a daily rhythm. Did I finish recording it and put it out into the world? No, but I am recording right now. Then I wrote one especially for this year, for Corona Times, for two adults to share; at home, across the world via video, anywhere; French at Home. 

As to method, way back when, I began in a strictly prescribed trio of lesson plus workbook plus group exercise used by the language schools of the 90's. That worked sometimes, but what worked best was a student interested in learning, engaged in their own progress and conversations on topics relevant to their life. 

A friend of mine hit on the prime impetus for language and for the dialogs we use today; "a statement should elicit a response. If you tell your child, "go take a shower," and they understand, you will see them head to the bathroom. You both see a direct correlation between what is being said and the answer; spoken or acted upon." In other words, use language for communication. 

The other key element was frequency words, or basing the dialogs on the 500 most used words in the French language, I started at the top, and added in what I know people use every day at home, with a partner or with a family. 

The next post is the email I sent out to a few people to find testers before launching the paid version, this is a free test, and I still have a spot and a half left (meaning; if you do not have a speaking partner, I have one who needs the same. Send me an email.) I am looking forward feedback, because this is all about YOU speaking French, the progress you are making, the ease with which you communicate in French. 








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