« In your French school:

which languages do your teachers speak ? »

 

I’ve heard this question many times, so I would like to respond to it more clearly here.

It’s a real and wide subject, related to the way we teach languages in France and that makes us not good at languages!

These are the preconceived ideas I’m trying to fight : 

 

1 – We learn a new language better with someone who speaks our language: No

To learn French, we need a French trainer who speaks French, that’s all!

Of course, if he has learnt at least one other language, it is an advantage : he has been in a learning situation and therefore, he will understand better how to teach (although this is not enough, I will come back to this in another article). 

Language courses must be taught only in the language to learn. 

Why ?

— First of all, because every student will take the easy way out (yes, even me).
When he knows that the teacher speaks his language, he will systematically use words from his language when he doesn’t know, to go as simply as possible, instead of trying to find another way to explain himself with a vocabulary he knows: and then familiarize his brain with the language to learn.

— Furthermore, the learner has to hear new sounds over and over again to be able to remember.

— Finally, we have to keep in mind that our adult brains can only do one thing at a time. 

 

2. I see you coming:
« It’s not possible to set this up when students are beginners. »

Cooking class learn French expatriates expat spouses New language with experimentes teacher

 

Well, how did we learn our mother language? No one was here to translate us.
However, we all succeeded (ok, more or less quickly depending on each one). 

People showed us pictures, made us repeat words, played with objects, explained that they matched this or that word….

So we can do it, we just have to go step by step, and re-use a lot of the words we’ve already learnt.

Naturally, the first few days are harder: you have to repeat, pronounce, listen a lot, but in a long term period, the efficiency is really better.

There are many positive effects of speaking only the language of instruction to learn:

— This increases the learning process 

— The student finally understands through context

— Learners’ pronunciation is better

— They improve their oral and comprehension skills 

— The brain creates a new space for this language and then connects to it each time it is used

Many studies of neurosciences have shown that a language that is only taught in this language can be retained better
and the brain develops a new space for it, in the Broca area, which is the part of the mind that is dedicated to languages.

And softwares such as Rosetta Stone, which use images and signs to explain and teach languages, also prove it.

 

3 – We can still translate just some words into their language to help them: NO

Contrary to what we might think, « translating » does not help learners,

but facilitates the work of teachers: no need to explain again.

If we explain the rules of the game at the beginning, that there will be no translation
or explanation in their language, the learners fully understand.

— When we remove the translation from our learning system, we are learning to think in this language directly and it is much more efficient.
That’s why, you can ban all applications to learn a language, which translate, all videos with the subtitle in your language…

— Moreover,  translation has its limits, it never goes as fast as thinking directly in the desired language
(even if it takes a little time, and patience to get there). 

— It’s called immersion, and nothing better has been done to teach foreign languages. 

You may have lived abroad and experienced this immersion teaching?
If so, you have surely seen the difference in your learning, haven’t you?

 

4 – And to explain the grammar, can we still use another language? No

Well, there’s no point in learning grammar until you’ve practiced at least 100 hours of speaking, listening…

Grammar can reassure (many) students, but it is mainly by talking that we memorize, by learning and using complete sentences.

Once you’ve practiced 100 hours, you have all the vocabulary you need to explain. 

So let’s forget the grammar at the beginning and practice!

And to practice, let us never forget that there is one thing that is essential for learners to dare: kindness!

 

 

 

Armelle Perben

Founder, Expatriate’s Spouse and Executive Director of Absolutely French

www.absolutely-french.eu

armelle perben-absolutely french- fondatrice

 

Armelle defends the double career in expatriation,
for the happiness of the expatriate, and the career of the expatriates’ partners,
because they are also talents!