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Good stuff for French learners like me

March 16, 2017

I've learned a lot about early language acquisition recently. As I've been formatting the French adaptations of my Spanish curriculum, I have been SUPER EXCITED about all of the language that I have picked up along the way. (You can read something that I wrote about it--in French--here!)

I'd like to share with you some of the resources that have helped me along the way:

The first stories that Cécile Lainé tried out after she started using TPRS. Three of them are linked in this post!

Image: Wayside Publishing

The novel Brandon Brown dit la vérité from Wayside Publishing. This was particularly helpful to me because I am already familiar with the novel in Spanish, so I understood the story already. I read Brandon Brown veut un chien before BBDLV (since it was published first), and BBVUC was also an easy read for me as a beginner that was familiar with the story. These stories are fun for me to read and feel effortless, AND I love that there are audio versions available for me to listen to, as well. Since French pronunciation is totally unfamiliar to me, being able to listen to the audio versions of these two novels as I read along in the text has been crucial to the development of the French voice in my head. (My accent is still disastrous, but the voice in my head is amazing!)  I found that it was actually really difficult for me to comprehend texts and retain the language that I had picked up from reading before the French voice in my head was solidified. Listening AND reading are both important to the development of language, and this experience was a good reminder to me to not neglect reading texts aloud to my students!

My subscription to Cécile Lainé's Le Petit Journal Francophone, which she publishes bi-weekly. I really enjoy reading the news articles, and it this is my only source of comprehensible non-fiction in French, which is actually really refreshing. It makes me feel very smart to be able to understand true content! One article that I found particularly interesting was the one about the attack on white rhinoceros from the most recent issue. I had just written a story about the hippo "attack" at the National Park Zoo in El Salvador (which turned out to be a giant lie to cover-up poor animal care) the previous week, so it was pretty wild (and sad) that this attack happened in Thoiry right around the same time. I love this resources! Please note: this publication is entirely Cécile's--I purchased a subscription just like everyone else and in no way benefit financially from the sales! My only benefit is linguistic and comes from reading it, not advertising it!

After reading about me trying to learn French, Nina Davern sent me some stories that she had written in French, and they are PERFECT for where I am at in my language learning. I really love this story because there is SO.MUCH.REPETITION. I was reminded that as a beginning language learner, repetition is NOT boring--it is comforting and refreshing. Each time that I read a new slide that contained familiar text (a character repeating a line or the narrator repeating a description with just the smallest of twists), it felt almost like a wave of relief washed over me--like there was a moment of apprehension when I flipped to a new slide, and then it disappeared as soon as I realized that the new slide was text that I had seen before and could understand.

SONGS. Songs have been so important--even songs that I don't really understand. As long as I can understand pieces of the songs, they are helpful. The pieces that I understand might be an entire chorus, or they might just be one line that is repeated: either way, authentic songs have been massively helpful to me. As a student without a live teacher, developing the French voice in my head has been really difficult. Audio versions of books (as I mentioned above) and songs are responsible for giving me that voice! In order for a song to be helpful, I have to have a written copy of the lyrics that I can follow along with (matching sounds to words) and I have to be able to understand part of those lyrics. The part that I understand is what ends up getting stuck in my head, and then I can draw on it later on when those words come up in reading. For example, Julia Ullman paired the song Là Où Je Vais by Judith with Unit 5 of my level 1 curriculum for the French adaptation, since  'il/elle va' is one of the target structures.

Learning the pronunciation for 'je vais' in the song is what helped me (1) know how to pronounce the first-person singular form and (2) be able to express myself in the first-person singular form. Since I'm not participating in live story asking sessions, I don't get a lot of first-person reps. Songs are what has done it for me! The resources that I created for Là Où Je Vais are included in « Nous Sommes » Unit 5 : Le Tour de France (which I am massively proud of, since I wrote many of the readings myself...and then had edited extensively ;-)).

And yes...even the occasional grammar lesson from my long-distance French teachers (editors/translators) has been helpful. Of course, I am a great case for the Monitor Hypothesis, so grammar being helpful to me doesn't mean that it will be to your students. I also have not engaged in spontaneous conversation with French speakers; all of my French production thus far has allowed me processing time.

Alright...that's what has been great for me so far. What resources out there do you think I should know about? Feel free to plug stuff you have created--I want to know about anything and everything that might help me (and your French students) along the way!

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