My choice of career is as classic as can be, seeing as how I speak quite a few languages, and how both of my parents are teachers. I do what I think I’m good at and what I was taught how to do.
I have been in a good dozen of different language courses and have thus encountered various teachers with various methods (Grammar-Translation, Direct Method, TPR etc.) and been exposed to activities with varying effectiveness.
Now, as a teacher, I try to use my own experiences as a learner so as to design activities and classes which I know have helped me the most. However, I also pay a lot of attention to the different students’ learning styles by asking for a quite some direct feedback and then adapt my activities according to their wants and needs.
I try to implement tasks that the students will find meaningful and interesting by approaching subjects that matter to them. With the help of social networks and modern media, I want to let students venture into places they are already familiar with, but show them the French take on it. In a globalized world, it is necessary for the students to feel like French is actually closer to them than what they actually think.
On language teaching
How do you learn a language best? Certainly not by mindlessly translating grammar or only through reading, if you ask me. Speaking and being constantly exposed to the language you want to learn is the way. This is why in my class, I speak French all the time. The only times I resort to English with my students is when I want to show similar etymologies or outside the classroom, when the students talk about personal matters. Thus, the classroom becomes an embassy of sorts, a French territory, if only for the duration of the class.
The students are encouraged to speak a lot, to discuss every document they’re given, be it a video or a text. French should not feel foreign to them, but become a tool they can use to express their thoughts. This is why I want them to speak out and tell their thoughts on everything, even if they’re negative or critical thoughts. That is why I strongly encourage critical thinking. In order for the students to feel confident, I do not correct directly, most of the time, but rather reformulate sentences said wrong. Although this indirect form correction is not the most effective in terms of actually erasing mistakes, it does not sap the students’ confidence – which is something you might want to avoid when you want to make speaking one of your students’ fortes.
On teaching today
In a globalized world, where the lines the world had drawn between cultures and languages have become gradually thinner, if not even nonexistent, language teaching needs to adapt. Languages are, that is a well-established fact, the keys to different cultures. But what if today, the use of a plural for culture isn’t really appropriate anymore (at least in the North-Western world) ? What if the biggest difference between the French and the Americans is the language and not the culture?
My classes thus tend to favor talking about the few remaining unique features of the francophone world, while also showing the students that I, as a Frenchman, have the same pop-culture references as they do. Discussions in class thus do not feel “foreign” to them, but are familiar and enable them to talk more freely and be more engaged in what they say.
Not using modern media and technologies would be a grave mistake these days. Students expect their teacher to be well-versed with Powerpoint presentations by now and projectors are a common thing. My knowledge of the world of Youtube, Soundcloud and others enables me to go further than that and show the students things people their age in France know and enjoy. It helps showing the learners just how similar their world is to the one they’re trying to enter by learning a foreign language.
The tasks I give students are ones that I should feel meaningful to people of their generation. Classics like doing a role play on buying a train ticket at a train station are useful, that is for sure. But it is more meaningful and realistic for the Millennials I teach today to let them try to see how to buy tickets online and compare prices on different online platforms.
I use online tools to form the groups in my class or to help the students do their revisions by creating a Google Doc. This is a big time gain – which leaves more room in class for discussions and debates and the like.