Keep Calm and Parle Français

In the twelve years that I’ve been teaching Spanish I’ve often considered learning a new language. I thought it would be good to have the student’s perspective and gain new insight into what strategies work best.

The challenge in deciding which one to choose has been how much practice, realistically, I would get outside the classroom. In addition, I didn’t want to learn a language ‘just because’, becoming proficient is a primary goal.

Although, French was the first runner up, I still found Greek quite interesting and attractive, [like most Greek gentlemen 😉 ], Italian very similar to Spanish which could make learning it easier, and Chinese (language and culture) fascinating.

So how did I make up my mind? It’s simple…I was given a classroom to share with a French teacher. My colleague’s passion and love for French culture is contagious. Spending my prep time in the classroom grading papers while he taught made me accustomed to the sounds of it. All of a sudden it didn’t seem foreign anymore. It became real and attainable. So I got a notebook, and started taking notes and following along just like another student.

The experience has been an eye opener as a teacher. So far I’ve learned that:

– It’s ok when a student repeats EVERY SINGLE WORD I say when I’m teaching. I find myself sounding like a broken record doing the same as I listen to my colleague.

– Certain words just stick to you more than others. Like ‘croquant’ and ‘délicieux’. So I manage to use them in every sentence I say. To my Spanish students that happens with ‘sacapuntas’ (sharpener), reason why they ask to sharpen their pencil a dozen times during class and sing loud improvised raps about sharpening their pencils in Spanish.

– A significant part of the learning process at the novice level is comprehension. If there’s no comprehension it’s hard to produce outcome (speaking and writing). And although using the strategies that I teach help, it can be a tedious process. No wonder why my teenage students are not always crazy about working on a reading. Note to self: keep them short!!

-Knowing other languages really helps you in the learning process. It’s amazing how the brain functions. I instinctively make connections to both Spanish and English in trying to make sense of French. I thought since Spanish is my first language it would be my primary source of reference. Yet my thoughts go from one language to the other in a matter of seconds, taking notes in both. Usually something I’ve witnessed with my students who are also fluent in Italian or Portuguese in addition to English.

But most importantly, I’ve learned that learning a new language expands your mind, gives you a broader vision of the world around you, an understanding of cultural differences, and a greater appreciation of your own

So just like the French Club t-shirts mandate in the school that I work at, I will continue to “Keep Calm and Parle Français.”

Au revoir!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Keep Calm and Parle Français | shelenabrown

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