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Guided translation + for beginners

This is a resource from the frenchteacher Samples page. It requires careful reading, guided translation, with a degree of personalisation and writing. The source text could also be exploited in other ways to maximise recycling of the language. Activities could include reading aloud, question-answer, short term memory aural gap-fill (where the text is hidden, read by the teacher with pauses for gaps to be filled), correcting false statements and translation of words, chunks and sentences (both ways, L1 to L2, L2 to L1), dictation, running dictation or gapped dictation.

Here it is.

Ma ville – Amélie parle

J’habite un appartement à La Rochelle, une ville dans l’ouest de la France sur la côte atlantique. C’est une ville historique avec ses trois tours célèbres. Les touristes adorent faire du shopping sous les vieilles arcades du centre-ville et se promener près du vieux port.

A La Rochelle on peut faire des promenades en bateau aux îles, visiter des musées, flâner dans le vieux port et les ja…
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A parallel text and exercises for beginners

Here is a text and translation I wrote for near-beginners, one of 20 on the Y7 page of Help yourself if you think it would be useful.

The thinking behind these is to provide some interesting comprehensible input to beginners, with the English translation compensating for the relative difficulty of the source text. You would ideally present the texts side by side and get pupils to closely compare each version. Pupils learn how to make use of cognates and learn some new vocabulary along the way. If it is high-frequency enough to merit revision this could be done in a subsequent lesson.

Les dauphins

Les dauphins sont des mammifères marins qui sont liés aux baleines et aux marsouins. Un mammifère marin est celui qui vit dans l'eau. Les dauphins se trouvent partout dans les océans de la planète et dans les rivières et les marais aussi.

Les dauphins sont carnivores (mangeurs de viande) et mangent des poissons, des calmars et d’autres animaux marins. Ils nagent souvent ens…

20 reasons to learn another language

I posted this a long time ago, but here it is again if you’d like to use it for a poster or a class brainstorm or discussion. Maybe you can think of more!

1. If you ever move abroad you will be able to talk with local people.
2. You may need the language for your work in the UK or abroad.
3. You will find the language useful when you go on holiday or travel through the country.
4. You may wish to study abroad one day.
5. You may need the language for study or research in another field.
6. You may need it to learn about the culture, civilisation or history of another country.
7. Maybe you just like the challenge of learning another language.
8. It may help you look at your own language or culture.
9. You may just enjoy using different sounds and words. It’s fun.
10. Perhaps you enjoy solving grammar problems and translating.
11. It will make you seem clever – people think learning languages is hard!
12. Maybe you do not want to look stupid when you meet non-English speakers.
13. Perhaps you wish t…

Intermediate parallel reading with exercises

This is a sample resource from It would be for a good GCSE (intermediate) class. Do help yourself and feel free to edit it. Some reformatting will be needed for the matching task. Please credit the resource if you choose to use it.

French text

Un ado marche 65km, son petit frère au dos

Un jeune collégien s'est donné le défi de marcher 65 km en portant sur le dos son frère de 7 ans, atteint d'infirmité motrice cérébrale.

Hunter Gandee, un Américain de 14 ans, voulait attirer l'attention sur la maladie de son petit frère Braden. Celui-ci, âgé de 7 ans, est atteint d'infirmité motrice cérébrale et ne peut se déplacer sans assistance.

Samedi dernier, son frère cadet solidement harnaché dans le dos, il est parti de l’école Temperance (Michigan), où il étudie et dont il est le capitaine de l'équipe de lutte. Son objectif : rejoindre le centre de lutte de l'université du Michigan, à Ann Arbor, après un trek de 65 kilomètres. Ce serait une manière d…

Methodology: looking back

I was always quite enthused by methodological issues in language teaching. As a schoolboy I observed my talented French and German teachers and tried to identify with what they were doing. They were generally quite up to date with the methods of the era, using the target language most of the time, using plenty of whole class oral work (often questions and answers) and listening material. My school was also an early adopter of a reel-to-reel language lab which we used for audio-lingual style exercises. My O-level teacher Colin Wringe, who went on to do teacher training at Keele University, did lots of reading and listening with us, while (as I recall) making sure we did what was needed to get a top grade in the exam.

My enthusiastic A-level teacher Mike Dawson got us talking a lot, as well as doing oral grammar drills, comprehension and translation from the book Actualités Françaises, while our French literature teacher Bill Steer ensured we became careful readers and learned to analyse…

Why is teaching French partitives so hard?

While writing a couple of PowerPoints recently for frenchteacher, I was reminded about how tricky it is to teach, and for pupils to acquire, partitive articles in French (du, de la and des).

Firstly, here is a a pretty good description of how they work from the site;

"The French partitive articles express a notion of quantity: a vague one, a non-specific one.
These articles are often used after the verbs vouloir (Je voudrais du vin) or avoir (J’ai des chats) and with food. It’s the notion of “some” in English, but we don’t always use the word “some”. Often, we use nothing at all. In French, you need to “accompany” your word with something.
Je voudrais de l’eau, s’il vous plaît. (some water, maybe a glass, or maybe a bottle…)Le professeur a de la patience. (patience ; you are not saying how much patience the teacher has, just that he/she has some)Voici du gâteau. (some of it, not the whole cake) To describe an unspecified plural quantity, use des (both feminine and…

A zero preparation 30 minute listening task

Review: Vocabulary in Language Teaching by Joe Barcroft

This short booklet of 36 pages published in 2017 is a beginner’s introduction to vocabulary, vocabulary learning and teaching. It is one of Joe Barcroft’s language teaching modules at Washington University in St Louis, USA. Joe is a leading researcher in the field of vocabulary acquisition as well as being a Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition.

As well as providing concise analyses of the issues for language teachers, the booklet includes questions for reflection and short quizzes to check understanding. For many readers these will seem superfluous, I think.

Barcroft begins by defining what vocabulary is, reminding is that apart from isolated words, it includes lexical phrases and formulaic language such as “What can I do for you?”. It's worth repeating his reminder that nearly 50% of what we say is in the form of chunks which don't require us to syntactically code sentences. He gives a simple lesson in grammar by providing handy definitions of different type…

Knowing Your Subject

The title of this blog is borrowed from an article by Mark Enser in the latest edition of Impact, the Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching. Mark reminds us of research carried out by Robert Coe et al (2014) which indicates that having good subject knowledge is one of the main keys to effective teaching. In another publication by Rosenshine - Principles of Instruction (2012) - one of the defining characteristics of effective teaching is claimed to be the ability to provide detailed explanations of the material being taught.

This got me thinking again what subject knowledge entails for language teachers. For the purposes of this blog post, I would split our own subject knowledge into three parts:

1. Linguistic skill - comprehension, fluency, instantly retrievable knowledge of vocabulary and a wide range of structures and idiom.
2. Meta-linguistic and cultural knowledge - knowledge of the rules of the language; the ability explain to classes how the language works; knowing about th…

New GCSEs: intended and unintended consequences

Most language teachers in England and Wales welcomed the end of the previous generation of GCSE exams largely because of the way they skewed teaching towards rote learning for controlled assessments. Little did they know at the time quite how hard the new papers would be, in particular the listening tests. Once again this year teachers on social media are commenting on how difficult, even unfair, the first Higher Listening papers are. (Note: this complaint is heard every year actually, but the new tests do seem to be genuinely more difficult.)

But the 9-1 GCSEs have brought in their wake a few unintended consequences.

But first there is an intended consequence. It's true the DfE wanted to create a harder and more reliable assessment, arguing that we need to match the standards in other countries. (How reliably they can do this when many countries don't have an equivalent to GCSE must be opne to question.) This they have done, even if the grade outcomes are in line with those o…