It has recently been suggested that there are eight principles of language teaching. I think there are three:
1. Learners must understand their work fully from the beginning. To do this we make links with what they already know in their own language (eg shared words) and give them materials, such as colours, where meaning is self-evident. We do not introduce more material in the first lessons than the pupil can fully understand.
The idea has grown up that children do not need to understand their work fully, and that frustration in the first lessons is normal. This is a big mistake. It leads to confusion, panic, frustration and failure. We don't teach children to play an instrument by immersing them in music or taking them to a concert. They need to understand what they are doing, either instinctively or through careful demonstration, explanation and practice.
2. Spoken and written language should be taught together, and their relationships explained. This ensures that all channels of communication contribute to learning, and gives pupils time to build up their understanding of grammatical structures. This approach is easy to use via Clicker 6 with speech engines. It builds the literacy skills of lower attaining pupils, reinforcing their understanding of phonic patterns and shared words, and exploits those of higher attaining pupils. It is therefore in the best interests of all.
3. Teaching should focus on vocabulary, grammar and usage at all stages. As illustrated below, this ensures that children have the words and structures they need in order to say what they wish or need to say, and that they are introduced to the ways in which speakers of the language use them. The starting point is the language as it is, both in formal and informal contexts.
Children need to understand that languages are human constructs, with human traits, virtues and foibles. Once they do understand this, and that they are not expected to know everything at once, they can approach the work with confidence, knowing that they will not fail. As the French say, "Ce n'est pas la mer à boire."
Example,Fourth Lesson to Falkirk, pupils aged 11 and 12.
In the first three lessons, we looked at differences between French and English pronunciation, and made some positive and negative sentences. We sang the simple action song with pronouns, and began to look at shared words, gender, and the ways in which French verbs work.
In Lesson 3, we looked at these shared words, collected by Henri Seguin of Canada, and reinforced the idea of gender in words such as intelligent, élégant.
-age: bandage, image, page, message, usage, voltage, passage
-ance: chance, balance, finance, alliance, tolérance, ambulance,
-ence: confidence, évidence, intelligence, providence, licence
-tion: nation, action, attention, adaptation, administration + hundreds, all feminine
-al: animal, normal, signal, cardinal, final, original, national
-ial: racial, social, spécial, commercial, colonial, initial
-et: alphabet, buffet, budget, cricket, ticket, violet, secret
-ect: intellect, direct, correct, aspect, respect, suspect
-in: Latin, cousin, assassin, bulletin, florin, mandarin
-ain: gain, grain, refrain, train, quatrain, certain, vain
-ent: accent, récent, innocent, précédent, incident, président, différent, intelligent (Vous êtes très intelligentes!) ! = point d'exclamation
-ant: vacant, élégant, éléphant, extravagant, descendant
-ive: offensive, initiative, tentative, co-operative, intensive
-ine: discipline, machine, morphine, Vaseline, routine, sardine
-ible: possible, compatible, sensible, invisible, terrible.
Acute accent (accent aigu) An e in French is pronounced minimally, if at all. The acute accent stretches the sound, so that it is almost like having an extra letter in the alphabet.
Then an example of usage, from a Frenchman recommending his favourite spot for lunch in the Loire valley:
Si vous cherchez un restaurant, c'est très correct, et ce n'est pas cher du tout.
Then some more on verbs.
Verbs are so important that each one has a name. Grammatical term - infinitive.
In English, the name always starts with to to be, to have, to play, to sleep.
In French, the name is one word only. Donner Prendre Finir To give, to take, to finish. Lots of verbs have these endings, er, re, ir, and they are called Regular because the endings are very consistent.
Some verbs have different forms. These are either very common, or very rare. Stephen Pinker thinks that these make them resist pressure to use the same form of other verbs.
Être avoir to be, to have.
Verbs reinforce our idea of time zones - here and now, what has happened, what will happen. I demonstrated some basic patterns using chercher, and we will do more on time zones next week.