French Input

French the natural way: how to find comprehensible input?

Coucou les French learners,

I am so lucky indeed to be teaching amazing learners from all over the world! Check out my website’s map to find out where my learners come from.

My French learners are amazing because they understand the power of getting input consistently and over timeAs I explained last week, the only thing you have to do as a learner is to understand the French input, to focus on meaning.

If you follow Compelling Input Productions on Facebook, you will read thoughtful posts about the process of language acquisition. One post which caught my eye was about a water polo game!

Robert Harrell who is a German teacher in the US explained that: “The father of one of the players was quite knowledgeable about water polo, and he commented on and explained various aspects of the game: strategy, penalties, change of possession, and more. It helped me comprehend the game better and thus enjoy it more. At no time did this father try to recite or explain the rule book. Instead, he commented on the rules that applied to a concrete situation and answered my questions.
This is a good analogy for teaching and learning a language. Students should observe the game (i.e. listen to the language with the intent to understand), ask questions as they arise, and get bits and pieces of the rules as they apply in a concrete situation. Later, students can begin playing the game (i.e. start speaking and writing) when they are ready.”

Observe the game

How to intend to understand French? The Word Wide Web is full of French input but it can difficult to find resources which are comprehensible to you, especially if you are a true beginner.

Here are some ideas:

  • Look for videos and audios which are at a slow pace. One learner said to me: “I find I enjoy listening to small children or to old people because they speak slowly in French!“. This is exactly what you should be looking for at first, people who speak slowly. This same learner mentioned an old Canadian TV series aimed at French learners which is bizarre but actually parfait, perfect for beginner learners! It is called Téléfrançais and you can watch all the episodes on YouTube.
  •  Look for compelling input. In other words, input which interests you! For example, one of my learners loves poetry. She is reading Introduction to French poetry: A Dual-Language book by Stanley Appelbaum .  She can read the poems in French with literal English translation on facing pages. What a wonderful way to get rich input and an insight into the French literature! If you like poems too, check out my folder on Quizlet with des poèmes français, French poems. You have access to the translation in English and you can also hear how the words are pronounced. C’est merveilleux, it is wonderful! Look at this simple yet beautiful poem about l’automne, fall by Anne-Marie Chapouton:

Un paquet spécial

Finally, watch my videos! They are comprehensible and fun to watch too! My last story is about a man called Samuel who has to deliver a special kind of package!!!

The story is in Paris, in the famous Rue Mouffetard which is a narrow street in the fifth arrondissement, le quartier latin. It is one of the oldest and liveliest neighborhoods in Paris and most of it is a pedestrian only street. It is featured in the film Le fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain and in one of my favorite books when I was a child La sorcière de la rue Mouffetard, et autres contes de la rue Broca by Pierre Gripari.

This story is based on “Good things, small packages” by Elizabeth Skelton and Denise Milligan from their book Putting it together.

You will acquire:
Il doit livrer un paquet = he has to deliver a package
Il se dépêche = he hurries
Vite ! = fast!
Il cherche = he looks for
Il ne trouve pas = he does not find

Let me know in the comments below, let me know whether you liked the story? Est-ce que tu as aimé l’histoire ?

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

French the natural way: tips to start reading

Coucou les French learners,

I have just finished reading such an impactful post about  language acquisition. Jody Noble, who is a fanstastic language teacher has been discussing the myth around language practice.

Courtesy of Compelling Input Productions

She writes: “Why do people continue to believe that PRACTICE is the key? Because practice works so well to improve other skills like playing a musical instrument, shooting baskets, weaving, cooking, singing, dancing, etc.” This is so true and yet acquiring another language is NOT about practicing it. Jody goes on explaining: “Practice won’t give you ACQUIRED LANGUAGE (the kind that falls out of your mouth without effort, that is understood by others without effort, and that gives you the ability to understand without effort). That comes from input that you understand, consistently and over time.

I hear many learners wanting to practice because as Jody writes: “Practice makes people feel like they are DOING something to learn language. It is counter-intuitive for an adult mind, used to PRACTICING INFORMATION.” As a matter of fact, learners need to listen and read and “to focus on MEANING, just meaning” because “the brain is extremely efficient at processing language when it UNDERSTANDS it.

The bottom line is “you don’t have to DO anything, except get the hell out of the way and let the brain work.Read Jody Noble’s full post here.

Lire en français

In last week newsletter I urged you to listen to some French daily. Today, I am urging you to start reading in French. When you were a baby, the only thing you could do to acquire your mother tongue was to listen. The good news is that you are not a baby anymore and you can also read to acquire French!

To learn how to read is to light a fire, each spelled syllable sparkles.

I already mentioned useful tips to read in French in a previous newsletter. Here are extra tips to help you start:

  • Your own stories or stories made up by other learners will give you the confidence to start reading books. Check out my collection of stories co-created with my amazing learners. Here is one story I especially enjoyed creating with one of my upper beginners (I hope you appreciate the twist at the end which my learner came up with!): Sophia.
    It was edited and formatted by the amazing Martina Bex.  Martina is a Spanish teacher and she creates wonderful resources for teachers. She is also learning French and she mentions in her blog post: “As I was reading Alice’s story, the drip-drip-drip of her repetition allowed me to process the information. Repeating the information allows me to continue reading without stopping and going back to re-read (which feels very frustrating). All of these things help me to feel confident while reading a new text and EXCITED afterward at the length and complexity of the story that I just read!“.
  • Compelling articles on Blogs and websites aimed at French learners are also a good start because they tend to be comprehensible. One of my learners directed me to this recent article about Irma hurricane. She told me she was so interested about the topic that she kept on reading it even though it was at times difficult to understand. That is exactly what you should be aiming for: articles which interest you so much, you want to keep reading.
  • Choose easy books written for learners such as Brandon Brown veut un chien by Carol Gaab or Les aventures d’Isabelle by Karen Rowan. I had learners say it gave them so much self-confidence when they finished reading a French chapter book! If you live in America, order the books on Fluency Matters and if you live in Europe or near to Europe, order them on The CI Bookshop.

Des livres pour enfants

French children’s books are also great although some of the vocabulary or structures can be difficult to understand. That is why I recommend you to check out my new YouTube playlist where I post children’s books I enjoy ready to my boys. Watch them first because my gestures will help you understand the story and if you really enjoyed it, order the book! You can start building a French library in your home and then show off to your family and friends!

Here is a story I particularly love, even though I am an adult. It is about a dog who has a big problem!

In the comments below, let me know if you enjoyed the story too? Est-ce que tu as apprécié l’histoire ?

Happy French reading and acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Remember to watch this week’s new story about Jean who doesn’t feel well. Perfect to understand illnesses in French!

P.P.S. Keep on watching one minute of French each day. There are already 10 videos available to you to watch, so 10 minutes of pure comprehensible French about high frequency words and expressions. Perfect too!

French the natural way: input is crucial

Coucou les French learners,

Lately I have been reading a lot of articles and blog posts on how to keep up with learning a new language. La rentrée is over and most of us are back to work and to our daily chores. It is hard to find time for some French (or in my case German!) in our busy schedule!

French lover, Angel Pretot has excellent recommendations to keep at it on a tight schedule.

How to stay motivated and most of all consistent? Input is crucial. Stephen Krashen stresses that speaking in the target language (in that case French) does not result in language acquisition. Although speaking can indirectly assist in language acquisition, the ability to speak is not the cause of language learning or acquisition.

Therefore, don’t beat yourself up by repeating words or sentences in French everyday. However, listen and/or read a bit of French everyday, even if it is only as little as one minute a day!

La minute française

Because I am aware that most of us do not have much time on our hands, I created a new playlist on my YouTube Channel called La minute française. I try to stick to videos under one minute where I explain a word or expression in comprehensible French.

Comprehensible output is the effect of language acquisition according to Stephen Krashen.

I use to tell my learners that D’artagnan in Vingt Aprés by Alexandre Dumas says: ” L’anglais n’est que du français mal prononcé. ” which translates to “English is little more than badly pronounced French”!

Did you know that English borrows many French words. As a matter of fact, the number of English words from French origins is about 50%, some even say 70%! This is mainly due to our history. Read this thorough article about how the English language borrowed so many French words.

As a consequence, many English and French words have the same meaning; these words are called cognates. The use of cognates allows you, as a learner to use your native language as a resource for learning new words in French. Cognates are words that have a similar spelling, pronunciation, and meaning across the two languages. When you recognize words as cognates, you can access unfamiliar French words and better understand what you read too.

Here is a straightforward example:

More tips to get comprehensible input

One of my upper beginner learner told me that she tried to watch French television but it was so difficult for her to understand that her mind shut down. I told her it is the reason why input should be comprehensible. Negative emotions prevent efficient processing of the input. However when you can understand the message, your self confidence goes high. If the input is comprehensible and interesting to you, encore mieux, even better!

Look for topics which interest you and which are comprehensible to you. For example if you like to hear the news in the morning, try listening to News in slow French. The presenters cover the week’s news in a light and entertaining way, in French that is slow (hence the name!) and easy to follow.

If you are curious about what real French people think, watch Easy French on YouTube. The presenters ask interesting questions to French passers-by such as “ Paris, ville the l’amour ? ” The interview format is perfect as you hear the same question over and over, and the answers are usually entertaining.

If you like cooking (as I do!), watch Simplissime to follow simple yet delicious recettes, recipes. The narrator speaks slowly and the words often appear on screen, which makes things a lot easier to follow.

And of course, watch my weekly stories with a twist!

Here is my last story based on “No smiles today” by Cheryl Rao.

Claudine is usually a happy girl but today, she is not smiling. Why?

In this story, you will acquire:
Elle sourit = she smiles
Elle est de mauvaise humeur = she is in a bad mood
Il fait des grimaces = he makes faces
Elle éclate de rire = she bursts out laughing

In the comments below, let me know whether you usually are in a good or in a bad mood? Est-ce que tu es de bonne humeur ou de mauvaise humeur ?

If you want to read comprehensible French, have a look at my previous newsletter with useful tips for reading.

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

French the natural way: two cultural aspects of a story

Coucou les French learners,

Culture is intrinsically tied to a language. That is why my motto is a Czech proverb “Learn a new language and get a new soul.

According to Benjamin Lee Whorf and his theory of linguistic relativity, “language shapes the way we think, and determines what we think about.” And Holy Roman Emperor Charles V who spoke 6 languages fluently, said the following, “I speak Italian to ambassadors, French to women, German to soldiers, English to my horse and Spanish to God. A man is as many times a man, as many languages he knows.” Read this fascinating article about how languages shape the way we think to understand the connection between culture and words.

So today I want to share with you two cultural aspects of my latest story.

Les coiffures

My new story is about Pierre who wants to have his hair cut, il veut se faire couper les cheveux.

If you happen to go to the hairdresser, le coiffeur in France, you may want to know a few words and expressions to explain how you want your hair to be! So here is a quick summary of all sorts of hairdos and haircuts, coiffures et coupes de cheveux in French. Isn’t that cool? C’est cool, n’est-ce pas ?

Clique sur l’image pour lire le vocabulaire sur les cheveux.
Click on the picture to see the words and pictures better.

And by the way, you say aller chez le coiffeur, to go to the hairdesser. The preposition chez is a high frequency word which means “at” in English. Have a look at my one minute video to know when to use chez.

Les Pyrénées

France is such a beautiful country with a diverse landscape! I am not saying this because I am an arrogant Parisian! I am saying because it is true. In France, you can go by the sea, à la mer, you can also go to the lovely countryside, à la campagne and you can go to the mountains, à la montagne. Perfect! Parfait !

I already mentioned Le Massif Central in a previous newsletter and today, I want you to discover Les Pyrénées, dear to my heart! It is the mountain range separating France from Spain, l’Espagne and it is truly superb, superbe !

Have a look to my other one minute video about the noun la montagne which is a cognate.

I have spent many holidays on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, which is quite different from the French side. The Spanish side is sunnier and also much drier whereas the French side is much more humid and also greener.

New photo by alice ayel / Google Photos

Be aware of the brown bears, ours bruns. They had disappeared but they were reintroduced in the 90’s. A couple of bears from Slovenia were introduced in the French Pyrenees. Now twenty years later, they have had babies and there are around 39 brown bears! The farmers are not happy because they kill many sheep. Read several comprehensible articles about this issue in Un jour une actu, One day one news which is a French newspaper for children.

L’histoire : les longs cheveux

And here is the story about haircut and a brown bear! It is inspired by Annual Hair Cut Day by Noni.

You will acquire:
Ses cheveux le gênent = his hair bother him
Il veut se faire couper les cheveux = he wants to have his hair cut
Je n’ai pas le temps = I don’t have time

In the comments below, let me know whether you have long or short hair? Est-ce que tu as les cheveux longs ou les cheveux courts ?

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

French the natural way: la rentrée !

Coucou les French learners,

In France, the summer holidays are coming to an end. La Rentrée is approaching!!!

La Rentrée is a word of utmost importance for the French, it basically means the Return with a capital R!

Enjoy going back to work you all! The cow is saying: “Kisses, kisses, my beloved desk!!!”

Over the summer, les juilletistes et les aoûtiens, those who go on summer holiday in July and in August were away from the big cities. They were relaxing by the seaside, the mountains or in the countryside. The shops were closed, the offices were empty, France was on hold.

At the end of August, the French come back to the cities to work, French children go back to school, the shops open again…Even the French President comes back to Paris: it is la Rentrée with a big R! There is la rentrée  des classes, la rentrée politique, la rentrée littéraire… Everything is about the return to something!

Ma Rentrée is to offer you more videos to get even more French input! Now, if you are short on time, I created a new playlist on my YouTube channel with one minute videos to explain a specific word. Here is my explanation of la rentrée:

Fais pas ci, fais pas ça

La Rentrée also means going back to a routine and the French usually have the best intentions. They set themselves goals and new resolutions like to exercise regularly or to eat healthily. They say prendre la rentrée du bon pied which literally means to set the return on a good foot! Read this French article about healthy tips to going back to work: 7 conseils pour prendre la rentrée du bon pied. Remember that if when you read it, it is not enough comprehensible to you, you can then use Google Translate Web to help you!

So to help you start the French Rentrée on le bon pied, the good foot, I recommend you to watch and listen to as much French as you can! Understanding spoken and written French input is the only mechanism that results in the increase of your linguistic competence.

Why don’t you watch a funny French television series? Fais pas ci, fais pas ça means don’t do this, don’t do that and the series follows the lives of two neighboring families, les Bouley and les Lepic with opposite methods of education. The Lepic are rather “conservative” while the Bouley appear as bobos more “liberal”. Despite their social and cultural differences, the two families are friends and often face common problems.

The very first episode is about la Rentrée for both families and you might see yourself in similar situations such as calling your children to have dinner. In French we shout A table, to the table. You might also laugh when Fabienne Lepic is shopping for school supplies and she cannot find the cahier à petits carreaux, notebook with small squares!!!

Watch the episodes on YouTube, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Let me know in the comments below.

And by the way, the song at the start of the episodes is by a famous French singer, Jacques Dutronc. Listen to it with a fun animation here.

La Rentrée de Jean-Charles

I am always on the look for inspiration for my stories. I am especially looking for richer input and for stories which end with a twist to keep you engaged!

This story is inspired by a comic book entitled Les Gosses by Carabal. Jean-Charles has to get up to go to school but he wants to sleep in. How will his Mum make him get up???

In this story, you will acquire:
Il dort = he sleeps
Il doit se lever = he must get up
Tu dois aller à l’école = you must go to school
Il n’entend pas = he doesn’t hear

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

P.P.S. I also created another playlist on my YouTube channel where I tell children’s book. The first story is a very cute one although it is about a natural disaster! Watch it here.

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