French Input

French the natural way: how to aid comprehension?

Coucou les French learners,

La confiance, confidence is key !


“One earns confidence by drops and loses it by litres” Jean-Paul Sartre

Over the past few weeks, I have truly come to believe that gaining confidence is key to acquire another language. I already talked about it in my last newsletter. Many learners who I meet have lost confidence. From my own experience, I lost confidence in German. At this stage, it feels like, as a student, you are “on the defensive”, your brain is lockedStevick uses this term in his book Memory, Meaning, and Method.

Comprehension is the other key to unlock the brain and boost confidence. Once you understand some or most of another language, your confidence increases by BIG drops. Once your confidence increases, your brain opens itself to receive more input.

It is un cercle vertueux, a virtuous circle.

L’input optimal

Optimal input is comprehensible input to language learners. It focuses the acquirer on the message and not on form. To go a step further, the best input is so interesting and relevant that the acquirer may even “forget” that the message is encoded in a foreign language.

My goal as a second language teacher (I prefer to call myself language parent) is to help make input comprehensible and interesting.

I use supplementations to achieve this goal:

  • Drawings
  • Written Words
  • Gestures (Body Movements)
  • Mimic (Facial Expressions)
  • Synonyms/Antonyms, Suffix/Prefix, Parts of Speech, Word Families
  • Learner’s First Language
  • Slow & Clear Speech
  • Shorter, Easier Sentences
  • Quick Explanation about the rules of the Language. The explanation may make the input more comprehensible.
Source: https://storiesfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/SF_handout_supplements.pdf

Des exemples à la fin de sessions de français en ligne.

My amazing German teacher, Kathrin Shechtman wrote a thoughtful post on her perspective as a student learning French, the “traditional way” and Spanish with me (you can watch Spanish stories I told her which I recorded on my YouTube channel). She illustrated the supplementations beautifully:


Dr. Stephen Krashen & Dr. Beniko Mason, 2017 (Graphic: Kathrin Shechtman, 2018)

By using these tools, the “language parent” helps learners acquire more and gain confidence.

#inputaloneissufficient

Une histoire et un livre

As you may already know, Halloween is not my cup of tea!

However I did make a video about a spooky story Le doigt de pied poilu !

Gaining confidence in reading is also key. That is why it is best to start with easy readers. They are repetitive and simple and use many cognates and high-frequency words to make the book comprehensible. Jean-Paul et ses bonnes idées is perfect!

I love hearing from you so keep up sending me feedback. I am here to help you acquire French effortlessly.

Happy French acquisition!

#trusttheprocess

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 The 30 scripts of the season 1 videos are nearly ready!!! Watch out for the eBook (pdf) release in December!


French the natural way: one story a day

Coucou les French learners,

Comment allez-vous ? How are you doing?

The weather is getting much colder where I live and I feel like staying at home, doing yoga and listening to stories!

It is freezing, it’s not wrong. (It is a play on word because une caille also means a quail.  On se caille is a very familiar expression).

I actually decided not to give up on German! I have been lucky to meet an amazing German teacher, Kathrin Schechtman who tells me German stories every week. In exchange, I tell her Spanish stories.

It is so interesting to be in the place of the learner. I am acquiring a lot of German subconsciously and I am learning a lot as a language teacher. I have now listened to 4 different stories. Being able to understand them with ease has given me a lot of confidence.

The other day, I had to make a phone call in German and in the past I would have avoided it at all costs! This time, I felt confident to call and to explain myself in German. When I didn’t know a word, I had the confidence to try to explain it using other words I knew. At some point in the conversation, the words were flowing without me having to think about what I wanted to say. I don’t know if what I said was accurate or not, but the person on the other hand of the line understood me and I got what I wanted!

It was a mini achievement for me but I felt great.

Story Listening gives you confidence.

#inputaloneissufficient 

#trusttheprocess

Une histoire par jour

Two weeks ago, I also met another amazing Russian teacher called Tanya from Belarus. I met her online because she got intrigued by the Story Listening approach.

Tanya started to watch at least one story a day pour acquérir le Franςais naturellement ! She then shared her impressions about listening to French stories each day:

remember my first impressions very well. The thought of “yes, I’ve got it!!!” giving you a feeling of being able to fly!

I have studied French for a while: using Duolingo,  Michel Thomas and Pimsleur audio podcasts, reading non adapted books by Ilya Frank method, enjoying Joe Dassin songs and even having some French classes in library clubs (without a native speaker). All of these resources were quite helpful, but they didn’t help much with the aural perception, which I think is the most challenging skill for all learners. Your way of teaching really involves students in a story “deeply but effortlessly”.

Certainly, the degree of language acquisition depends on your initial level, whether you know other foreign languages, on the time you spend on it, eventually on your own willingness. And still I must say the method itself means very much! And there is one more important note. The person (the storyteller) is also very important – not only his or her experience, but also the manner in which s/he tells the story!

First of all we follow the plot of the story, empathizing with the characters, sometimes thinking afterwards over the whole day about their behavior, actions or about the end of the story. Then, day after day, your hear the same words at the beginning and at the end of each story, and you notice that phrase, for instance “mets-le dans les commentaires”. Unintentionally it continues to “sound” in your head. Very soon you understand that it not only “sounds” but also “asks” you to repeat it! “Mets-le dans les commentaires” sounds like a song, and you pronounce it in a way the storyteller says it.

When you watch these video, the primary aim is to grasp the story, to comprehend it in general. But in the course of time (for me two weeks) you want to understand every detail of it. So you can watch the story once again with subtitles, and this is a good exercise! You listen to the same story (already knowing its background) and you follow the written script.  Thus unconsciously, little by little, you will acquire the grammar. Of course, it will not be too complicated, because the story itself is intended for foreigners with a low language level.

And finally, what I am going to do with the most touching video – I will repeat this story, word after word, trying to keep the same intonation and pronunciation of the native speaker.

These notes are good for those people who want not only entertainment with the story, but also to move ahead with the language itself. Thank you very much for the strong motivation to study French, one of the most beautiful languages of the world.”

I LOVE Tanya’s feedback and comments on her own experience with Story Listening. They are truly beautiful!

What is your own experience?

 Une légende d’Amérique du Nord

This week’s story is a legend from the Native Americans, Cherokee. It is about the birth of strawberries.

As Tanya says: “follow the plot of the story, empathize with the characters, think the whole day about their behavior, actions or the end of the story…

Happy French acquisition!

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 confiance en soi

Coucou les French learners,

I am back from beautiful Portugal and en plein boum, in full swing!


The most important is not to let yourself overwhelmed.

Prendre confiance

As I am working at full speed this week, I am also taking the time to reflect on my ten days in Portugal. Whilst I was there, I noticed Portuguese people were opened to other languages. Every time I would speak to them in my Spanish-Portuguese mix, they would be opened to listen to me and understand me. I did not meet any Portuguese shutting down as I would speak in my bad Portuguese.


Le marché à Vila Verde.

Another amazing thing I noticed is that most Portuguese can speak two ot three other languages, mostly French or English. The taximan who drove us to the airport spoke French to us. He did some grammar and vocabulary mistakes but we could understand him. When I asked him if he had lived in France, he said he had learned French at school and that was it. However, he said French and Portuguese were similar and therefore he could get by.

He absolutely didn’t care about making mistakes, he wanted to have a conversation with us.

This is la confiance, confidence.


Confidence is difficult to obtain, but so easy to lose…

Many of my learners are too self-conscious and therefore they hesitate to speak because they fear, they are going to make mistakes. Most of the time, they are actually right! But they don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust their brains!

This is the affective filter : an invisible psychological filter that can either facilitate or hinder language production in a second language.

The Collaborative Classroom blog explains that

When the filter is high, you:

  • experience stress
  • feel anxious and self-conscious
  • The lack of self-confidence might inhibit success in acquiring the second language
  • are reluctant to participate and seek out opportunities to collaborate

When the filter is low, you:

  • become a risk-taker as you manipulate language
  • feel safe in making mistakes without judgement and constant corrections
  • feel empowered to interact and seek out models of language

My job as a language parent is to lower the affective filter as much as possible.

Recently, American actor Bradley Cooper was interviewed in the French program Quotidien. He speaks fluently although he is making mistakes. However, he admits himself he doesn’t care about making errors. He is confident, his affective filter is low.

C’est fantastique, it is amazing, n’est-ce pas ? Isn’t it?

YOU CAN DO IT TOO!

#trusttheprocess

#inputaloneissufficient

Un livre parfait pour débutants

Reading is a powerful way to boost confidence. This article on GettingBalance mentions that reading:

  • reduces stress. “Reading just six minutes every day has been proven to reduce stress, and thirty minutes a day reduces stress by over sixty percent. That lack of stress can easily become an increase in confidence.
  • increases knowledge. “The most important part is that you read something you enjoy. Almost everything you read can increase your knowledge. The more you read, the more information you’ll gather, giving you the confidence you’ll need.”
  • makes you happier. “By reading, you can take yourself anywhere to somewhere you can forget about your problems for a while. It’s been shown to be a form of meditation that engages your mind. When you’re back from your mental vacation, you’ll be refreshed and in a happier state, which will boost your confidence.”

This week’s video is part of Critiques de livres series. In this short video, I recommend you to read this fun easy short novel in French about a little girl’s adventures in Paris “ Les aventures d’Isabelle “. This book is parfait, perfect if you it is your first or second French book and you need to gain confidence!

I love hearing from you so keep up sending me feedback. I am here to help you acquire French effortlessly.

Happy French acquisition!

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: the more you read...

Coucou les French learners,

I am writing to you from lovely Portugal right now enjoying the sun and the heat.


A Braga, au nord du Portugal.

Have a look at my Instagram account to see more pictures of mon séjour, my stay there.

La marieuse

Jim Trelease, educator and author who stresses reading aloud to children as a way to instill in them the love of literature, said “The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it. And the more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

As a language parent, I try to instil the love of reading in another language to my learners. I am constantly in the look for the right book. So my job involves reading a lot too!

Reading aloud during our online sessions is also key to ease my learners into reading in French (or Spanish, or English too!).

I am the marieuse, the matchmaker!

Here is what Jim Trelease writes in The Read-Aloud Handbook: “When someone becomes a teacher, s/he’s like the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof. All year long she’s trying to entice students to go out on dates with authors—that is, to pick up this book or that book and spend twenty minutes with the author, someone they’ve never met. The better she knows her students and authors or books, the more successful will be the “matchmaking.” But the teacher (or librarian) who doesn’t read much will fail for sure.

This is exactly what I try to do with my learners from all over the world. Sometimes l’entremise, the matchmaking fails. But when it happens, it is magical! It is so rewarding to watch my learners read many books in French or in Spanish.

The more you read, the more you understand; and the more you acquire the language, the more you become fluent.

Here is another great website to order French books from North America. It has lots of interesting titles!

#inputaloneissufficient

#trusttheprocess

Contes pour Caprine

This week’s new video is a tale written by Belgian author and poet Maurice Carême. It is part of a collection of tales entitled Contes pour Caprine. In her blog, Maghily writes about this collection of tales which is available as an Ebook.

Maurice Carême also wrote many poems which are popular in French schools. Read one of his poems about l’automne, fall and a comprehensible version of his life.

The tale I am sharing with you in Season 4 comes from China and is entitled La boule magique. It is a longer story (24 minutes) so have your favorite cup of coffee or tea nearby, sit in your favourite chair and ENJOY!

I love hearing from you so keep up sending me feedback. I am here to help you acquire French effortlessly.

Happy French acquisition!

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: octobre (and more about grammar)

Coucou les French learners,

C’est déjà le mois d’octobre ! It is already October! Le temps passe vite ! time goes fast!

I am not ready.

Une chanson sur l’automne

There is this song by popular French singer Francis Cabrel (I just found out he was born in Agen!) entitled Octobre which is simply beautiful:

You can listen to it and fill in the gaps on this interactive page. This exercise is actually about noticing the simple future in French by filling in all the verbs. Although this particular activity will make you read the song and get more input, it is worth wondering if noticing in second language acquisition actually helpful?

“The claim that second language learners must consciously notice the grammatical form of their input in order to acquire grammar” is called the Noticing Hypothesis.

John Truscott at the National Tsing Hua University writes: ” I argue, first, that the foundations of the hypothesis in cognitive psychology are weak; research in this area does not support it, or even provide a clear interpretation for it. The problem of interpreting the hypothesis is much more acute in the area of language acquisition… The various problems can be eliminated or greatly reduced if the Noticing Hypothesis is reformulated as a claim that noticing is necessary for the acquisition of meta-linguistic knowledge but not competence.

In other words, if you are looking to master grammar rules, noticing and learning the rules consciously is helpful. However, if you want to become competent in another language, it is not efficient to just notice grammar structures. It is much more efficient to listen and to read and to let your brain do the work subconsciously.

I experienced it myself when I acquired Spanish. At first, I was only listening and trying to understand the people around me. It is much later when I could understand 90% of spoken Spanish, that I started to notice grammar structures and that I felt the need to notice them. First all you need is a massive dose of rich comprehensible input.

#inputaloneissufficient

#trusttheprocess

Crier au loup

Do you know this expression “to cry wolf”? It directly comes from Aesop’s fable ” Le garçon qui criait au loup ” which is my new season 4 story.

There are many French expressions with le loup, the wolf certainly because there were many wolves in the past in France. They are now back, even in la Bretagne where they had disappeared for a century! Read this article published in the newspaper Ouest France.

You can also say: à trop crier au loup, on en voit le museau, when you shout wolf too much, you see its muzzle or à trop crier au loup, on finit par ne plus y croire, when you shout wolf too much, we end up not believing it anymore.

Did you already know this story in your own language? Let me know in the comments below.

I love hearing from you so keep up sending me feedback. I am here to help you acquire French effortlessly.

Happy French acquisition!

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 :-)


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