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I'm experimenting in teaching French to DD

(89 Posts)
didgeridooda Thu 05-Jan-17 00:00:12

DD is in Yr 7. I'm having a go at teaching her French very informally - saying the odd sentence in French, doing occasional CDs in the car (Pimsleur), occasionally watching a French children's DVD or reading a French toddler book with her. She has also started to do a bit of DuoLingo online. She is quite keen on French now.
After a few months of this, she understands a lot of French.
My older DC has been learning French in private and grammar school for 6 years, and is in top set.
The 2 DC found an online French test. Younger DD got a higher score. Her pronunciation is also better.
I'm sold on this informal method now. And what on earth are the modern language teachers doing? Older DC can still say and understand practically nothing. Why have the schools (those I know) got rid of language labs, for instance? Unless my DD is a great linguistic talent, it's not that hard.

RhodaBull Thu 05-Jan-17 09:25:37

Language teaching in schools is horrific. Ds got A* in French GCSE and his French is awful . My French is infinitely superior (and that's not saying much!) and I got a B over 30 years ago.

They seem to do "topics" now, and to master grammar you really need a lot of practice and rote learning (unless you are immersed in the language, but not many people have this opportunity). So the class might do "sport" and cover vocabulary and a few phrases "J'aime le foot," for example, but then that's put to bed and a few lessons later it's music or films. There does't seem to be a gradual building of grammar skills, and also it's seems to be all about short cuts and how to make things easy .

Consequently with dd I do a bit of French after school every day. I can't say I have a very willing pupil (home ed would have been disastrous!) but I cannot trust the school to deliver in this subject.

didgeridooda Thu 05-Jan-17 09:49:42

I get the impression that the schools focus on teaching a number of set phrases that can be used to answer the commonly asked GCSE questions. Eg "What did you do at the weekend?". It's about passing a basic exam, rather than learning to communicate with French people.
I think that they have lost the plot. I feel as though I'm almost having to invent my own method to teach DD. She's now keen to go on a French exchange. I'm aiming to ensure that she makes the most of her time in a French family, by familiarising her with everyday family language in advance of her going to France. We will do a privately organised exchange. Older DC went on an exchange to Germany with the school, spent most of her time with her English classmates, and the German family spoke to her in English, as of course they were near fluent and she could barely speak a word of German, after years of lessons.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Thu 05-Jan-17 09:59:56

DS got an A in Spanish GCSE and can understand a lot but barely string a sentence together. I have taught him and DH simple German (as we often go to Germany and it's useful to be able to order food and navigate the public transport) and tried Latin but neither of them wanted to know the Latin. It remains my party trick that I can translate random mottos, but I find that DS can speak more German than Spanish.

redexpat Thu 05-Jan-17 10:36:24

It's about passing a basic exam, rather than learning to communicate with French people. Spot on. When we practised in class we only ever used je and tu. So I can't conjugate verbs passed the first and seceond person.

I know someone with an a level in French who cant string a sentence together. It was about 40 years ago now, and they basically did french literature, so she can read a novel and understand it, but can't read or write. So it's not necessarily a new thing!

I would have thought that with the increased focus on teaching english grammar that it would be easier to teach grammar in other languages though?

notanetter Thu 05-Jan-17 11:58:25

Duolingo is brilliant. Our kids have been encouraged to use it as part of their learning at school and at home - after a 90-day 'streak' (they do it every morning over breakfast; their choice, totally) their vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation have all improved dramatically.

jenpetronus Thu 05-Jan-17 12:01:35

My niece needed a huge push in French to get a good grade for her GCSE last year - it was the only subject letting her down. She came here to Brittany to spend a week in college (4eme) with DS1 - the idea was total immersion. She's a clever girl, but could not understand anything - DS1 and the English teachers had to translate all week for her. I was apalled. OP I'd carry on as you are, I'm struggling to believe how bad the language teaching is in the UK if my niece is anything to go by.

drivinmecrazy Thu 05-Jan-17 12:25:18

DD1 is taking GCSE spanish this year, she is appalled by the syllabus, as is her teacher, a native spanish speaker.
DD1's last speaking assessment was about holidays, all she had to do was to write a piece and generally learn verbatim.
Poor DD1 was horrified when her teacher went off piste and her assessment lasted 20 minutes. She was convinced she had ruined the whole thing, hence teacher giving her more opprtunity to correct herself.
In fact it resulting her getting an A* for the assessment and her teacher said he kept her talking because she was his only student he could have a fluid conversation with!
Only weak point is DDs accent. She has a Murcian accent because that is where she has learnt the lingo since she was 18 months old. Interestingly her teacher is also from the Murcia region but he must mark her down for having a local accent.
Nowt wrong with the system hmm

Bobochic Thu 05-Jan-17 12:28:46

OP - please don't lay the blame for the appalling MFL situation in English secondary schools with the poor teachers. The syllabi are beyond a joke...

GinIsIn Thu 05-Jan-17 12:35:24

I grew up bilingual, and am basic conversational in a few more languages. My mum speaks 3 languages fluently. DC1 is due soon and we plan to just bring him up by chatting to him in other languages from the get-go, and not bother with the atrocious teaching on offer in UK schools. It's sad how limiting it is!

FreshStartJanuary Thu 05-Jan-17 12:38:28

Duolingo has been popular here.

RaskolnikovsGarret Thu 05-Jan-17 12:38:29

Language teaching/the syllabus is appalling - it's all about learning set pieces, not the grammar rules. I have had to teach my daughters the German grammar rules, as they are barely touched on in school. And I've had French and German conversations with them, so they can actually have a conversation beyond the set pieces.

Unfortunately I never learned Spanish, so my second daughter will be on her own with that. But I am hoping the new GCSEs will be better??

leccybill Thu 05-Jan-17 12:43:23

MFL teacher here. Believe me, we hate the curriculum and how we're forced to deliver it too.
Schools don't quite know how to treat MFL, it's a bit of an anomaly, so it is delivered in many different ways, but the general pattern is that curriculum time is decreasing to about 2 hours a week.

I'd love to go off piste, I'm still passionate about languages even after 13 years in this crappy system, but if my results are anything other than my pin-sharp predictions, I'll be quite literally in the firing line.

INeedNewShoes Thu 05-Jan-17 12:43:38

I would really like to do this with my own child in future but my own french pronunciation isn't great (very much the result of being taught french by teachers who were English and me not being a natural mimic anyway).

Would it be daft for me to speak french with my child if I'm not brilliant at it myself?

My understanding is pretty good (especially of written french) and I would really like to help any children of mine not struggle with the spoken side like I do.

jenpetronus Thu 05-Jan-17 12:44:04

As a parent of DC's going through the French system I find this really interesting - and sad. The system here is odd in many ways imho, but the basics of grammar are solidly taught (in English & Spanish anyway I haven't a clue what he learns in Latin as I don't know a single word) It's a wasted opportunity and quite awful the curriculem is so lacking in the UK.

givemushypeasachance Thu 05-Jan-17 12:50:19

GCSE languages are a joke. I did mine in the early 00's - I really can't speak French at all. I can understand and write a little bit, using a dictionary for support, and can say a few learnt by rote phrases. I got an A. It's nonsense.

TheDrsDocMartens Thu 05-Jan-17 12:53:22

The new ones are slightly better but still not near where they should be, A-level seems more grammar focussed.

drivinmecrazy Thu 05-Jan-17 13:02:31

DD is really excited about starting A level spanish. It seems to be far more rounded.
She's excited to learn about the politics, culture and history of spanish speaking countries along side the language.
Sounds like it will be a far more holistic learning experience rather than learning things in isolation, with no relevance or reference to real life.
I would like to add that I think MFL teachers do an incredible job given their restrictions. It must be so hard to be passionate about your subject yet be so constrained by a curriculum that neither inspires nor excites your students.
A huge opportunity wasted.

Cherylene Thu 05-Jan-17 13:15:23

I thought O level French did nothing to help you speak the language hmm but many years down the line I realised, when doing DS's GCSE homework, that it was a hell of a lot more useful than anything he had learned. I did an O level course that was mainly paper based as I came from an area with an accent not compatible with French, so the school chose to do that.

However, the work DS did for his oral was what we were doing in the first year.

The MFL teachers at DC's school were great, BTW, and well aware of the deficiencies. They tried very hard to counteract the lack of interest in the school (and it was a 'nice' comprehensive) and there were just not enough of them.

If I had been more switched on and French stuff as available online as it is now, I should have done what you are doing, OP. I did buy some extra books, but it was heavy going.

FreshStartJanuary Thu 05-Jan-17 13:18:13

Cheryl I agree. My O level s and even an a level didn't get me speaking much but gave me a grammatical base to build on. I know it didn't work for everyone but the current methods seem to work for noone.

Bobochic Thu 05-Jan-17 13:20:53

jenpetronus - as another parent with DC who have gone through/are in the French system, I agree that the teaching of language fundamentals is way more thorough and effective in French schools than in English schools. I'm also agog at how much English and American literature my DD (5eme) is covering this year - Call of the Wild, Moby Dick, Oliver Twist... I'm not sure English DC study French authors much in Y8 in their literature class!

RhodaBull Thu 05-Jan-17 13:35:47

I was glad to do hardly any speaking in my O and A Level languages. I hate speaking out loud even now! I agree with FreshStartJanuary that now it seems to be neither one thing nor t'other, in that the speaking bit is learnt off by heart and there is barely any grammar.

Back in my day (my constant refrain) we had to do unseen translation back and forth and also write a short essay with a given title. I still remember the French one was "A tiger has escaped from the zoo..." My piece consisted of quite a few "Au secours!" and "Sacre bleu!"s grin

MrsBernardBlack Thu 05-Jan-17 13:53:49

This is the difference between having a qualification in a subject, i.e. A in GCSE, and having an education i.e. actually being able to understand and communicate in a language.
Modern schooling seems to have confused the two.

Bobochic Thu 05-Jan-17 14:05:16

It's a very fair point, MrsBernardBlack. When a qualification is no guarantee of an education it's somewhat worrying.

didgeridooda Thu 05-Jan-17 14:43:47

INeed: If your spoken French isn't great, you can learn/improve it with your DC. So do the CDs with them in the car, set up your own DuoLingo account, and maybe go to an evening class. You will soon improve, and then be able to chat with them in simple French. My French is not bad, certainly not fluent. If I don't know a word, I replace it with something else, or if all else fails just say it in English. I also look things up in the dictionary sometimes. My main aim is to enable DD to communicate, rather than to become fluent. My German is a lot rustier, but I am thinking of doing that with DD too. Her school doesn't do German, so that would avoid the problem of her being bored in MFL classes. I am really keen for her to feel herself to be European, despite Brexit.
I'm not sure what I think about grammar. My gut feeling is to do fairly minimal grammar initially, and to let DD absorb grammar through listening and speaking. Then when she's taken in quite a lot of the language,she should be able to learn the grammar rules quickly and easily. Similar to a French child. That's my theory, anyway. Will no doubt be harder to do that with German.

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