French as a Second Language for ESL Teacher
I have chosen this topic as I have been living in France for the past seven years and I would like to write about how I learned French and how learning this language has helped me in teaching English as a foreign language.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Daniel L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
I remember when I wanted to come to France, I bought a book called 'French in three months'. I followed the instructions, I learned the words and I had the impression that I could speak French albeit very slowly with a terrible accent. On arrival in France, I quickly learned that my French was nowhere near as good as I thought it was. I didn't understand anything more than 'bonjour'. I had learned primarily by reading with very little oral practice. I tried to learn a few songs which gave me some vocabulary but I was still lost.
I started my job in a preschool and luckily there were some bilingual co-workers there to help me. My concentration during the meetings in French didn't last long before I was staring into space wondering if I would ever be able to understand everyone. It was my goal to learn French in two years, so I went out to buy some books to help me, 'The french Verb Workbook' would be my new friend. I would do a chapter or two then try and use my new vocabulary with my coworkers, who would correct my accent and any mistakes I would make.
Over time I started to be able to separate and hear the words on their own, I could ask what a particular word meant, I listened to the radio, I read the newspaper while on the metro, I went to language exchanges, I found new friends and I asked a lot of questions.
I realized that interactive speaking practice was the most effective way to learn a language along with other supports to gain vocabulary. I saw a big improvement after three months, six months even more and after a year of really trying, I finally felt quite comfortable speaking to anyone about a wide range of subjects.
After a few years, I took this to teach English privately. I spoke as much English to my students as possible without overwhelming them, like I was in the meetings. I broke the lessons down into vocabulary to be learned with a game and encourage my students at all times to make sentences.
I think it was in my second year in France that I took the step to read a real novella, it was a translation of Harry Potter. With a vocabulary as my friend, it took a long time to finish but it expanded my vocabulary at the end. I often leave English books with my students to read after we have read them together. It's always a pleasure to see improvements, especially with the accent after studying a book.
Learning a foreign language has been a long and funny journey with lots of mistakes. I like to tell my students there is no learning without mistakes, as when one makes a mistake and it is then explained to you it is highlighted and it more easily remembered. Although I feel fluent today, I am still learning every day, always a new word or expression or slang I've never heard before. I have also started to learn both Spanish and German but that is just fun.
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