How to Teach English to a French Speaker
Teaching English as a Second Language
How To Teach English To French People
Learning a new language is not an easy thing. And teaching your mother tongue to someone who never spoke it is not easy either.
In the chart of difficulties in teaching a language, there is one that beats all the others: teaching English as a foreign language to French speakers.
Don't take me wrong, though. French speakers are not stupid or less intelligents than others. They just have some particularities than no other speaker has. Most of these particularities are entire part of their mother tongue: French; which is not a "singing" language. (This does not apply to Quebecois).
To help you ease the process and better understand how a French speaker comprehends a foreign language, read this page dedicated to teaching English to a French student.
NB. This article does not claim any scientific validity and is primarily a collection of simple and effective tips to help you teach simple English to French person. Moreover, it has been written by a former English student, not a teacher: because a teacher considers something easy does not imply that it is actually easy.
Learning Engish as a Second Language Should Not Lead To Stress
Make Sure Your French Student Gets Relaxed
Less stress leads to more positive results
French speakers - at least Europeans - have a Latin mind and don't like to get stressed. Latin people have less discipline than Germans, Brits or Americans. For instance, while any French speaker would agree with you when you say "don't whine, do it!" the sentence does not have the same meaning for them than it has for you. Aggressiveness is not an option either. Work to their rhythm, it will be profitable to both you and your student.
It is also important to know that all French speakers do not speak alike. For instance, Belgians, French and Swiss do not share the exact same pronunciation of some letters and words. Sometimes, even the meaning and the context of use of these words can be different. Last but not least, their accent is quite different and therefore their ability to learn English or any other foreign language's pronunciation.
As simple example, while Belgians and Swiss use "seventy" and "ninety", French use "sixty-ten" and "eighty-ten". French and Belgians use "four-twenty" but Swiss use "eighty". When a Belgian pronounces the letter "W", French say "V". A "mop" in French means a "rag" in Belgian. And so on.
English Grammar Exercises
Help Your French Student Build Their Sentences
Common mistakes in English grammar
Grammar is an essential part of teaching a foreign language. It is thus very important to let your English student know how to structure/build their sentences. Indeed, French is a complicated, yet beautiful, language with sentences built in a certain way. However, when a French speaker translates their sentences, their English or any other foreign language, becomes a massacre.
So, you will have to convince your student that they don't have to pay attention to how the sentence would sound in French. The only important thing, when learning a new language is to worry about how the sentence would sound in this very new language.
For instance, explain why they are going to write "Hope to HEAR from you soon" to someone whom they are expecting to get a LETTER from. Or why they are going to meet your friends ON Friday (in French would mean "upon") and not simply Friday.
Teaching English Conjuguation
Language Learning - Explain English Conjuguation
Present perfect, present continuous... what???
English conjuguation... my personal nightmare. When I ended my English courses, I was actually level C1 on the European Language Chart. However, I still have to think twice when I write something that involves conjuguation and I'm pretty sure that I still make mistakes.
Therefore it is highly important to teach your French speaking student that they have to forget ALL about French tenses.
Let's take an example. We use simple past in literature and not in everyday language. Problem: the English simple past is NOT the same as the French one. You will thus have to teach your student that is is very important to keep it in mind.
Another example is that we do not have present and past continuous tenses in French so give them tips on when and how they will have to use it. It is really important to spend some time on this matter as otherwise, your student might end up speaking some kind of extra-terrestrial language.
Tools for Teachers
How to Teach English As a Foreign Language
When starting to teach English or any foreign language, it is important to know how the whole scheme works.
Indeed, being good at speaking a language is necessary but being a teacher is more than that. Not only this requires educational skills but it also asks for sacrifices as it is a real "priesthood".
Therefore, it is necessary to take measures and getting as much information as possible on the topic. Having some how to teach videos will also help a lot.
Could You Speak Slowly, Please?
Do Not Speak Too Fast When Teaching English To a French Speaker
Tips for French speakers learning English
Another thing to keep in mind when you teach English to a French speaker is to not speaking to fast.
I've had English classes with both Americans, Brits and Belgians. Obviously, Belgians were the ones who spoke the most slowly and in the most understandable way. The reason being that they too were basically French speakers. My American and English professors spoke normally but not too fast, in a way that we clearly understood what they said.
So, make a point of speaking clearly and do not eat parts of your words. Your English student might just copycat what they heard and therefore their sentences will be disastrous.
How To Teach English To French People - Resources
Berlitz has been teaching foreign languages to people for more than 100 years, in 450+ countries all over the planet. They are my favorite source to learn new languages.
- Teaching English | British Council | BBC
Teaching English is a very good online resource for English teachers online. You will find all the tools you need to support your job.
- Collins dictionary for English beginners
The Collins Dictionary for English beginners is an easy way to learn English, it is also a good resource for teachers who wish to provide their students with comprehensive examples.
- English Town
Education First (EF) Englishtown is an online English school which has 29,000 teachers in 50 countries and years of experience to provide you with top classes.
The Phonetic Alphabet
Study The Sounds Easily "Heard" by French Speakers
Phonetic alphabet might trouble your French students
Unlike other people on Earth who hear/understand or comprehend seven (or more) different sounds, French speakers only comprehend up to two sounds (perhaps even three) of a language. This is due mostly to our French sounds, which are "dumb sounds" or "silent sounds" and even "nasal sounds"; i.e. "an", "in", "un", "on", "eu", "au", "ai", "ouin", "oin", "ion", "eau", etc.
Actually, we do not pronounce all letters of a word (cf. the four nasal vowels) and most ending consonants of our words remain silent unless they are followed by a vowel. Wikipedia's International Phonetic Alphabet is a good resource.
When you teach English to French speakers, have some tips ready for them to understand how to pronounce your language properly.
Use the phonetic alphabet
Any language teacher makes use of the phonetic alphabet. While this might look complicated to some, it is important to teach your English student how to pronounce the letters/sounds/words and recognize their signs.
Show Your French Students How To Pronounce Words
Use Graphics to help your Student understand the Sounds
How do I teach a French person to say the "th" sound?
While it is important to recognize the phonetic alphabet, it is more important to recall that French speakers only recognize one or two sounds and the phonetic alphabet might not be sufficient to help them pronounce English properly.
To help them with English pronunciation, I would suggest to create some graphics. The graphics above might look funny but it would really "show" a French speaker how to pronounce English words. Actually, I translated the english words into French sounds - some of them sound by sound. And I insisted on some sounds as, for instance, the French pronunciation of the letter "W" in France is "V" and in Belgium is "W" like in English.
Example 1 French pronunciation of Orleans --> Orl-é-an (French "é" - dumb "an" - silent "s") --> Orl-ay-an
Example 2 French pronunciation of journey --> j-ou-rn-ée (dumb "ou" - French "é") --> J-oo-rn-ay
I'm pretty sure you would not want your student to pronounce English in this horrible way!
How do I teach a French person to say the "th" sound?
Easy: tell them to do like if they would have ONE hair on their tongue (in French language, one can have whether one or more hair).
Perfecting English Accent
Suggest Additional Materials To Learn English
A great tip to help you teach English to French speakers is to recommend some additonal materials. As a matter of fact, most students will not keep on speaking your language once the class has ended. They will not watch TV or listen to the radio in English either - or very few of them will do so. Then their environment might be French speaking and not of any help.
For such a reason you can help your students perfect their English pronunciation using modern tools such as Kindle, DVD and more. One of the tools I'd recommend for those who face problems with pronunciation is this set that will enable them to greatly improve their way to comprehend the sounds. It is also available on paperback version that comes with 2 DVDs.
French Pronunciation Specificities
One English Language Might Hide Another
Tell your French Student that American English Might Be Easier To Learn
Is there any shortcut to easily teach English?
One of the things I learned when I started my journey on the Internet is that American English is different than British English. Indeed, as a French speaker, I had to recall many specifications of the oral English. How do you pronounce "Worcestershire sauce" or even "'Worcester Sauce"; which is supposed to be easier to pronounce?
I discovered that Americans pronounce the words like I would do - by pronouncing almost all letters of the words. Your students might find it easier too.
Showing Off Their New Knowledge
Have your French Student Make a Public Presentation
Tip to catch your French student's mistakes
One of the best ways to know how much your student evolved is through a presentation.
Let them choose the topic of their presentation. If you teach a particular field of the language - for instance Commercial English - ask them to make a presentation related to one Commercial related niche, such as marketing, negotiation, dealing with complaints, etc. Ask them to use the vocabulary you taught during the classes.
A presentation will enable your student to use their fresh knowledge. Take note of all errors during the presentation and correct them orally afterwards. Send your student a written copy of their mistakes along with the corrections so that they will better understand where and when they made them.
Tell your French Student How Much they Improved their Knowledge
Congratulations are essential!
After their presentation, give your student an English assessment chart so that they can learn how much they progressed and improved their English practice.
Above all, make your student happy and congratulate them for their efforts. They will thank you for the fantastic job you did and will be grateful for ever!
This page is dedicated to my three wonderful English teachers: Lena (USA), Christine (UK) and Nathalie (Belgium). Thank you so much for the great job you did.
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