At L’Ecole des Trois Ponts, we have French class every morning for three hours. Classes are small. The student to teacher ratio is very low. In fact, during my session, the largest class was 5 people, and in my class, I was paired with only one other student. Our teacher was Genevieve.
Genevieve was wonderful! Each day, we would start out just having a conversation, in French of course. It got us talking, and oftentimes we would blabber on for 30 or 40 minutes. It didn’t matter what we were talking about, so long as we were talking. As we conversed, Genevieve was taking notes. And following the conversation, she would walk through mistakes we had made, how to correct them and vocabulary we used or could have used. It was a wonderful way to learn. I expanded my vocabulary significantly through this method.
After we would review some grammar. For example, the difference between the verbs Connaitre and Savoir, which both mean “to know” in French but are used in different contexts.
After a brief review, she would give us some exercises to do, which were tailored to our individual needs. Finally we would end with a fun game or activity that helped us tie together everything we had learned. One day it was a crossword puzzle, another it was a card game similar to the American game, Taboo.
Each night, we were given a small homework assignment to help reinforce everything we had learned.
The style of learning French was so different from how I learned in school. I remember speaking English quite often in French class in high school and even college. I would try to make sense of everything in English. But in this class, even if you were asking how to say something, you tried to describe it in French first. Everything was explained in French and it forced us to think outside of the English language.
Would I change anything about the classes if I could? Certainly. Leveling students is a massive challenge. Our group was essentially divided into two, with one group much more advanced than my group. No matter how hard they try to pair you with other people who are close to your level, there will always be a range of capabilities. Those who are paired with others who are mostly better than them will likely learn a lot more because they are challenged more. However, the opposite could happen, where you’re paired with people that are so much further along than you that a lot of it is going over your head. And if you are the best in your class, you might be slowed down. In talking with the other students in my session, we definitely had a bit of that. There’s no simple solution. Someone will always be the best, and someone will always be the weakest.
The only other thing I wish was that we had more time. The classes were so short that it was difficult to cover a lot in just one week. In terms of grammar, I feel like I only really reviewed a few concepts and verb tenses. It would have been nice to have received a workbook at the beginning of the course with a comprehensive review of all the verb tenses and major grammar concepts that we could review on our time if we wanted. Because I’m not learning French for the first time, oftentimes all it takes is a quick refresh and it all comes back. A simple workbook with the grammar rules laid out would do the trick.