The Language Learning Process: Ep. 3 French


Rita Li

In this episode, sophomore Zadie Martin interviews French teacher Aimeric Lajuzan, sophomore Riley Ringness, and sophomore Ayla Rivers regarding the French language learning process at SPA.

Martin: [Introduction] Hi, my name is Zadie Martin, your host for Today on episode 3 of the language podcast, where we learn all about the different language curriculum at SPA. Today we take a look at French with Mr. Lajuzan, Ayla Rivers, and Riley Ringness

Lajuzan: I’m Aimeric Lajuzan, I am a French teacher. I use he/him.

Martin: Um, what level do you teach?

Lajuzan: I teach level three and four.

Martin: How do you get started teaching people who are completely new to French?

Lajuzan: So it’s actually funny. I’ve never done that, because I’m a native speaker. I have often been placed with the more advanced levels. What you do, what I know that my colleagues do is that they kind of do everyday things that you do, that you’re used to doing in English, like greeting new people, like saying what your name is, things like that. And from there, you start teaching how you say things like “I am” or “I like”, things like that. And you add more words to extend the vocabulary. So, like, early on, it’s like learning a lot of expressions for like the basically describing yourself, say, like talking about your family and things like that, explaining. It’s all things you can do in a very advanced level too, you just add more so to it. So I might not be the best person.

Martin: How do you – How are you planning or ,right now, preparing your students for upcoming exams?

Lajuzan: I don’t have an exam in my classes. It’s a big project that kind of summarizes everything we’ve done in the quarter, like reminding them of what they know. Because if you just give a long list of tenses and things like that, the students might panic and think “Well, I don’t remember this”. But you might tell them like the name of the tense and they’re like “I don’t know how to use that.” And then you say, “Yeah, but can you talk about things that happened to you in the past? Say, “oh, yeah,”. So you do remember this. They don’t always remember the grammatical name of things, but they will remember the skills that are attached to that. So a thing that we do a lot in language classes is reminding students what they-what they know how to do, not like, what they know how to conjugate or that kind of thing. So I can talk about something that happened. I can talk about things I want to do. We can talk about what I will do like that kind of stuff. So kind of like reconnecting them with what they know because they-they know much more than they think they do.

Martin: Um, what other teaching styles, websites or tools do you use?

Lajuzan: Well, we use quite a bit of Flipgrid. I know that it’s used in all languages. So it’s a great tool to record conversations and then I can take my time and see eveyones instead of having to go around listening to everyone in class. So anything that can make, like the class time used well, will be a great tool. So there are things that you don’t need to do in the class. And so yeah, like, maybe in the homework, I’ll put the flip grid link and say “Talk to me about this for a minute”. And if I had to do that in class, it would take half an hour. Now it still takes me half an hour to listen to everyone, but at least like in class, we can be just focused on talking to each other and doing activities. I like to also bring in stuff that has to do with France, like websites that have funny videos or other things like that. Like right now, we just watched a video in class with some people in France who were being asked to say some hard words in English. And then later I show my students the opposite, like some Americans don’t know French and who we’re gonna say French words. So things that make that connect French to the bigger world. It’s not just about grammar and things that you do in class, but it’s Yeah, so that kind of thing. Any other websites are available for free. If you want to practice grammar and like conjugating tenses, you can go there and you answer questions and it tells you immediately if you’re right or not. So yeah. Thinking of others, as I know my students use bon patron. It’s a website where you can copy and paste text and it will tell you if you made mistakes or not, but it’s not going to correct it for you. So it’s awesome because then my students can see like, it will tell them, these two tenses don’t work together. One of them is incorrect, or the ending here is incorrect, or that kind of thing. And so the students still have to think about what is wrong and how to correct that and that’s great like that really helps my students. If they’re stuck, they can come and talk to me. And it doesn’t do the work for them. So it’s the equivalent of showing the teacher what you did. So that’s pretty cool.

Martin: How do you differentiate teaching style by level? Because you teach 3 and 4.

Lajuzan: Yeah, yeah. So the two levels I teach are back to back so I can see the difference. Like there, I use a little more English, actually quite a bit more of English in level three, especially to explain grammar. I also make a lot of hand gestures. I speak a lot slower. In level four I start talking more naturally and because of also what we do in class in level four, it’s easier to just do everything in French. And there’s, like, English only every now and then for me explaining something cultural that, like I want to -I want to get like I want to do it fast. But other than that you’re a lot more French. And as you get to number four, and I know that level five Madam Kermen it’s a lot more conversations. Yeah, I think that’s the biggest difference. It also counts more in the grade like the speaking and listening exercises are, it counts for more points.

Martin: How do you introduce French culture to your students?

Lajuzan: Um, a lot of stories of my childhood. Things that you know I-I keep in touch with what’s going on in France, like I have a lot of siblings, some who are much younger than me who just finished high school. So they taught me about stuff that they watched after the like, and then I bring that into the class and like so, connecting the students lives with what the French person’s life is like. Who is their age or who likes the same things that helps connect and make it real. And I know that often when we’re going over grammar. I’ll tell my students that. Like, you don’t have to worry about this or that because nobody says it. But you should focus on this part. So like being able to use a verb with like I or U is super important, but then don’t worry about “he” or “they” because nobody says that again.

Martin: From your perspective, what is the easiest way for things to pick up French or different languages in general?

Lajuzan: Immersion, I would say, if you’re if you really, really need to know the language for some reason, I would say just like getting a little -a few lessons of course, like learning a little bit of basic stuff. But then, like going there and just experience and when you don’t have a choice like that, I mean, that’s how kids learn languages. You don’t sit down with a toddler and make them repeat verbs or anything like that. So doing things. They’ll pick up on that. I worked for 10 years at Concordia Language Villages, and we’ve had kids that came with knowing no French at all, when they left, they knew a ton, but they couldn’t sit down and conjugate the verb but they would be able to just speak and say “hey I knew that”. I don’t know if you’re, you’re playing a sport like they know some of the things that you say when you do that. Or when you’re doing crafts. They knew all the names of the different items they used or the new trends, tools for drawing and that kind of thing. And you pick it up as you go then, but it’s easier said than done.

Martin: How have you seen your students improve over the semester?

Lajuzan: It really depends. Like, sometimes I go back and listen to some of the very first recordings they make, and I can hear the difference in the pronunciation or the things that they’ve learned. So typically, it’s just, yeah, it’s like this for some students, it will be the fluidity of how the speak for some other students that will be like how many different, like what variety of things can be talked about. And then there’s all the content to make, especially the level 4, when we are more interested in themes that have to do French society. They’ll be know much more about, well, actually level 3, they know a lot more about the French school system, for example. So they’ll be able to discuss things like that. So yeah, one of the main things where you can see that.

Ringness: Riley Ringness, I’m in 10th grade, he/him.

Martin: What level of French are you in?

Ringness: Third, third one.

Martin: What teacher do you have?

Ringness: Mr. Lajuzan.

Martin: Why did you choose to take French?

Ringness: I had a bad experience with Spanish. And I thought that French is the easiest option so I just chose French.

Martin: Um, when you were beginning French what was the hardest, easiest and most fun parts?

Ringness: Oh, uh, I think the hardest thing was kind of remembering things that were French and not Spanish because everybody can just speaking in Spanish, but also just remembering, like masculine and feminine.

Ringness: What were the other two?

Martin: And then what were the easiest and fun parts.

Ringness: The easiest I think was actually like just the actual vocab. I don’t know, learning like certain phrases are pretty fun, and just being able to communicate better. I guess.

Martin: Has any that changed for right now?

Ringness: Um, maybe a little bit. I think what’s harder now is conjugations and grammar, that kinda stuff and remembering all the different tenses as well as masculine and feminine, I still can’t get those. and then what’s easier now is again, learning phrases . And oh, something that’s fun, last year. Relationship words, we got to write love poems and just kind of talking about like friendships, and that was really fun.

Martin: What’s a typical day look like in class for you?

Ringness: Um, usually we just all sit around, the last couple weeks we’ve been taking notes, So, Mr. Lajuzan will write on the board and then we will take notes on our computer or notebooks and then usually we’ll review the vocab and maybe play a kahoot.

Martin: What has been your favorite unit so far and why?

Ringness: Again, I think the relationship unit was the most fun, it was just fun being able to talk about friends and stuff.

Martin: What do you think are the most important aspects of learning French?

Ringness: Well, if you want to go to France, it’s really useful. I’m all into the idea that if you’re going to go to another country, you should, like learn the language because it’s polite. And I just think it’s really disrespectful to go to places and expect that everyone’s going to accommodate them. I don’t want to go to France, though. So it may have been the wrong move, but I think it’s fun.

Martin: If you could give advice to young French students, what would you say?

Ringness: Just really memorize certain words that you’re going to use all the time. And I think those change with every person, like just certain ones. So like, if you want to know how to say “always” since you say “always” a lot, and just remember, and really get those down and it will help you.

Martin: How do you prepare for tests or quizzes and what tools do you use?

Ringness: I have a lack of studying, but I do usually use Quizlet, that’s the main thing I use. And then I’ll write down like grammar for the situation.

Martin: What was the transition like from your past French classes to your current French class?

Ringness: Oh, I think it was fine. It was just like a little step up. I think the only thing that was a little bit more challenging, though it did go more smoothly, was the transition from middle school French to high school French, because in middle school we covered, I think, one unit in three years. Whereas, in high school you have one unit in one year, so like it’s little bit quicker, or maybe multiple, I’m not super sure.

Martin: Are you expected to complete the textbook or workbook before the end of the year?

Ringness: I’m not sure. Maybe.

Martin: How close are you to fluency?

Ringness: I’m not very close. I hear people speak French. Like I have no idea. But I do think that I’m able to communicate my ideas a lot more fluently than I have been in the past.

Martin: And what unit are you currently studying?

Ringness: The unit that we’re currently studying for I don’t know if the actual unit but for vocab we’re just learning about like, mythical things. Slike monsters and fairy tales. Because it correlates with the tenses that we’ve been learning. So we learned from specifically from novels and books.

Martin: And if a new student were to come and join your class, how integrated do you feel they would be?

Ringness: Well, someone did actually join our class. I don’t know. I think it just depends on what grade you’re in. It might be hard to integrate it as in like, joining just general relationships with the class. I think it goes well, I mean, everybody has their friend groups, so they might not talk as much but I think it’s pretty easy to go like this going in.

Martin: How similar has your class been, people wise, in the past?

Ringness: It’s been pretty similar because it’s all the same grade students. But usually each year it’s split into two groups. But normally, I think I just think that the same people

Rivers: My name is Ayla Rivers, 10th grade, she/her.

Martin: What level of French are you in? Currently?

Rivers: I’m in French five.

Martin: Why did you choose to take French?

Rivers: I have been taking French for a very long time. I went to a French immersion in Elementary School. And I’ve always liked learning about the language, so I’ve stuck with it.

Martin: What did your parents choose to put you in that school?

Rivers: Um, they thought that it was a really cool option to have a French Immersion School as a public school, because pretty frequently immersion schools or private schools, and also I have several cousins that went there. So I just ended up going there.

Martin: When you were beginning in French, what was the hardest, easiest and most fun parts?

Rivers: It was not hard in the beginning, because Elementary School overall wasn’t hard. So, fun parts, were always playing games in French and learning new words.

Martin: What about now and how has that changed?

Rivers: French isn’t too hard right now. I have never been great at grammar and I still struggle with that a little bit. I think, mainly because when I was learning French, it was more orally and we never really worked on that much grammar in school. So that has always been a struggle. But in my current French class, we’re doing a little more reading and writing assignments.

Martin: What does a typical day look like in class for you?

Rivers: I’ll come to class. Sometimes we’ll talk about what we did over the weekend. We might occasionally do a little bit of grammar on worksheets. We will often read an article or watch a video and discuss the contents of that and stuff like that.

Martin: What has been your favorite unit this year and why?

Rivers: My favorite unit was when we studied the Algerian Revolutionary War because we got to watch a documentary and it was nice. It was fun watching that movie in class and then discussing it and dissecting, basically like the war and like events that happened and talking through that.

Martin: What were the most important aspects of learning French and why?

Rivers: I think pronunciation can definitely be really helpful, because it’s cool if you can, like, speak French with a decent French accent, so other people can ,like, actually understand what you’re saying. Let’s see, other cool aspects of French. That the question? Learning a bit about other French countries or I think French we call it français countries. I don’t know English word for that but it’s probably similar to that.

Martin: If you could give advice to a young French student right now, what would you say?

Rivers: If you’re all struggling in French, definitely ask your French teacher they would definitely be happy to help you with that.

Martin: How do you prepare for tests and quizzes or what tools do you use to study?

Rivers: I very frequently use Quizlet to study. I think it’s a great app and it is very helpful.

Martin: Um, what was the transition like from past French classes and or school?

Rivers: So, the transition from French immersion to just a regular French class was definitely hard with the grammar because, again, I’d never really studied that much. And grammar is a pretty big part of the curriculum, at SPA’s French classes. And I found a few things easier, but the main thing I struggled with was just grammar.

Martin: How close are you to fluency would you say?

Rivers: I’d say, I am close enough.

Martin: And what are you currently studying in your class, for French?

Rivers: We are currently studying Tunisia and politics there.

Martin: [Outro] Thank you for listening to episode 3 of the language podcast, featuring Laujuzan, Ringness and Rivers.