Top Tips for
By Natasha Saednejad
Professional French tutor based in Cobham
Teaching French, or any language for that matter, can be an incredibly rewarding process – as a tutor, you have the ability to guide a student to fluency, and open doors across the globe in terms of opportunities for work or travel. This being said, as learning a language involves competency across more than one skill area, it can often be difficult to know how best to approach tutoring in the most effective way. With this in mind, I have shared my top tips for effective French tuition.
There are two main aspects to consider when it comes to developing a student’s listening skills. Firstly, make sure that you start out with resources that are suitable for your learner’s level. This may sound obvious, but using an audio clip that is too fast or complicated for your student, and hoping that repeated plays will make it easier, will often just frustrate them, and make them lose motivation. Do your research, but also make it an interactive process – play a few audio options of differing speeds and complexity for your student in a lesson, to gauge their listening ability, and ask them to let you know which one they feel most comfortable with.
Secondly, use a variety of resources. Language learning thrives off of diversity, so use a combination of podcasts, YouTube videos, news broadcasts, or past papers (if applicable), to really hone your student’s listening skills. Some great French listening resources include FrenchPod101, Learn French with Pascal on Youtube, and also online TV broadcasts, such as those from TF1 or Euronews.
Yet again, variety is key. For exam students, for example, as well as using past papers, it is important that they are regularly reading news articles in French, not only to develop their reading skills, but also to keep them up-to-date with current affairs. Make sure, as a tutor, that you are getting your students to read a variety of written styles, such as fiction, poetry, or even blogposts, as this will make their learning varied and effective. To support the development of reading skills, ensure that you are regularly revising tenses with them, and expanding their vocabulary.
As a tutor, your main role in creating a fluent French writer is making sure that their language foundations are strong and secure. This means that they are confident with all aspects of sentence construction in the language – from word gender to verb tenses - and that that is supported with a strong knowledge of relevant vocabulary. Before moving on to more complex written tasks, such as essays or past papers, use exercises such as verb drills, vocab tests, and dictation to develop their written skills. It is also very important that the student has a firm understanding of sentence structure and parts of speech in English, before learning these aspects of writing in French.
One of the quickest ways to begin to develop your student’s speaking skills is to teach as much of your lessons as you can in French. This may go without saying, but even with beginners, as soon as you can start explaining grammar points, teach vocabulary, or generally chat with your students in French, the better. Many people know that immersion is one of the quickest ways to pick up a language, but when this is not possible, using your hour or so of tuition to create a completely French speaking and listening environment for your learner will be extremely beneficial. This way, you are not only developing their speaking and listening skills at the same time, but you are also helping them feel more comfortable and confident to speak in the target language too.
As you can see, teaching and learning a language requires a multi-faceted approach, using a variety of resources that are tailored to your student’s ability. Keeping lessons fresh will keep the learner’s motivation high, and will allow both tutor and student to get the most out of their sessions. Make sure that all four skill areas are focused on equally, and start with developing a strong foundation of grammar and vocabulary, before you build your way towards French fluency.