French 2010, 3060, 3715, Weber State University
One of the more challenging aspects of the foreign language classroom is ensuring adequate time for students to communicate orally in a one-on-one situation in the target language with native or near-native speakers. A way to potentially alleviate this problem is through the introduction of an online platform that allows students to video-conference with native speakers from around the world. The benefit of such a program is twofold: it will increase the students’ oral and aural proficiency, and allow students’ access to speakers from different regions, thus affording them greater cultural literacy. The proposed courses for this study are FRCH (French) 2010 Third Semester French, FRCH 3060 Grammar and Composition and FRCH 3715 Business French II. Each of these courses are worth three credits and meet for approximately three hours, two to three times weekly. Each of these courses are conducted in the target language using communicative method. The purpose of this project will be to analyze the benefits of online distance video conferencing with native speakers as a supplement to the foreign language classroom. Students will be required to fill out a self-evaluation form at the beginning of the course and at the end of the course in order to note where they see growth and progress in their own abilities. The instructor will also conduct an analysis of each students’ proficiency (based on the ACTFL standards) at the beginning of the course and at the end of the course.
FRCH 2010 Third Semester French covers chapters 7, 8 and 9 in: Valdman, et al. (2014), Chez nous 4th Edition Media Enhanced. Students’ proficiency in this course is expected to be Novice-High according to the ACTFL standards. Various grammatical and cultural topics are covered as the students practice their oral, written and listening comprehension.
FRC 3060 French Grammar and Composition focuses on improving students’ speaking and listening proficiency, as well as their writing ability, including a command of grammar and appropriate usage to express their ideas. This class uses film and various short articles to provide a starting point for classroom discussion and writing and grammar exercises.
FRCH 3715 Business French II covers interview techniques for the francophone business world, company and business structure in France and international business regulations and etiquette.
The current course curriculum offers speaking opportunities in class, and outside of the classroom with other classmates (from the same course). Evaluation is based largely on in-class participation, quizzes and exams, presentations and writing samples. Student evaluation and progress is measured using the ACTFL standards to maintain that the student is working at a level that is appropriate for the course.
With the use of TalkAbroad, we will be incorporating real-life conversations with native speakers into the course curriculum and evaluation. This will allow students a true inter-cultural experience and take French outside of the classroom, thus making it more tangible for the students. The students will be required to prepare for each conversation by coming up with questions and incorporating grammar and topics that are currently being covered in class. There will be an evaluation at the beginning of the semester and at the end of the semester to gauge the students’ improvement in oral proficiency. • FRCH 2010 Third Semester French - The proposed modification to the curriculum for Third Semester French is to incorporate three TalkAbroad conversations that will correspond with the three chapter exams. Therefore, instead of doing a longer “Oui je peux” exercise, students will do a shorter, modified version that will be in preparation for their conversation with their TalkAbroad partner. They will practice making questions using the vocabulary and grammar covered in the chapter. They will then use these prepared questions to aid them in their conversation on TalkAbroad. Afterward, students will be required to discuss in an online forum some of their strengths and weaknesses that they had during their conversation. The conversation day that is held in-class will also build upon the individual conversations that the students completed with their TalkAbroad conversation partners, so they will be able to talk about their conversation and build upon those skills with their classmates and instructor. • FRCH 3060 French Grammar and Composition - Since there is not much emphasis placed on conversational and oral skills in the current curriculum, we see this as an opportunity to add these skills to the current syllabus. Throughout the semester, students will watch three films in class that correspond to the theme of a writing assignment. Each film will be accompanied by an exercise packet that will discuss grammar pertinent to the film, vocabulary and articles on the theme being covered in the writing assignment. The three themes of the writing assignments are respectively: writing a portrait – a descriptive essay, expressing an opinion – an argumentative essay and epistolary – writing a letter. The students will use the films and articles in the preparation packets to help launch their conversations with their TalkAbroad partners. Students will then be required to discuss in an online forum how their conversation helped them in developing their written assignment for each of the three themes covered. In order to create more time for the students to devote to their conversations, they will not be required to do two rewrites of their writing assignment, but rather only one. • FRCH 3715 Business French II - Interviewing skills will become a larger focus for this course. Students will work on resumes and cover letters in order to prepare them to talk about their work experiences. This will culminate with a TalkAbroad conversation that will be focused on the theme of interviewing for a job. Students will prepare for three different job situations: hospitality, business administration and the travel industry. Students will complete exercises and read articles pertaining to each theme. They will then prepare a resume and cover letter for a fictional job announcement. Their TalkAbroad conversation will be the interview for the particular job to which they have applied. In order to create space in the curriculum for the TalkAbroad conversations, students will no longer be required to submit a weekly business article.
Overall, the students found it a positive experience. Students in the 3rd semester French class were encouraged by their ability to maintain a conversation for thirty minutes, which helped improve confidence levels in the students. The students in the upper level classes enjoyed being able to speak with different French speakers from around the world. This semester I am using TalkAbroad in my phonology course where students have two conversations with different partners in order to compare and contrast dialects. I have found that TalkAbroad has the largest amount of French speakers (and geographic variety) than any other language sharing platform.
Dr. Aubrey Jones and I presented our results from implementing TalkAbroad into our curriculum at the Utah Foreign Language Association Conference on Thursday February 14th, 2019.
Utah Foreign Language Association Conference presentation: Maximizing Target Language Exposure via Live Video Conferencing
Dr. Cynthia Jones and Dr. Aubrey Jones, Weber State University