Horrible French word of the day

Today I had a first lesson with a whole Y11 French group working up to speaking tests on jobs and future plans, on the theme of “a job I would like to do and why.” Helpfully, I had just seen a similar lesson being delivered in German and was able to draw on the style of presentation quite a lot even if I had to generate the content myself.

Towards the end we moved onto free writing to produce individual sentences and paragraphs as I circulated to help, encourage and keep people on task. One student wanted some vocab as he wanted to talk about becoming a professional rugby player.

Now in these free vocab sessions when I am not in possession of a dictionary things often float into my head that I am not able to check, and I find myself hugely doubting what I say. I first came up with “joueur de rugby” – then the first wave of doubts. When we are talking about free time / sports / music, we learn that it is jouer à (for a sport) and jouer de (for a musical instrument). So should it be joueur à rugby? Grief no, that sounds horrible.

And then my subconscious threw “le rugbyman” at me so I offered it to the student. And the more I said it out loud and showed him how to spell it, the more I thought it couldn’t possibly be correct. Even if it were, would the people marking his speaking test think it was good enough French for an exam? It certainly has the ring of the sort of word of which the Académie Française would not approve. So I backtracked and sent him back to joueur de rugby.

But after the lesson, I checked it with a quick Google. We spend quite a lot of time telling students not to use Google Translate because they don’t have the skill to use it safely, and what they bung through it comes out as garbage. But for an experienced linguist you can use the internet to supplement your knowledge. And I found there were quite a lot of French speakers on the internet using “le rugbyman” as a real word. Why on earth is that even in my head?

Recently I had a debate with a colleague about preparing for lessons. She asked who, these days, sat down with a big dictionary? Everyone just uses the internet now, Wordreference, or Reverso. I’ve also been challenging myself to use Duden for German, although sometimes it’s easier just to get a word translated rather than try to understand the German definition of a German word.

For most of this year’s teaching placements, I have been using online dictionaries, but when my internet got unreliable recently I pulled down the dusty big dictionaries that got me through my degree. And I have been really enjoying using them again. One of the fab things about them is the accidental and continual exposure to new and interesting vocab through the key words and the words surrounding the one you’re actually looking for. So the other week, I found Wetterfrosch, for example, with no translation but an italicised explanation “frog used to predict the weather” (eh!?)

I’ve just thought to try to old big dictionary to see if rugbyman is in it. My Collins Robert troisième édition was published in 1993, and surely the horrible false Anglicism has come into the French language since then? So I flick through (ooh, that’s interesting the dictionary has RSS in it… oh, hang on, it stands for république socialiste soviet) and… there it is. Le rugbyman. Plural, les rugbymen. Don’t it go to show, you never know?



Today on our University Based Day (UBD) we are having a session on how to use computers in learning foreign languages.

The session is lead by Mr Picardo from Nottingham High School, who has an MA in Information Technology in Education.

You can see from the school’s MFL website, linked above, that they practice what they preach – there are lots of examples of the ICT stuff they have created. They can use a blog post to highlight the work done, and then ask their own children to leave comments peer assessing. They also attract lovely praising comments from the senior staff at the school, and for one memorable activity, from the author of one of the widely used Spanish textbooks.

His personal blog is here – click “Resources” for many things you can use.
To get us in the right frame of mind, he showed us this video.

(And then said… now you know you what heads of department meetings are like.)

The session included voki.com which allows you to put a voice track on a cartoon avatar. This can be used for students to record their speaking assessments in a fun way, which means you can hear speaking, you can upload the results onto a blog and you can peer assess for homework.

We looked at Storybird.com which allows students to make e-books from a text, and lets you search for beautiful pictures to illustrate the word. This can be incorporated into making a perfect draft – students write text in languages; text can be corrected by staff and then turned into a pretty final draft.

Next up was Glogster, which lets you create a multimedia poster, and embed sound and videos into things that look like posters.

Wordle.net – a tool I have already used right here on this blog! In a modern language context, you can use it to make a long text less scary in introduction – by introducing this way, and ensuring they do understand some of the key words, you can help comprehension. You can also run students’ work through it see if they are using some words too often and others too few – if you are saying “my family” every other sentence, could you instead use “my brother, my sister, my dad”? Also wonderful for classroom displays.

The final one we considered was Go Animate which allows students to make their own cartoons – which, new this year, includes the facility to record speech and make an actual production.

I’m big into ICT myself, so in addition to the sites we learned about today, I would suggest the following:

Joe Dale, a national leader in modern languages and ICT, who has a blog.

In particular, he pointed me at a group of language teacher users of twitter who call themselves the MFL Twitterati, who arrange regular meetups and generally share good and interesting stuff.

The Twitterati sent me to Triptico, a lovely set of pretty tools for use in the classroom including timers, name pickers, ordering tool, hourglass, and a really fast word magnet tool that lets you work on word order – magnificent for MFL. Perhaps the tool I have used the most often is the “Find 10” tool, which makes a lovely simple starter. It does, however, need you to install software on your computer, which not all schools will let you do. There is a facility for MFL teachers to share their resources with each other, but I haven’t figured this out yet.

Dom’s MFL Blog is helpful and has lots of challenging suggestions to improve MFL teaching.

Over to you – do you have anything useful to share about using computers in modern language teaching?