We conducted an interview with an IEF FLE teacher named Melody. She gives us the pleasure to talk about her profession and share her experience in teaching French as a foreign language.
All IEF teachers, all of whom are qualified and experienced, practice their profession with passion and this is reflected in the quality of the courses that students receive. Being a teacher of French as a foreign language requires an ability to adapt, human qualities, pedagogical and innovative know-how,… Our teachers of French as a foreign language do not only transmit content, they do everything possible to help learners acquire the knowledge necessary to practice and master the French language in a pleasant classroom atmosphere, conducive to exchanges and learning. It is a very enriching human job in a daily life where routine does not exist!
Interview with a teacher of French as a Foreign Language at IEF, Mélody
How did you get the desire to become a teacher of French as a foreign language?
“After graduating from high school, I started studying Italian language and culture, during which I left for a year to work as a French language assistant in a high school in Italy. It was there that I had the desire to pass on the French language and culture. On my return, I enrolled in a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in French as a Foreign Language (corresponding to the Master’s degree today) while finishing to validate my master’s degree in Italian”.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
“It is quite simple. After finishing university and my internship in a French language institute for foreigners, I applied to different French language schools for foreigners in Montpellier (the city where I live) and started working immediately. After a few years of experience, I also participated as a trainer in the pedagogical courses offered every year (training of teachers of French for foreigners)”.
2. Teaching at the IEF; interview with a teacher of French as a foreign language
How are the courses at IEF?
” Different types of courses are offered: in groups (every morning from 9am to 12.15pm) and/or individually, as well as themed workshops, oral practices and preparation for the Delf and Dalf exams. The majority of the group courses are focused on oral practice as well as on the enrichment of vocabulary and language structures to be (re)discovered and reused as correctly and spontaneously as possible, thanks to various activities proposed during the class”.
What pedagogy do you use to teach? What methodology do you use in your classroom?
“First of all, I base myself on the CECR (Common European Framework of Reference for Teaching a Foreign Language). Then, I always try to use vocabulary and language structures in a natural context, which corresponds to the reality of the learners and the current events. If a learner prepares an example of a sentence with a word or structure studied during the class, I always insist that the example be as real and logical as possible”.
How do you prepare your classes? What materials do you use?
“I prepare my classes every day in order to best adapt to the needs and expectations of the learners while respecting the progression of the general level of the group, scheduled at the beginning of each week. I mainly use 2 types of support: firstly, authentic materials: videos, photos, advertisements, comic books, songs… which will serve as a document to trigger a discussion in order to enrich vocabulary and bring language structures. Then, more conventional supports, for example grammar exercises that will be used to add examples to the structures studied, to provoke questions according to the difficulties and to be given as homework to be done afterwards. I also like to focus on another type of “support”, which is the whiteboard. I write words or structures on it that will be a basis for the lesson, or it is the learners themselves who give ideas and words from which the course will begin”.
How are your classes conducted? How do you ensure that each student progresses in your class and achieves his or her goal?
“I announce the language objectives at the beginning of each week, course and activity. Each learner can therefore invest himself/herself knowing what it will bring him/her. The 4 skills are worked on (oral and written production and comprehension, giving more importance to the spoken word). I also give a lot of importance to cultural objectives: discovery of a personality, of French society, of a song etc… And I also use games or playful activities during the course to improve memorization”.
How do you ensure a pleasant atmosphere in a group where everyone arrives with their cultural and linguistic baggage?
“It is precisely thanks to the intercultural dimension that the atmosphere of the course is created, with French as a common and shared objective. Each learner will be able to share his or her French experience with the rest of the group. For this reason, I make sure that French is the only language used during the class by everyone, whatever their level”.
3. Teaching online; interview with a teacher of French as a foreign language
Given the current situation, you have been practicing your profession online for the past few months.
How do the online courses work? How are they organized? What skills are worked on?
“The organization of the online courses is different from that of the face-to-face courses but it still allows to work on the 4 skills. The production and oral interaction (spontaneous or prepared) take place during the video course, (which lasts 2x an hour) as well as corrections and lexicon input, while written and oral comprehension are (in general) done during one hour of autonomy organized and monitored by the teacher on a dedicated platform. Written production remains as homework or in evaluation as in a face-to-face course.”
What do you think are the differences between a face-to-face course and an online course? Do you prepare your courses in any other way?
“The preparation of media requires a different technique in order to share them on screen and on the platform, but they are the same type of media with the same objectives. In my opinion, the difference between online and face-to-face courses lies in the fact that during an online course, overall there is much more independent work for the learners (alone and in subgroups). Of course, there are moments of autonomy during a face-to-face course, but during an online course, it is every day at a fixed time.”
How do you create an online classroom atmosphere? Is the classroom atmosphere different from the one that can be set up in a classroom?
“The atmosphere of the class is a subtle blend of the character of the learners and the teacher! To create a pleasant and conducive learning environment, each learner must feel comfortable, and this is obviously the role of the teacher: through dialogue and speech distribution, which is done both online and face-to-face. The difficulty I have encountered online is for learners to interact more spontaneously with each other. It takes more time than in the classroom, which is normal since there are fewer contacts and moments shared together”.
Can you track your students’ progress in the same way online?
“Absolutely, as in the classroom, each student expresses himself or herself orally during the course and an evaluation is carried out at the end of the week. In addition, it is possible to follow on the platform the activities that each student in our group has been able to do as well as their answers, which makes it possible to know what has been acquired”.
Are students progressing as well as in the classroom?
“I have found that every way of learning has its advantages. The linguistic and cultural immersion that face-to-face classes bring is of course very beneficial to the learning of French, as well as the interactions between learners and with teachers and other people at the school, with a host family . The organization of the online courses alternating live activities and independent work, as well as the access to the platform, guided and monitored by the teacher, allows you to progress efficiently. I would say that the main thing is to be able to exchange with a real teacher, and to be advised and corrected, whether face to face or thousands of miles away”.