I have a love/hate relationship with the French language. I love the way French vowels and words are pronounced. But I hate sounding choppy when I am speaking French to someone who is fluent. But love has won over hate and I am now taking French lessons on Skype with my French teacher, Valerie, from Ecole des Trois Ponts in Roanne, France. I’ve had 5 classes so far so I thought I’d share my impressions and experiences, and why I feel it’s the most effective way to learn (if you can’t be in France).
5 Reasons To Take French Lessons On Skype Or Zoom
Through much of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, France has been in lockdown, so this means that schools and institutes of FLE (Français Langue Étrangère = French as a Foreign Language), which depend on foreign tourists, have been closed. Doing remote learning is helping these companies get through this pandemic.
When I learned that Ecole des Trois Ponts was offering online French classes I signed up for 10 lessons. This is the language school I have attended 4 times. I am very fond of this school because I think the teaching is excellent and I have progressed each time I’ve attended. Even more importantly, I have made friends with the teachers and other students. [Check out two of my posts about my experiences here: French Immersion and Language and Cooking Classes].
So why take French lessons online? Here are 5 reasons:
1. Learn French “Live” From France
Using Skype, French learning is interactive. The lessons are “live” and I am actively engaging with the teacher online, in real-time. I am not just a passive student taking in information. That’s the downside of watching any “pre-recorded class” online. It’s one way and not interactive. In those types of classes, the teacher uses the Socratic teaching method, primarily giving information. The student sits there and (maybe) takes it in.
When it’s “live from France”, the teacher interacts with you in real time, by asking questions, correcting your pronunciation, or clarifying a grammar rule. It is much more effective when there is immediate feedback. It’s like having a French tutor right beside you.
2. Learning French Is Good For The Brain
Taking French can be challenging, but it’s also good for maintaining or improving brain health. I’ve been reading an excellent book by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, from CNN, called, “Keep Sharp. Build a Better Brain at Any Age”.
Learning a new skill such as “speaking a foreign language” will not only help you improve your language skills but your cognitive skills as well.
Taking classes that make you use your cognitive skills— learning a new skill, such as “speaking a foreign language”, can be immensely beneficial. So improving one’s language skills has the added bonus of improving one’s cognitive skills—“comprehension, short- and long-term memory, attention to detail, and even math….” (page 121).
Dr. Gupta referred to a research professor in Toronto who found that “bilingualism can protect older adults’ brains, even as Alzheimer’s is beginning to affect cognitive function…the complexity of the new skill is critical; you can’t just come to class and be passive. You need to use your mind in a manner that gets you out of your comfort zone and demands our long-term memory” (Page 122).
If you want to learn French and get something out of the lesson, you have to make a commitment. One-on-one learning means there is just the teacher and me. I can’t “hide” behind other students. We have a set day and time to meet so I have an obligation not just to show up but also to do my homework and be prepared.
4. Native French Teacher
With distance learning courses popping up everywhere, there are French tutors located all over the world. If you want to learn to speak French properly I feel the best thing you can do is learn from someone who is a native French speaker. While French is spoken in Quebec too, I would much prefer the spoken language from France.
5. Ongoing Engagement
I have homework; sometimes enough homework that can be spread throughout the week so I have a little to do every day. This keeps me engaged and I have less of a chance of forgetting things. It’s fine to take a week of French classes in France and then travel around; however, once you get home, do you continue to use the skills that you’ve learned?
Learning French by Skype keeps me engaged with the language and there’s less of a chance of me forgetting things. As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it”.
French Skype Lessons With Ecole des Trois Ponts
1. How The French Lessons Work
There is a free trial lesson. It’s an opportunity for you to see if it’s to your liking and for the teacher to evaluate your oral skill level (conjugation, choice of vocabulary, comprehension, and pronunciation). It’s also a time to test the quality of the internet connection as the classes are done via Skype or Zoom.
After the first class, the teacher proposes objectives, and a date and the time to meet each week are finalized. The primary goal is to have help students improve their skills-both orally and in writing. Another goal is to help students gain their confidence with using the language.
2. Structure Of The Lessons
(a) Beginning Of The Class
At the beginning of each class, Valérie and I discuss what’s new in our part of the world and what we’ve been up to in the past week. Sometimes our French conversations cover what’s currently going on in France or about French culture.
The entire conversation is in French. No English.
(b) Main Part Of The Class
The main part of each lesson is comprised of themed exercises, grammar, vocabulary, accents, and pronunciation followed by corrections and suggestions. Time is spent taking up homework as well.
There is a chatbox that Valérie uses if she needs to show me how something is written in French. I find this very helpful because sometimes I cannot visualize the spelling of something she has said.
Near the end of class, information about the homework is given. It’s amazing how quickly the 45 minutes go by. The homework that is emailed to me and sometimes Valérie includes handouts that further explain concepts. A recent handout had to do with situations when you would use “Et si + imparfait” and the rules for using “chaque fois que”, “Aussitôt que” and “ Lorsque”.
The homework can involve filling in the blanks, writing a response, creating a sentence using a particular part of speech, or practicing a sentence out loud. I have NEVER had my homework completed perfectly but that’s all part of the learning.
3. Private And Group French Lessons
The online lessons are primarily for adults and teenagers who might be preparing for exams. Everything is tailor-made for the student which is what I like about Ecole des Trois Ponts. The teaching and the learning are needs-based, so if French is a new language for you, you’re in good hands.
Private French Lessons: 5 lessons for 225 € or 10 lessons for 400 €.
Group French Lessons: 5 lessons for 125 € pp or 10 lessons for 200 €.
For the group lessons, you need to have at least 2 people in the group and they should be at the same level. So far Ecole des Trois Pont’s groups have had 2 and 3 people. I don’t think it’s wise to have too many in a class because there will be less “attention” paid to your needs. I think 2 would be ideal.
If you miss France as I do, consider taking French online via Skype or Zoom. You’ll really enjoy the experience, improve your French, help your brain, and when it’s time to go back to France, you’ll be even more prepared and comfortable speaking the most beautiful spoken language in the world, French.
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