À Propos: Helping Heritage Language Learners, FLD style

ata-fld-newsletter-logoEarlier this year I was reflecting on how to best help my teenage daughter, whose spoken French and comprehension are great, improve her written French. Our personal goal is for her to be able to succeed in Advanced Placement French through her high school next year, with only one year of formal French instruction behind her. I thought of asking for advice on the FLD Facebook group because other members must have children older than mine and have been through this, or worked hard on bilingualism and got to this point earlier. Within hours I received many postulated ideas, constructive tips, and tales of success (and sometimes resignation). The content was worth compiling and sharing for posterity, hence this post for A Propos.
Those who contributed were Catherine Bellier-Igasaki, Jennifer Bikkal Horne, Nelia Fahloun, May Fung Danis, Anne Goff, Betty Howell, Eve Lindemuth Bodeux, Elke Miot, Bryna O’Sullivan, Bruce Popp, Patricia Thickstun, Anne Vincent, Caitilin Walsh and Carolyn Yohn. Thank you so much, everyone.

The tips came in many different styles and from many different angles, and in both English and French. Keep that varied context in mind as you read.Arsenal 2017 live streaming film

  • Find a book she has already read in English and read it in French–she would know the plot and characters, so she could focus more on the structures and new vocabulary (and she might find it easier to deduce the meanings of new words, since she already would know what they talked about when she read it in English);
  • Practice the French baccalaureate essays in a school subject field of interest;
  • http://fondationpgl.ca/accueil/ with both French and Canadian accents;
  • Write to grandparents (as opposed to Skype or phone calls);
  • Les dictées de Bernard Pivot. Il y a des textes pour les juniors;
  • http://famille-madore.fr/Atelecha/ortho5.pdf “100 dictées pour le C.M.2” Taken from various sources and presents lots of issues for non-native or heritage speakers, which would be helpful;
  • Writing activity: find song lyrics to something fun/popular/funny. Remove single words or whole phrases, then have them listen and fill in the blanks. Maybe start with something by Stromae;
  • Subscribe to French magazines for young people, to improve vocab and sense of grammar/writing;
  • French books or magazines may help, not necessarily Le Monde, but perhaps Géo;
  • Marie Claire has some interesting sections, especially on the condition of women and/or children in other countries;
  • Reading adult women’s/fashion magazines (or even some teen ones) may be a challenge, because there is so much slang and jargon;
  • Look at “Multilingual Living”;
  • Take classes at the local community college;
  • Review school homework in detail with your kids;
  • Use cahiers de vacances/weekend. Written French in various topics, usually math and “French language”. Have her do a few years behind her equivalent level in the US. Order them online from Amazon.fr or ask someone to send you some;
  • Do dictées from the France Culture news headlines every morning;
  • Best way to know how to write a language is to read it. Find a series of French books or a French writer she would find compelling. For instance, Agote Kristof’s series fast and is hard to stop. Le Grand Cahier is the first volume;
  • Use Projet Voltaire, a fun app for your phone. http://www.projet-voltaire.fr/ (Testez-vous et entraînez-vous gratuitement en orthographe et en grammaire) ;
  • Grammar-themed dictations http://www.ccdmd.qc.ca/fr/exercices_pdf/?id=37
  • http://www.charivarialecole.fr/ceintures-de-grammaire-cm-un-nouvel-exemple-de-cyber-cooperation-a59378391 I know that CM is way below her current grade level, but if there are gaps or weak points, going back to basics could be helpful;
  • CNED – http://www.cned.fr/ for expats, students, etc. – official French curriculum per subject – free (unless you have them correct it). Download subjects of interest;
  • https://www.france-universite-numerique-mooc.fr/cours/ Class on French language for second language speakers. She is kind of in between, but this is high level (for older students), and for people learning (writing) of French, so could be useful for her;
  • Go over a chapter of old elementary school French grammar books with anyone interested in sentence construction;
  • https://www.elycee.com/ They charge for their classes. Look at the syllabus they send for ideas to copy. They focus on advanced French learners/speakers in high school level;
  • https://www.youtube.com/user/netprof/featured French courses on YouTube in various subjects;
  • http://www.kartable.fr/ “Study for the Bac” here for free. Various levels and classes offered – focus is on written French;
  • Structured activities are very helpful, but I’d recommend something a little less structured as well. Have her keep a journal in French. She should write regularly without worrying too much about spelling or grammar. Whether she’s writing about her life, or telling stories – this will help train her brain for writing in French and it won’t feel so foreign anymore;
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PtrFz2Drjo;
  • Do dictées to cut down on the number of mistakes. They’re supposedly helpful because it involves mechanical memory. Whenever my husband (a French teacher) has a doubt about spelling, he always handwrites it. Read short passages out loud from a book. Read it once through at normal pace. Then reread each logical segment slowly as I write, repeating each segment 3 times;
  • Keep hope: some make giant leaps in French writing once they get to college;
  • Enjoy the ride no matter where you and your daughter end up.

Karen Tkaczyk

Karen Tkaczyk, CT, lives in Colorado which her French husband and three children. Her translation work is focused on chemistry and its industrial applications. She has an MChem in chemistry with French from the University of Manchester, a diploma in French, and a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge. She can be contacted at karen@mcmillantranslation.com or @ChemXlator.