Avec amusement

25th February 2005 at 00:00
From four to 81 - that is the age range of people to whom Abdellatif Erraoui has taught French. He finds that making it fun pulls in all the generations

Stephanie Lunt scored one of the highest marks in the country when she gained an A* in GCSE French last summer. And she took the exam three years early. She gained a head start while at primary school, when her mother took her to after-school French classes run by further education lecturer and a STAR Awards runner-up Abdellatif Erraoui.

Stephanie, a 13-year-old pupil at King Edward VI high school for girls, an independent school in Birmingham, took her GCSE French while in Year 8. Her marks were among the top five in the country and she is now taking the subject at AS level. Her achievement makes a family hat-trick.

Her brother Nicky, 17, gained an A* when he took GCSE French a year early.

And their mother Frances, a peripatetic music teacher, also has an A in GCSE French.

Mrs Lunt started learning with the children to prepare for a holiday in France in the mid-1990s, enrolling on Mr Erraoui's French for the Family course. "It was his enthusiasm," she says. "We used to go in every week and get bombarded with questions in French. It was constant repetition, but he also made it great fun."

Mr Erraoui, a 49-year-old lecturer in French and Arabic at Bournville College, Birmingham, was among 29 nominees who were highly commended at the ceremony in October. His award, sponsored by the Learning and Skills Development Agency, was for Outstanding Achievement. He was commended for inspiring so many students with his fun approach to family learning and for his infectious enthusiasm.

Moroccan-born Abdellatif moved to the UK in the mid-1980s and worked for the BBC World Service as a freelance translator before moving into further education. His idea for French for the Family started when a parent brought her four-year-old daughter along to one of his classes. "She started participating with us in basic lessons," he says. "I talked to the principal and from there we started inviting in more parents with children."

His family sessions take children aged four to 10, but he also holds a range of languages courses in French and Arabic. His students range in age from four to 81.

With young children he gets them repeating simple phrases in French, such as their name and where they live, and he uses games and music to engage them. He has also developed his own reward system, with different coloured certificates for behaviour, effort, participation and homework. "In yesterday's class the children didn't want to leave," he says. "I know how to approach them and I have great patience with them. And you have to make it fun - if you do the fun, they learn better.

"I think the award recognises the unsung heroes who help many people here, and that's given me more strength to work harder. I feel very proud about it."

STAR AWARD WINNER

Name: Abdellatif Erraoui. Job: French and Arabic lecturer at Bournville College, Birmingham. Winning category: Highly commended in awards for Outstanding Achievement, sponsored by the Learning and Skills Development Agency

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