Back to French class for teachers

27th October 2000 at 01:00
It's a long way from games and action songs in French to the political definition of a republic in the same language. But this is the new generation, post MLPS (Modern Languages in the Primary School) training, taking primary teachers beyond colours and numbers to a post-Higher level of discursive French.

The students meet for a weekly three-hour class run by Stirling University's French department over three semesters. The aim of the course is to improve confidence and consequently improve fluency in the language on a variety of 5-14 subjects. However, Jim Munro, who runs the course, hopes the students will also pick up teaching ideas which can be adapted for primary class use.

Having completed a semester's work on language and literature, this year's cohort of 13 students (mostly from schools around Stirling) are tackling second semester work on history, geography and civic education vocabulary.

In the initial conversational section of the class, Dr Munro and his assistant Hel ne Meal engage in informal but structured chat about first names. French is spoken at native speaker speed with all its natural hesitation, colloquialisms and repetition. As the students continue the conversation in pairs, some take the opportunity to ask questions about imperfect and conditional verb endings.

There aresome low level groans when the students are asked to write a short piece on the same subject, but they accept that the new 5-14 curriculum will put greater emphasis on written work in classroom practice.

As some of them attempt to translate awkward phrases such as "like the fact that", Dr Munro and Ms Meal encourage them all to rethink colloquial English into natural French.

After a coffee break they move on to a discussion of republics. Working in groups, the students are asked to define the difference between the republics of France and the United States. With the support of a text extract and a course set text, they confidently use French to express ideas and present them on the white board to their classmates.

Ms Meal says the level of the teachers' French is equal to, if not better than, that of second year undergraduates. "It's been a very steep learning curve," says one, going away with reading homework on republics and monarchies. Another says she has been encouraged by a boy in her class who assured her that she is "coming on quite well in French".

Eleanor Caldwell

Next course intake is September 2001. Entry prerequisites are Higher French and MLPS training. Contact Jim Munro, Stirling University School of Modern Languages, tel 01786 467539, e-mail

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