All foreign language teachers long for their students to experience immersion in the target language and culture.
Ten members of my 8th grade French class and 2 non-French language students recently travelled with me and our middle school principal to Québec City for 6 days in February. It’s a dicey time of year for air travel because the winter storms are unpredictable. But the draw of the snow and the winter activities that Québec offers beckoned. And God was good – no delays at all in air travel during a clement week.
As a teacher keen on observing her students’ growth and facility with the language, I was curious to see who would shine and who would let timidity and passivity reign. One of my 3 ‘stars’ rose to the occasion. I was delighted to see his initiative in using both me and our local guide as a source of new vocabulary and structures.
A solid B student turned out to be # 2 in displaying his eagerness to make connections and acquire new language. His consistent positive attitude as he embraced each of our activities added to my enjoyment of our trip as well.
Of course, some of the students were interested mostly in the social interactions with their friends and new occasions to shop. That’s normal for 13 and 14-year olds.
And even the students who did not evince as much enthusiasm for learning French as I had hoped probably absorbed more than I could observe.
At the very least, my students now know that the French we speak in class is REAL and native French speakers CAN understand them and they, themselves, can make sense of the French that comes back to them in a simple conversation.
I did receive a compliment from our local guide. She leads many groups of Anglophone young people visiting Québec on language trips. Those students who follow a mostly grammar-based curriculum are often locked into fear of making grammar mistakes and hesitate to speak. Because I employ TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) as my methodology, my students are used to speaking. And Isabelle, the guide, pointed that out as a contrast to the other classes she leads . I always enjoy learning objectively how this language acquisition system benefits my students.