The trend, it seems, in the teaching of foreign language in the Middle School has changed over the past few years. The emphasis on the teaching of the language itself has been replaced by an emphasis on the national geographies and cultures.
The idea behind this educational trend is to expose students to many languages and cultures, “to broaden their horizons,” and finally to give students the choice of the language they enjoy the most and feel the greatest desire to learn.
In order to do this, each teacher divides the school year into three or four separate units. Each unit concentrates on a different language. I have decided to do an eight week unit for this type of course in French (since we have no curriculum or books). However, this unit hopes to provide an approach that could be adapted in an Italian or Spanish class, in a humanities program, or even in a team teaching situation.
This unit will be divided into two main sections, each unit approximately of three weeks’ duration. The first week will be spent on language—the last on review. Each section will concentrate on different skills and these skills will be presented through two of France’s great writers, Victor Hugo and Guy de Maupassant. It will be through their works that students will discover France the country, the history, the culture, and finally, the language.
The goals that I hope students will achieve are: an ability to speak French; a sound knowledge of the geography of France; an understanding of French history (and therefore U. S. history); some knowledge of French literature, and a larger English vocabulary.
I must stress that although we only want to introduce students to the language and our concentration lies on the culture of France, our true function as language teachers is having the student speak the language. The teacher should spend the first few class periods on the teaching of the language itself, since students usually enjoy the excitement of learning a new language for the first few days. It is during the first week that I am able to provide my students with the basic principles of French that I will be building upon during the remaining six weeks. (I have listed at the back of this unit, in Appendix IV, some basic vocabulary and sentences for those teachers who are not French teachers.)
Throughout the remaining weeks I will spend approximately ten minutes each day in the target language, reviewing. Greetings and simple instructions should be in French. The teacher should review vocabulary, introduce new words and make simple conversation with students, i.e., with regard to weather, date, time, etc.