By Jillian Garner.
Most students who take Madame Renard’s French classes don’t realize the significance of her unique lingual curriculum. Although they appreciate the diminished value and workload of homework and quizzes, they don’t truly grasp the psychological benefits that she recognizes through her uncommon perspective.
Mme. Renard grew up in three different countries, learning four different languages. Through her childhood experiences and memories, she realizes that the most effective way to primarily teach and learn a language is not through worksheets or exams – although these can help as secondary tools – but through utilizing the language: listening, hearing, and then speaking. This is how first languages are learned by infants and how Mme. Renard learned her first four languages.
The actual practice of a language creates more neural connections and memory strength, as well as creating a sense of familiarity, that encourages students in their progress. In a way, languages are like sports; they cannot effectively be taught by theory and fact alone; they have to be experienced in order to be truly understood and effectively learned. Outside of the classroom, linguistic learning tools don’t try to teach conjugations or endings. Rather, lingual apps focus on pronunciation and vocabulary. Likewise, a person who speaks their first language does not categorize words into conjugations either; teaching students to attempt this will discourage fluency and encourage minimal competency.
Mme. Renard’s French classes focus more on verbal and cultural learning than visual or theoretical. The majority of class time is spent on students speaking, listening, or translating French. We create stories, read small books, have discussions, and play games in French. She’ll have us read books first in one tense and then in another. She gives out homework that involves studying words, their pronunciations and spellings, and constructing sentences. Mme. Renard also plans classes for us to research certain aspects of French culture and will pause other lessons to give cultural context to words, stories, or discussions. Because of this consistent exposure to use of the language, speaking French becomes more natural to students.
Her scholars are able to learn material more thoroughly and retain it longer than students of most other language curriculum. Not to say that her students spout French effortlessly; like any other class, there are students that struggle and others that naturally grasp it; yet in comparison with other schools and curriculum, our Heritage French classes are much more immersive. When lingual classes have been taught flatly factually for so long, it makes Madame Renard’s classes a unique benefit.