A Unique Visual Tool For Speaking French Fluently
Countless websites, courses, books, methods, tutors and software packages all claim to teach French. How do you know which product really works for you? At the end of the day, are you more comfortable speaking French?
My own experience learning multiple languages and my work as a language coach with adult learners have led me to a fundamental conclusion. To speak French well, that is to say fluently, accurately and idiomatically, at some point you have to work systematically with many examples of authentic speech.
For this very reason, the heart of my blog is a series of in-depth studies of real-life French conversations. Nothing beats the real thing. Using recordings, detailed transcriptions, translations and technical commentaries, I suggest ways to incorporate this material into your own speech.
Another key strategy for improving speaking proficiency is to focus on the essentials. Spoken French tends to use a small number of key elements over and over again but in many varied ways. You don’t have to know everything to speak well. But the foundation has to be rock solid.
Finally, you should concentrate on the known problem areas or difficulties. The easy stuff will take care of itself. Focus on the things that are hard to master, the things that are very different from your native language.
These three ideas come together in my invention, the language wall chart calendar. This is a simple but effective visual learning tool designed to speed up the learning process and to help achieve and maintain high proficiency in the target language. If you like the real-life examples section of my blog, you will probably love the calendar.
A learning tool in a perpetual calendar
First take a wall chart or a poster full of authentic examples of modern French. Combine it with the familiar wall calendar that we use to keep track of dates, appointments, things to do and events. Voilà, the result is the Essential French wall chart calendar learning visual. Here is a 25-minute guided tour:
The language wall chart calendar measures 17 x 22 inches (43 X 55 cm) and ideally hangs on a wall where it can be consulted daily. If a wall is not available, it can be simply left open on a table.
Note that this is a perpetual calendar and can be reused indefinitely.
There are 12 theme pages that focus on fundamental areas of French grammar and vocabulary.
The upper page presents an overview of the theme.
The bottom page contains 35 examples in the form of dialogues and sentences. These examples progress from informal to formal speaking styles.
A total of over 600 authentic examples including entire dialogues. More than 2,000 words. All the daily examples are translated into English and Spanish at the back of the calendar. And the same examples can also be heard recorded with European and Québécois accents at two different speeds.
How does it work?
The effectiveness of this learning tool is based on two simple but powerful ideas. Firstly, all the examples in the wall chart are real-life phrases or pieces of dialogue. The learner thus acquires entire units of meaning or communication that can be immediately put into use for both comprehension and speaking.
At the same time, all these phrases incorporate key lessons in grammar and vocabulary that the user will assimilate spontaneously and naturally.
Secondly, the other key idea behind this visual tool is time-driven visual repetition. This is a form of what is often called spaced repetition. The fundamental idea is that repeated exposure to the target phrases will facilitate acquisition into long-term memory.
This is where the calendar idea comes in. The grid with its days and optional dates encourages daily progress. Learn one phrase or multiple phrases a day.
This is of course why I highly recommend that you place the calendar in a location where it can be viewed daily. Some customers buy two calendars; one for home and one for the office.
What will it do for your French?
The wall chart language calendar does five things well:
1. Speeds up memorization. We know that speaking a second language involves learning a staggering amount of new material. Thousands of words and nuances. Hundreds of often complex rules of grammar. And it all has to come together instantly before you open your mouth.
Repetition is the key to long-term memorization. One phrase. Multiple phrases. A complete dialogue. Or an entire page of examples. The calendar proposes a daily visual routine that reinforces memorization and acquisition.
2. Enhances understanding. The more than 600 examples are samples of contemporary spoken and written French. Things you will hear in everyday conversations and in the media.
3. Gets you speaking fluently now. The many phrases and entire dialogues will get you speaking naturally and accurately immediately. Think of these phrases and dialogues as building blocks or templates for communicating in French. These examples can be put to use as they are or adapted in endless ways.
4. Helps you learn core grammar and vocabulary naturally. These authentic examples focus your attention on key themes of grammar and vocabulary. Things like how to ask questions and give orders. The three most important verbs in French. Numbers and figures. The dreaded subjunctive mood.
5. Helps create a powerful immersive effect. Whether it’s hanging in the kitchen, the bathroom or the office, the wall chart calendar continuously displays a wealth of material focused on a specific theme. This is particularly important to help keep your language skills alive after the classes are over.
All of this in a package that costs less than one hour of private tutoring.
Who should use it?
How much French do you have to know to use the Essential French 1 calendar? Not much. Anyone who already knows the basics and wants to focus on speaking real French will benefit.
- Whether you are taking a class, working with a tutor or studying on your own, this learning tool will enhance your results. The many examples will bring alive the concepts that you are studying. If you want to impress or épater your teacher, this will do it.
- Maybe you are a French teacher who is not a native speaker. Here is a tool for your own self-improvement or as a source of ideas for the classroom. Teachers love being able to glance at the calendar for a quick example or a different way of saying something.
- The calendar is also great for people who are not actively taking classes but want to maintain their level of French. You’ve heard it before, “Use it or lose it.” Having this material where you can see it regularly is a great way of keeping certain things at the top of your mind.
- For parents of children who are in French immersion schools, this is something that tutors often recommend. But keep in mind that it was not designed for young users on their own. It’s great for parents who want to work with their kids.
- It’s a great source of examples and ideas for tutors and language coaches. I use the calendar all the time with my adult clients.
- If it’s not for yourself, the calendar makes a great gift for people who are serious about learning French. This is truly a gift that will keep giving for years.
Not another book
People sometimes ask, “I already have a ton of books on French, why do I need another one?” The answer is simple. Can you hang a book on the wall and read it at a distance of 7 ft (2.13 meters)? Can you hang a book up in the kitchen or even in the bathroom?
Can you use that book as a “cheat sheet” next to the telephone? Imagine how you will impress with that pithy phrase you’ve just picked off the calendar. You can’t do that easily with a book.
What our customers are saying
Don’t take my word for it. Read our customer testimonials. For example, Wang Lingxiao writes:
“When I first looked at it, I thought it just listed some basic things, like “être”, “faire”, “avoir”, expressions for numbers and so on. But I soon found I was wrong. Every page has some surprises for you! Something new for you to learn.
The examples are awesome! Different from those in a grammar book, they are real language from day-to-day life. Every sentence has a scene.”
Wall chart calendars available
1. The Essential French 1 wall chart calendar in a full colour paper version
2. If you want to immediately begin working with the calendar, it is available as a black and white downloadable PDF that you can print out yourself or view on your computer, laptop or smartphone.
3. Flashcards. The 420 daily examples of the calendar are available as a downloadable PDF for two-sided printing on U.S letter size stock to make flashcards the size of North American business cards.
Where to purchase
The calendars are also available in the following bookstores:
Montreal, Canada : Librairie Michel Fortin, 514-849-5719
Toronto, Canada: Boli’s Spanish Books, 416-533-4000
Ottawa, Canada: Librairie du soleil, 614-241-6999