Vialleton, Elodie and Lewis, Timothy
A century of spoken French in language learning: have representations and practices changed?
In: Annual Conference of the Association for French Language Studies, 1-3 June 2012, Newcastle University.
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Authors who have looked at the development of French language teaching methodologies through different ages, e.g. Besse (1985), Puren (1988), Germain (1993), Coste (1994) or Whitehead (1996), have shown that the status of the spoken language and the notion of authenticity have been at the heart of debates for decades. Indeed major theoretical shifts in the approach to language teaching were pushed by linguists specialising in the study of speech. Yet if there has been a theoretical drive for teaching to be more focussed on speech and for content, including audio content, to become more authentic, has it been matched by a change of approach in the way pronunciation and listening skills are taught?
This paper reviews a number of French language textbooks for adult beginners published from the early (Cran, 1920) and mid-twentieth century (Whitmarsh, 1947) all the way to 2011 (Flumian et al. (2011) and Baglieto et al. (2011)). It considers the status of the spoken language in these teaching packs by looking at three elements: it examines the position expressed by the authors and publishers in any paratext available (e.g. introduction, teachers’ guide); it looks at the way pronunciation and listening skills are taught in the textbooks; and it analyses the audio materials associated to the textbooks (following methodologies used by Gilmore (2004) and (Bento, 2008)). It shows that “le français oral” is multidimensional. In the past century or so it has become more central in French language learning packs as a source of materials and as a teaching objective. But the tasks designed to develop oral and aural skills have not evolved much despite successive waves of methodological advances revolving around the importance of speech.
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