Français interactif is an eclectic first-year French program, developed at the University of Texas and in use since 2004. This Internet-based curriculum has changed the student language learning experience with its user-friendly pedagogical materials. Cultural information is embedded naturally in video content and the real and spontaneous language captured in video interviews provides the context for in-class activities. The classroom focus is thus on learner-centered group activities and language is naturally communicative.
Innovations of Français interactif include:
- Emphasis on vocabulary (lexical approach)
- Grammar taught with a focus on both form and meaning (from input to output)
- Use of non-native speakers and children as language models, in particular the students abroad who act as virtual tour guides
- Humor and language play which encourage playful classroom interaction
- Formative evaluation, where students and instructors are included in the constant refinement of content as evaluators and co-creators
The pedagogical sequence for vocabulary learning within Français interactif deliberately moves the learner from input to output and from decontextualized words to words in context. That is, learners first encounter new vocabulary words in written and aural input several times before they are ever asked to produce the vocabulary item. This type of extended input phase allows the learner to feel confident about the word's spelling and pronunciation before having to write or say the word. In addition to the input-to-output progression, each chapter also contains a progression based on the degree of the word's contextualization. The point is that the developers of these materials planned the pedagogical sequence of new vocabulary in order to maximize their learners' focus on lexical forms.
From Input to Output
In the case of Français interactif, we have applied the principles of processing instruction, an input-oriented approach to grammar instruction, to the teaching of vocabulary. Within a single activity, we use vocabulary items that are semantically related, and create a simple meaning-based activity. Importantly, learners must understand the meaning of the words in order to perform the task. Throughout each chapter, early input-based activities that emphasize receptive skills slowly give way to output-based activities that require production.
For more information, please consult the following resources:
Foreign Language Teaching Methods, 2010. This online methods course focuses on best practices for foreign language instruction at the high-school and college levels. The website feature video footage from an actual methods course held at the University of Texas at Austin, and contains interactive, media-rich modules by twelve different faculty members, including Français interactif developers Carl Blyth and Nancy Guilloteau. http://coerll.utexas.edu/methods/
Blyth, Carl. 1995. Redefining the Boundaries of Language Use: The Foreign Language Classroom as a Multilingual Speech Community. In Redefining the Boundaries of Language Study, edited by Claire Kramsch, 145-183. Boston: Heinle.
Blyth, Carl. 2003. The Sociolinguistics of Foreign-language Classrooms: Contributions of the Native, the Near-native, and the Non-native Speaker. Boston: Heinle.
Blyth, C. and J. Davis (2007). Using Formative Evaluation in the Development of Learner Centered Materials. CALICO Journal, Vol 25, No. 1.