Second Language Acquisition

Sorbonne (4)
L’Université Paris-Sorbonne, Aôut 2012

One of the reasons I am studying in Paris this fall is to experience life first-hand as a second language learner in an Immersion Program.  Of course, I love all things French as well, but part of my motivation is to improve my skills as a Second Language Instructor: the strengths and weakness of teaching students how to communicate effectively.

I am currently enrolled in 20 hours of French and am taking the following courses:  Grammar (2 hrs each day, 5 days a week), Phonetics (1 hr daily),  Art History (2 hrs week), French Literature (2 hrs week) and History of Paris (2 hrs week).  While this is an overwhelming schedule, being “immersed” in French has rapidly improved my language skills.   The following is my list of ten observations of being a second language learner of French:

1.   Be prepared for class each day by completing assignments and by listening to French before class by Podcasts, radio, TV, etc.  I know this is common knowledge, but it really makes a difference in my comprehension of the day’s lectures and exercises.  If I have the time, it’s a good idea to read ahead to help anticipate the coming lessons,

2.  Speak only French with my classmates even outside of class.  Each day as I walk from one class to the next with my classmates speaking French, I am able to apply the skills that were just covered in class!

3.  Don’t be afraid to have a conversation in your second language with my classmates, waiters, clerks, professors, etc. even if I  make mistakes.  If all else fails I can always say the words in English with a French accent!!! (sometimes I get lucky and hit a cognate!)

4.  Look up the correct answers to problems I have missed on an exercise or an exam.  This helps me see a possible “pattern” of repeated mistakes plus it is good reinforcement.

5.  Visit or read something daily about the new culture I am studying such as a historical monument, museum, monarchy, etc.  This gives me something to look forward to as well as helps me appreciate the foundation of my second language.  It is also good to invite a friend along!

Moyen Age stained glass window:
Musee du Cluny

6.  Write out questions about homework before class so that I can communicate effectively with my Instructor and can get a more accurate response.

7.  Form study groups with my classmates to review new concepts and prepare for tests.  Not only does this help me not to feel alone in this journey,  but hearing my classmates explain an answer can give me a new insight to language learning.

8.  Watch myself in the mirror when speaking French,  paying special attention to the placement of my tongue, shape of my lips and positions of my mouth. Maybe one day I can say my “R’s” correctly in the back of my throat!  Bonjour, je m’appelle (clear my throat…)Robyn”.

9.   Change where I sit in class every few weeks to get to know different students and to practice speaking with students of different dialects and backgrounds.

10.  Blog about my experiences in learning French to help me reflect on why I am here!!! (and to post some really cool pictures!!)

Honore de Balzac
Pere Lechaise Cimetiere


Copyright 2012 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (