With approximately 265 million speakers worldwide, French is a popular Romance language originally descended from Latin. French is spoken in the European countries of France, Belgium and Switzerland, as well as in Canada, Lebanon and many African nations. The historical influence of French on the English language means that learners will instantly recognize many words and grammatical structures. It may be helpful to concentrate on these similarities when teaching French to adults, however it is also important to make beginners aware of the significant differences that sometimes exist between the two languages in terms of spelling and pronunciation.
Start with the basics. Even if the adults are not complete beginners, recap essential information to ensure that everyone is starting from the same position. Read the alphabet aloud, asking the learners to repeat each letter after you. Focus in particular on those letters whose pronunciation is different in French and English, for example "u" and "r." Praise students when they pronounce the letters correctly, as this will help to build confidence. Give encouragement to those who are struggling with certain letters.
Teach relevant vocabulary. Chat to the adults and establish why they are learning French. If they need the language to progress in their career, concentrate on teaching words which will be useful in the workplace. Alternatively, if they intend to travel to a French-speaking country, teach words and phrases that will be useful in a tourist environment. Ensure the course materials you are using are suitable for adults and do not include school and college vocabulary that is aimed at younger students.
Explain grammar in a simple fashion. Some adults who are learning French may have bad memories of failing French classes when they were in school. Avoid complex terminology where possible and highlight the areas where French grammar is similar to that of English. Learning the gender of French nouns is one area that many English native speakers find difficult. Reassure the adults that they will be understood by French speakers even if they sometimes forget whether nouns are masculine or feminine.
Encourage the adults to practice French as much as possible. Provide opportunities during lessons for everyone to speak in French. Organize group activities where learners can practice French conversations with a partner, as this may be less intimidating for some adults than speaking aloud in front of the entire class.
Make French fun by using audio and visual materials in your lessons. Download French podcasts from the Internet and play them in class to help your learners develop their listening comprehension skills. Review your DVD collection for movies that can be played with French audio and English subtitles. Watching films in French is an enjoyable way for adults to absorb new vocabulary and get used to the way the language sounds.
Even for adults, using children's books can be a great way to practice reading in French. Books designed for younger readers typically contain simple vocabulary and sentence structures that are perfect for those learning French.
Rachel Turner has been writing professionally since 2007. She has been published in a variety of local and regional publications such as "Redbrick" and "Window Magazine." Turner holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematical sciences from the University of Birmingham and is a Chartered Accountant.