Anyone who has learned or attempted to learn a new language knows that the hardest part is learning to speak and to listen fluently as opposed to reading and writing. My own personal experience and from what I’ve heard from many friends has shown me that language instruction in schools focuses heavily on reading, writing, and grammar. Reading and writing are two skills essential in the classroom, as traditional tests are taken with paper and pen; however, in practical use, speaking and listening are just as – if not more – important than reading and writing.
My high school French teacher did his best to incorporate speaking and listening into the classroom. Even beyond the practice CDs that came with our textbook, he would play us music or interviews so that we could listen closely and fill in the blank spaces on transcripts of each example. Using authentic pieces of contemporary French culture is so valuable in the classroom in order to keep learning relevant to the students’ lives and their interests as well as understanding real, everyday language use compared to the formal, academic language taught in the classroom.
When I prepared myself to go to France for a semester, I decided to try to incorporate as much French into my everyday life as I could. I tried to think of how I could practice my listening in a way that was easy, accessible, and enjoyable. I knew that I would not willingly listen to French news every day without completely tuning it out after the first minute. I also wanted something that was more casual and closer to how the people I would encounter would speak. They wouldn’t all be newscasters. I realized that a big chunk of my spare time at that point was spent watching Youtube and vloggers. It dawned on me to incorporate French “youtubeurs/youtubeuses” into that routine. One of my favorites was a comedy and tech vlogger called Cyprien.
*Warning: slight nudity around 4:50
In this particular video, Cyprien talks about his visit in New York, the differences between America and Europe, and the struggles of traveling on your own. This style of video is great for high school aged students or any young adults since it’s funny and relatable. Cyprien talks directly to the camera as if telling a story to a friend while he mixes little sketches where he acts out his stories and highlights certain jokes. My personal favorite part is the beginning when he talks about he struggles of going on vacation without your parents and their wallets. As a broke college student: #relatable. If you’re a teacher trying to get your students to listen to more French on a daily basis, YouTube personalities like Cyprien are great because most kids have phones or computers they can use to watch anytime, so it’s extremely accessible. YouTubers are already really popular among teenagers so it’s a great way to sneak in learning into their current interests. And though the comment section isn’t always a great place, it provides viewers an opportunity of critical engagement where they can express their thoughts, making them more invested in continuing to watch the videos. You could even create an activity of writing comments in French. Cyprien’s videos, in comparison to my favorite French beauty vlogger EnjoyPhoenix, are pretty gender neutral so it’s great if you’re trying to reach a wide audience like in a classroom.
I should mention, however, that due to the speed of their speech, French vlogging videos are best for intermediate to advanced students. You can turn on the automatic captions that YouTube provides, but they’re extremely unreliable and inaccurate, often getting the translation completely wrong. Beginning students can attempt to watch and catch familiar words as practice as well, but they probably won’t fully comprehend what’s going on — especially when it comes to jokes, though comedy is a great way to measure comprehension. If you laugh, you know you understood the joke. Also, not all of Cyprien’s videos are necessarily appropriate to show in a classroom, so teacher discretion is advised!
Well, I hope this inspires you or your students to incorporate more French into your life!