Why you should embrace online lessons

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

When it comes to online teaching and learning, practicality is the first advantage that comes to mind - for both the teacher and the student. It is flexible and there is no travelling involved. The only requirement is an internet connection and a computer or mobile device. Recently, one of my students was in Turkey whilst I was spending some time in France. Changing countries did not affect our online lessons which we continued to have as usual.

However, there is much more to online lessons. If you learn with an experienced teacher ,who is computer literate, you will achieve the same goals as you would have done with face-to-face lessons and even more. In my opinion, online lessons can exceed face-to-face lessons when they are well planned and well delivered and when the students are willing to embrace the experience. As for the occasional technical problems such as a bad connection, a great teacher will find alternative solutions to keep teaching and learning going.

Online teachers have access to a wide variety of tools and up-to-date resources from the internet. So do classroom teachers, you may say. This is true but online teachers can use these tools simultaneously with their students which adds dynamic to their teaching. Conferencing softwares include powerful tools such as a screen sharing options and whiteboards. Lessons are more interactive than traditional ones and sustain the interest of the students without difficulty.

There are more advantages...Untidy folders disappear and are replaced by well organised paperless documents that are retrieved effortlessly - which avoids any waste of our precious teaching and learning time. Lesson objectives and lesson plans are shared in advance on a platform that can be accessed 24/7. Students can navigate in the virtual classroom whenever they need to. Feedback is more accurate and efficient as suggestions can be made on assignments in a very clear way. Students can also then accept these suggestions on their own or live with their teacher. This is a precious tool that allows the student to understand their mistakes rather than taking the corrections for granted. The teacher can have an insight that they could not have had before.

Accessibility and differentiation are areas that an online experience can seriously improve. Both teachers and students can work around any difficulties. For example, students with dyslexia can choose the best font for them and change the colour of their screen if they have visual stress. Voice-over also enables them to access written texts more easily.

Online teachers can also support their students easily via emails and can build vibrant learning communities where students can communicate and collaborate. I have created two Facebook groups for my students. One is exclusively for the students I teach. I post interesting and useful resources and they are also welcome to post any relevant articles and comments. I also have an online book club opened to any French learners.

The technological developments have made it possible to exceed face-to-face lessons both qualitatively and in terms of practicality.

A Day in Paris

A friend of mine is going to Paris for a few days in June and asked me if I could give her some recommendations. Giving some recommendations to go to Paris is an absolute delight.

When I was in my teens, I was lucky to visit Paris often. My cousin, who was studying at L’Ecole de Beaux-Arts, took me around beautiful places and was my personal tour guide in the galleries. Today, I continue to visit Paris regularly. There is always a museum, a restaurant, a pâtisserie to discover. When I am at home, Paris is never far away thanks to books, music and films. 

Last October, I visited the Musée de l'Orangerie which was closed in 2000 for renovation until 2006. It was completely restructured and the result is fantastic. It is the home of Monet's famous water lilies but also the home of the Paul Guillaume collection.

Before your go to the City of Lights, make sure you whet your appetite and set your mood! 

Read La cantatrice chauve and La leçon - translated as The Bald Soprano or The Bald Prima Donna - written by Ionesco. It has been showing everyday in a little theatre in Paris and that is how you are going to finish your day. So, it is best to know the story before getting there especially if you are still learning French.

La cantatrice chauve is an absurd play. There is no plot, the characters are zany and the conversations are disjointed. You will die of laughter.

Watch Amélie, Paris Je t’aime, La môme, An American in Paris, un monstre à Paris or Midnight in Paris.

Listen to :  ‘Le Poinçonneur des Lilas’ by Serge Gainsbourg; ’Sous le ciel de Paris’ by Edith Piaf ou Zaz; Ménilmontant by Charles Trenet. 

Finally, why not taking a few online French lessons to impress and boost your confidence when talking to French people ? 

You are now in Paris. 

1) Your first stop is at Musée Zadkine. Ossip Zadkine, a Russian sculptor and his wife, the painter Valentine Prax, lived and worked in this haven of peace between 1928 and 1967. 

Rebecca ou La Grande porteuse d'eau by Ossip Zadkine (1927)

2) Walk through the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg. The gardens were inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence and were created in 1612. 

For a small fee, children (big or small) can rent a toy sailboat from this man and sail it in the grand basin.

3) At lunchtime, go to La cuisine de Philippe and enjoy a beautiful meal. Why not try his wonderful soufflés…. one for a starter (emmental or mushroom) or/and one for a dessert (rhubarb, caramel or pistachio) ?  

4) Visit the amazing Église Saint-Sulpice which is the second largest church in the city after Notre-Dame. There, you will be able to admire one of the most beautiful pipe organs and the magnificent Delacroix paintings that have been refurbished in November 2016. 

The famous pipe organ was constructed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1862.

5) Indulge yourself with something sweet at la pâtisserie Michalak. Their millefeuille vanille tonka caramel looks delicious! Which treat will you choose ? 

6) You are now close to Saint Germain des prés. Let’s go shopping Rue de Rennes, rue de Sèvres and Boulevard Saint Germain. 

7) Earlier on, you discovered the beautiful paintings by Delacroix. You are now going to visit the museum dedicated to him and his art : the Musée Eugène Delacroix. This was his last home. He moved there in 1857 to be closer to Saint Supplice and accomplish his work. 

The beautiful house of Delacroix and its garden.

8) Before your play starts at the theatre, what about wandering on the Île de la Cité. 

It is 7 p.m., you are at le théâtre de la Huchette. I guarantee you that you will have a fantastic time. Both La cantatrice chauve and La leçon are wonderful plays. 

Finish your day at la crêperie de la petite bouclerie, 33 Rue de la Harpe. They offer lovely galettes and crêpes. If you are very hungry, go to le Petit châtelet, 39 Rue de la Bûcherie. 

The importance of languages

On the internet, numerous articles present us with the 5, 10, 20 reasons to learn a language. They mention economic power, education and jobs abroad, trips around the world. It is an undeniable fact that speaking several languages provides some opportunities, but it is a pity that the economic performance is the most sought-after benefit of foreign languages at the expense of essential and human benefits.

If one relies on economic reasons, then only the languages spoken in the business world deserve to be learned. This line of reasoning benefits the detractors of language learning in English schools. Liam Mullone, in an article for the Spectator, wrote: "It's just that I want my children to be successful, and learning French makes no business sense." Jeremy Paxman, in an article for the Financial Times, echoes this sentiment: "The outcome of the struggle is clear: English is the language of science, technology, travel, entertainment and sport. To be a citizen of the world it is the one language that you must have”. 

However, it seems that these two gentlemen have forgotten the essence of the languages. Languages cannot be reduced to a simple means to professional success. They express our thoughts, our ideas, our identity, our culture. 

Discovering one or several foreign cultures gives us a more open view to the world. Moreover, according to an American study conducted by Samantha Fan, and Zoe Lieberman of the University of Chicago, “ to understand a speaker’s intention, one must take the speaker’s perspective. Multilingual exposure may promote effective communication by enhancing perspective taking.” Learning a language, pushes us to acquire a profound knowledge of the other. It allows us to feel that we are integrating a culture.

In addition, and this is the greatest power of learning languages, it offers a more profound self-awareness. To learn a language is to discover who we are, it is to know our values, our passions, our struggles. It is to live new emotions and become better citizensof the world. 

Of course, languages help to succeed in one’s professional life, but what is essential, as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk said, is that “the more languages you know, the more you are human.”