Theories of Reading
As a Literacy Specialist, I have studied for many years now how people learn to read. The combination of this knowledge and my mother tongue being French has given birth to Le Français Facile! My first degree was a Bachelor of Science in Biology. My second was a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, where I specialized in Reading and Learning. My current study is a Masters of Education in Curriculum Development. Having studied with a family from France in the past, I hope to again merge with the people of France by studying there in the fall of 2005. This educational path has led me to apply my learned skills in the development and provision of a vehicle necessary to attain french literacy. I believe that Le Français Facile! is such a vehicle for the French language.
My French editor is Jeanne Courcelles Wagner. She has a Bachelor of Education in French. Also a francophone, she taught high school French and is an expert when it comes to French grammar. She is the beautiful voice you hear in the songs and the voice of Chérie (among others).
Many parents feel that they need to add the memorizing of vocabulary to the curriculum. PLEASE do not do this. This is out of logical progression to how a child learns French. I assure you that there will be plenty of time to memorize vocabulary as you progress through Level I and in Level II.
The following discussion will tell you why you need to be familiar with the language, and learn the sounds of the language, before you attempt to memorize and learn long lists of vocabulary. My stories are written so that comprehension (in text) is attained, but the French sounds are also experienced. As far as comprehending the individual French words in isolation at the start of this curriculum, please do not make this a personal goal. You will set yourself and your children up for unnecessary frustration. Instead, let the children enjoy learning the language naturally. Please use the Checklist that is appropriate for the age of your child!
This does not mean that this curriculum is in any way a whole language program. Young children need to hear the French sounds before they are ready to learn French words. Older children can experience the sounds in the vocabulary as they gently start learning the words. Please note that even the Independent Learner will be past the 1st quarter before they get remotely close to a foreign sounding phonogram. In this way, they are learning the French phonograms that are closest to the English first while still experiencing the language. After a certain amount of exposure, they are ready to learn phonogram 20, which is the first phonogram that has a low frequency English sound. They are not memorizing or learning how to spell for testing purposes until Level II. Children need this time to internalize the French sounds while laying the important foundations of the language. Although this may seem like they are not learning any words, the end result will mean being able to learn the language more easily and more quickly. The key is laying a good foundation.
Most French programs teach with a whole language method, others make a veiled attempt at teaching some basic phonics. The major problem is that your brain has not been taught the sounds that you are attempting to make. The theories of sound tell us that if we cannot identify a sound, we cannot replicate that sound. If you would like to study further on this topic, please see the work done by Dr. Alfred Tomatis (The Tomatis Method) or Ingo Steinbach (SAMONAS). (note: like many truths there are new-age groups that have latched onto these techniques, however they are sound scientific methods. We do not endorse new-age philosophies - read our statement of faith. Also, the links provided here can be very difficult to find - they are the official sites of the respective organizations. Many many look-alike domain names have been registered and point to commercial or other sites; be certain that you are on the site you think you are!)
In our effort to use all available technologies to further facilitate learning, we have used these scientific theories when mastering our audio. These techniques can only be done via CD or digital audio (mp3 etc), and cannot be replicated on cassette tape or video. The variations and colors-of-sound that we experience can be presented in a way that accesses the listening areas of the brain, as opposed to simple hearing. Hearing simply lets in sound, whereas listening allows meaning and learning to kick in. The elements used were basics of overtones and their structure of frequency and amplitude (pitch and tone), the formant laws, and the structure of transients. The knowledge gathered while in the process of completing my entry level training with SAMONAS has allowed me to bring you the best techniques in accessing your child(ren)'s brain in order to facilitate optimum learning.
Phonemes are the basic sounds of a language. Most French programs teach the sounds with an example word, but this is difficult for a foreign ear. Most programs believe that letter-phoneme correspondence should not be taught in isolation because they do not occur in isolation. They therefore teach sounds in conjunction with words. For instance, they teach "b" as in boy or in French they teach "b" as in bateau. Phonemes can change slightly within words, so this type of instruction can cause confusion, especially with the liaison within the French language. Teaching a student the pure sounds allows the child to have a foundation for the sound, and then they carry this knowledge into the slight changes that occur within words. For example, when we teach our children their colors we first teach them a pure blue, red and yellow. We then show them variations of these colors that can still be classified within the name of the color. This is exactly what happens with basic phonemes (phonograms). We teach the pure sound in isolation, and then our brains are able to make the short leaps to the variations within words. This is a very important step if children are to learn how to comprehend aural French without great effort and study.
Our first step is to be able to identify and familiarize our children with the sounds of the french language. Younger children need the first year to just listen to the recordings each week day without the pressure of memorizing the vocabulary. Once they can identify the french sounds and have a good basis in english, then we can start teaching them the French phonograms.Please read on...