Jump to content


French narrations and copywork?


Recommended Posts

I had read before that Charlotte Mason would have her students narrate in French. I wasn't sure how this worked. Does the teacher read a selection in French and then have the students narrate to her? As one who is just learning to speak in French (I have a long way to go!!:D) how can I incorporate this into our lessons? Could we listen to simple audio books (children's stories) and then try to narrate the story? How could I simplify this?


Do you think copywork in French would be useful? We started this last year but did not keep up with it. Dd did seem to like it.


Any advice?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have read this:


Vol 6 pg 211

Children in Form IIB have easy French Lessons with pictures which they describe, but in IIA while still engaged on the Primary French Course children begin to use the method which is as full of promise in the teaching of languages as in English, that is, they are expected to narrate the sentence or paragraph which has been read to them. Young children find little difficulty in using French vocables, but at this stage the teacher should with the children's help translate the little passage which is to be narrated, them re-read it in French and require the children to narrate it. This they do after a time surprisingly well, and the act of narrating gives them some command of French phrases as far as they go, much more so than if they learnt the little passage off by heart. They learn French songs in both divisions and act French Fables (by Violet Partington) in Form IIA. This method of closely attentive reading of the text followed by narration is continued in each of the Forms. Thus Form II is required to "Describe in French, picture 20." "Narrate the story Esope et le Voyageur." Part of the term's work in Form III is to "Read and narrate


Vol 6 pg 212

Nouveaux Contes Français, by Marc Ceppi." Form IV is required amongst other things to "Read and narrate Moliere's Les Femmes Savantes." Forms V and VI are required to "Write a résume' of Le Misanthrope or L'Avare," "Translate into French, Modern Verse, page 50, 'Leisure.'"

We have not space to follow in detail the work of the P.U.S. in French, which of course includes the usual attention to French Grammar but it may interest the reader to see the sort of thing that students of the House of Education are able to accomplish in the way of narration. The French mistress gives, let us suppose, a lecture in history or literature lasting, say, for half an hour. At the end the students will narrate the substance of the lecture with few omissions and few errors. Here is an example of the sort of thing Mr. Household heard, on the occasion of a short visit to the House of Education, Ambleside,––

"A French lesson was given to the second-year students by the French mistress, a native of Tournal, who came to Ambleside in 1915. She had been teaching in England for some years but had not previously come into contact with Miss Mason's methods. Those methods were exactly followed during the lesson. There was the book of recognised literary merit, the single reading, and the immediate narration––of course in French. The book was Alphonse Daudet's Lettres de Mon Moulin, and the story read was 'La Chèvre de M. Seguin.' Before the reading began, a few––a very few––words of explanation were given––of course, in French. Then nine pages of the story were read straight through by the mistress, without pause or interruption of any kind, at the same pace that one would read an English story. The students followed by ear only: they had no books. As soon as the reading ended, on the instant, without hesitation of any kind, narration began in French, different members of the class taking up the story in turn till it was finished. All were good; some astonishingly good. To all French was a tongue in which they could think and speak with considerable facility. Yet the time given to French is two hours and three quarters a week only. Such results compel attention. It may be added that last year

Vol 6 pg 213

the writer heard a history lecture on the reign of Louis XI given in French by the same mistress to the then senior students, and the content of the lecture was narrated in a similar manner, with the same astonishing success."

This hitherto unused power of concentrated attention in the study of languages whether ancient or modern appears to hold promise of making us at last a nation of linguists. We have attained very good results in Italian and German by this same method, both in the House of Education and the Practising School belonging to it, and we are in a fair way to produce noticeable results in Latin. The classical mistress writes,––

"Latin is taught at the House of Education by means of narration after each section has been thoroughly studied in grammer, syntax and style. The literature studied increases in difficulty as the pupil advances in grammar, etc. Nothing but good Latin is ever narrated, so the pupil acquires style as well as structure. The substance of the passage is usually reproduced with the phraseology and style of the original and both students and children learn what is really Latin and realise that it is a language and not a mere grammar."

Here we get Grammar, that is, construction, learned as we learn it in English, at the lips of those who, know, and the extraordinary readiness in acquiring new words shewn by the scholars promises English folk the copious vocabulary in one or another foreign language, the lack of which is a national distress.



Hopefully this helps.


I think that she advised that the French teacher be a native speaker (I'd say that a good, solid speaker with good accent, fluent or nearly so, is an acceptable substitute). I think if one's command of French is not strong, then it might be hard to have the vocabulary required to narrate, so it might help to have an additional teacher to guide them. I don't mean to be discouraging, so I hope it doesn't come across that way.


My kids listen to books (written in their other language) for fun and discuss them (as they're not quite at narration stage) -- it has shown to be a good tool for providing spark for discussion and enriching the vocabulary. I hope this helps somewhat?


It is my view (contrary to CM) that if you desire fluency, you should do more than 2 or 3 hrs weekly.


Also please remember the Bilingual board-- not quite so active as this one, so it might not get lost there, so consider posting there too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, I was afraid it might be too much.

I'll keep looking at this and see if I can come up with anything that will work.


I agree with you about the number of hours that should be spent on learning a language. I was wondering also, would having French in audio and/or dvd playing daily help us absorb the language better. I guess I'm thinking of our Suzuki lessons. Dds listen to the cd (Suzuki piano songs) and are required to listen to it daily. Then we sing the songs and very quickly afterwords dd can play them. If we listen to French songs/stories in the background of our day would this help?


Thanks so much!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm no expert on language learning, but I certainly think it's nice to listen to songs, watch simple movies, or things like news programs (radio or TV/online) -- I think they support language learning, and it's always exciting to be able to understand even a few words.


I think the similarity with Suzuki and music is indeed what you've gotten at -- normally one sort of picks up language by hearing a lot of it, rather than practicing conjugations and so on. I think Suzuki was trying to parallel natural language learning, so I say go for it. It sure can't hurt! But I think if your daughters, especially the youngest, had some exposure to hearing people really speak French, they would pick it up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you think copywork in French would be useful? We started this last year but did not keep up with it. Dd did seem to like it.




I studied French from 7th grade up through a Bachelor's degree, and (for me) the physical copying/writing of French text helped immensely with my written skills. It also helped somewhat indirectly with my prononuciation, as it enabled me to have some recall of which accent mark was used and therefore which pronounciation was correct.


My middle school teacher had us copy French text every week, so it became part of my early habits. My high school teacher had no such requirement, but when we began reading French literature I would always keep a running journal of my own where I'd select a snippet from our studies and re-copy until I had it memorized (on paper, and subsequently in my mind). I continued doing this through college, self-selecting random bits of literature to practice copying and memorizing. When I got to modern French literature I was able to have better recall of common phrases, which helped my speaking.


I came to particularly enjoy selecting French poetry or songs for my copywork; I still have amazing recall even though I haven't actively used my French for everyday use in more than 5 years - in fact, it is helping me revive my speaking skills as I move to incorporate it more regularly into my now everyday life.


Highly recommend french copywork!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you! This is very motivating-I will get to work on this during the summer so that I will be better prepared during the year. :001_smile:



P.S. Stripe-thanks for your help and honesty. I do hope that at some point in the near future I might be able to afford a tutor. Even if one only comes once a week, I still think it would be helpful.

Edited by Kfamily
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...