Web and Video Language Immersion

Students are bombarded with media and spend too many hours in front of computer and TV screens. Does this mean we shouldn’t show videos in class? Of course not.

There is an important place for watching videos in the French or Spanish language classroom. Second languages are best learned in situ but not every student can jet off to Paris to experience French immersion. Video is a convenient alternative. For years I have used educational videos to help students learn French because it exposes them to native speakers.

Téléfrancais is for children in elementary grades. Sol, a French Canadian comedian, stars in the Parlez-Moi series for older students. I’m on the lookout for more modern materials, but the content and the pedagogy is excellent. My students giggle at the passé fashions but still enjoy the characters and stories.

The beauty of these two series is that episodes are short and funny. They explain vocabulary using sight, sound and repetition, within a controlled vocabulary which accumulates chronologically. For each video I make up a brief worksheet and have students hunt for the answers as they watch. Classes ask me to repeat the video, sometimes twice, to help them find the answers. In language teaching, repetition is gold and any time the students are asking to watch a native speaker over and over, they are concentrating on immersion learning.

French teachers interested in using my Parlez-Moi worksheets should send me a message. I will scan them and email them to you personally.

Update: I have scanned the files so you can get the PDF worksheets much more quickly. If you would like them for your personal use with your class, please click here. I’ll email them to you so fast, it will feel automatic! 🙂

Adult learners and students looking for enrichment can benefit from videos too. Check your local library for movies and TV shows in your target language. Make sure there is an option to view with English subtitles for maximum comprehension. Series which deal with everyday life and express a lot of emotion are especially good for learning common vocabulary, cultural gestures and facial expressions. I learned a lot of Spanish watching telenovelas (soap operas) before visiting Peru and it made a measurable difference in my ability to understand native speakers. If you need to refresh your oral comprehension or you are learning a language for the first time, I recommend watching a serial whether or not you like soaps in your mother tongue.

For pleasure as well as utility I strongly recommend BBC’s interactive web mystery for Spanish learners, Ma Vida Loca. In it, you are a tourist caught in a web of intrigue that takes you all over Spain. I wish there were more free web resources of this quality. If you know any, please share with fellow teachers by leaving a comment.


Creative Teacher Librarian

— Teaching more fun!

Off to Peru!

I will be spending most of the month of February in Peru, socializing with my sister-in-law’s family and friends and learning as much Spanish as I can. As a Canadian, I have French but my Spanish so far is just what I’ve picked up here and there from hobby courses or books. Time to get serious!

In the meantime, I’ve started a new novel but with the whirlwind of preparations for my trip, progress is slow. It’s plotted out roughly and I know what kind of tone I want. I know the ending I’m building to and the characters. There is no reason not to work, except I can’t concentrate on anything but my trip. Maybe I should be writing about that instead.

Hasta luego!


Earthquake concert a success

I attended a wonderful concert at Mel Lastman Square this Sunday to raise money for earthquake relief in Peru. The music ranged from jazz to contemporary, traditional to pop. Many performers were local, others flew into Toronto specifically for the benefit. The concert was arranged by unidos-por-peru.com/. There are articles about the concert in Spanish at Correo Canadiense or Torontohispano (which has photos and a handy translate-to-English button). You can still give International or Canadian relief to the victims of the earthquake.

Mel Lastman square held hundreds of people enjoying the music, dancers and typical Peruvian foods. I enjoyed trying to order in Spanish (even though the volunteers spoke English!). As you can see, my motives were not entirely pure. It was a great chance to combine Spanish immersion with a fun family outing.

Peru, Chile, Mexico, Bolivia were represented by traditional dance troupes. Folklore Inka had the most unusual costumes, with long sleeves that could be waved like flags.

Of the groups listed on the program, I especially enjoyed the Tequila Band, Somos Peru, De Rompe y Raja, Manuel Cardenas, Rosario Arce, Grupo Difusion, Grupo Pisco, Grupo Placaso and Alex Bello, with his hit “Sin Ti.” It was a moving end to a talent-filled concert ‘marathon.’

My close friend has lost her town

I direct your attention to the Earthquake affecting Peru’s costal towns. A close friend told me that, although her relatives survived, her town (Pisco) is gone. Their homes are destroyed and their livelihoods are in jeopardy. People and businesses in Peru cannot obtain insurance because earthquakes are frequent. Many Peruvians are poor to begin with and have few resources to fall back on.

Early reports of casualties were lower but as the rescue efforts cease, the death toll is over 500, according to the BBC. Here is what this article said about my friend’s city:

“As he toured Pisco on Sunday with his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, [Peruvian President] Mr Garcia faced angry protesters. ‘We need food. We are hungry. There’s no water,’ a crowd of about 100 people shouted.”

The Royal Bank of Canada is accepting donations to help with international relief efforts. I just hope that Peru’s needs are not forgotten as Mexico braces itself for hurricane Dean.

If you are interested, there are many ways of giving International or Canadian relief. If you give even a small amount through the bank, it sends a message to your government that this issue is important. If enough voters do so, the administration will be more likely to reserve humanitarian relief for Peru.

Less than a year ago I sponsored a child in Lima. I wonder how he is doing right now.