One of the most frequent questions our potential students (or their parents) ask us is: “What course do you use?” (« Quel programme utilisez-vous ? ») The question is interesting because it suggests that the French experience of learning English is that that there is a set (fixé) programme and students will follow it, irrespective of whether or not this is appropriate.
So the answer to the question is: “We choose a variety of different teaching materials that we think will best match (répondre à) each student’s individual needs (besoins)”.
Our students usually arrive on a Saturday afternoon. With the first lesson being on Monday morning, there is valuable time to informally assess (évaluer) what those needs might be. A weekend provides plenty of opportunity for conversation - and this gives us many insights (des aperçus) into which areas we should start on. In addition, especially with adults, the student him/herself will have a good idea on where he/she wants our efforts to be concentrated - and we try to take this into account.
OK, so what materials (ressources) do we use?
Although we don’t use a course (un programme), we have a range of different course materials that we draw upon. These are tried-and-tested (essayé et testé) ones that can be found on the shelves of many EFL teachers (des professeurs d’anglais pour les étrangers). In addition, we may make use of individual texts, CDs, videos, web-based materials and TV recordings.
Effectively, we dip into this stock of resources, taking into account linguistic-appropriateness, age-appropriateness and - if possible - personal interests.
OK, so how do you structure everything?
In the simplest sense, language proficiency (maîtrise) progresses along a continuum from ‘elementary’ to ‘intermediate’ to ‘advanced’. Though this progress isn’t uniform (identique) or even (pair/plat), one can still say that certain constructions are ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ (plus/moin difficile) than others. For example, one doesn’t usually teach the passive voice until the student has reasonably mastered the active voice. Likewise (également), the past perfect tense usually waits until after the simple past or the present perfect tenses, etc..
So to accompany the materials mentioned above, we have another set of home-made materials (des ressources personnalisées) which address some of these key ‘building blocks’ of grammar.
Measuring progression (Comment mesurer la progression)
What follows from the above is that instead of saying that student A got up (accompli) to page 52 of course B, we can then re-shape this as student A has mastered (a maîtrisé) X and Y, and is ready to move on to Z [and materials 34 and 52 were used]. This helps us make sense of what was accomplished in November - and what we might move on to when they return for a further séjour linguistique in July.