What does literature say about how French should be taught? What does it say about how grammar should be taught and why? For some time, the status of grammar in the curriculum was rather uncertain (Nunan, 1989, p. 13).
Some linguists maintained that it was not necessary to teach grammar, that the ability to use a second language would develop automatically if the learner were required to focus on meaning in the process of using the language to communicate (Nunan, 1989, p. 13). However, it now seems to be widely accepted that there is a value in classroom tasks which require learners to focus on form. Grammar is an essential resource in using language communicatively. Therefore the question is not whether or not grammar should be taught in the French as a Second Language (FSL) classroom but how it should be taught or used in the classroom. According to my research, students must be provided with authentic situations in which they can orally practice grammatical structures with some correction from the teacher and must be formally taught the rules of grammar for written French.
Firstly, one must distinguish between implicit and explicit grammar. Implicit grammar refers to what the student knows without being able to explain how he or she knows it. It is language that is produced spontaneously, with little or no prior thought or reflection (Netten and Germain, 2005) Explicit grammar refers to the formally taught rules of grammar. Both implicit and explicit grammar have value in the FSL classroom.In a study published in Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Netten and Germain (2005) argue that implicit competence, not explicit knowledge, is necessary for accurate oral production whereas explicit knowledge helps tremendously with written production since written production takes place more slowly, allowing time for reflection. Implicit grammar is learned by students while they are discussing a topic of interest (Saskatchewan Department of Education Core French Curriculum Guide, 1997). Their attention is focussed on the discussion, but they are also acquiring at the same time the language forms and structures needed to communicate about the topic. (Netten and Germain, 2005) The teacher models structures and the students use and reuse this language in authentic communication situations. Students do not need to be aware of the rules of language in order to communicate orally accurately. Thus any activity that encourages students to communicate orally on a topic of interest should be used in the FSL classroom. Group activities encourage communication between peers and are very useful for developing oral skills (Netten and Germain, 2005). The overall goal of Core French in junior high is not to become fluently bilingual but to learn the basic forms and structures necessary for survival in a French environment.
Netten, J., & Germain, C. (2005). Pedagogy and second language learning: Lessons learned from Intensive French. canadian journal of applied linguistics, 8.2, 183-210.
Nunan, D. (1989). Designing tasks for the communicative classroom. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Saskatchewan Department of Education. (1997) Core French: A Curriculum Guide for the Secondary Level Retrieved from http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/francais/frcore/sec/pdf/frenchsec.pdf