When we learnt French at school, our teacher was Mlle. Walker, a small very French looking lady, dark hair and a tanned complexion. She seemed ancient, as many of our teachers did and she was very fierce but not horrible. She was strict, but I only remember her being fair and very firm. There was no messing about in her class but we felt as if we were learning, that she was teaching and that it was best to always try your hardest. For the first term we wrote nothing down; for the first couple of weeks we just practiced the different sounds of French, and I remember repeating an, en, on, un, une, and that œ sound, and what we later learned meant eye – œil. At first, as eleven year-olds, new to secondary school, we were very self-conscious, but she was a good teacher and we soon forgot about being embarrassed and just tried to repeat what she said to her satisfaction. We learnt the names of things in the classroom, qu’est-ce que c’est ci? qu’est-ce que c’est ça? C’est une table, c’est une chaise! and simple questions, comment t’appelles-tu? Comment ça va?
It was a great way to learn, and although some people thought we ought to be writing things down – we had a cahier de vocabulaire, she insisted we had to have the sounds in our head and on our tongues first. She was away once and another teacher taught us. We were horrified, outraged almost, in our polite schoolgirl way, that she wrote things on the board and asked us to read what she’d written. Eventually of course with Mlle. Walker we did use our cahiers, and did our devoirs, but that was how we learned to begin with.
I’m learning Danish (goodness knows why) on Duolingo, and very much enjoying it and am fascinated how many words and constructions are so similar to English – I shouldn’t be surprised knowing the history of our language and the fact that the Danes ruled our country from the ninth century! It is different from the way I learned French because as well as the language examples which are spoken, we have the written words, phrases and sentences on the screen. However, what I’m missing is my cahier de vocabulaire – or, I guess min ordforråd bog (I hope that’s right!) I haven’t anywhere to write things down, as I used to in my French lessons, things which I could later look at and learn. I also miss having vocabulary lists – yes, that must be such an old-fashioned concept!
The upshot is I have bought myself a small exercise book, and I’m going to try to bring some order to the random learning I’m doing – writing is so much part of the way I have been taught to learn, that I’m going to try, and see if I make more progress this way!