Sunday, June 24, 2007


I always used to end my Italian classes for adults by getting them to join in a song. Italian being a phonetic language, it was possible to do this even with complete beginners and they'd be delighted that they could pronounce the words. [With French, it was harder and you'd have to wait a bit.] Il Ballo del Qua Qua, for sheer speed and sing-alonginess, was always popular. The words are here and the You tube clip will be on the next post. I defy anyone to feel down in the dumps while listening to this!

You can use song in language teaching just for enjoyment [which should, after all, be an aim, though we often lose sight of it in our quest to fulfill targets]. But you can also use it to reinforce grammar skills, by choosing your songs carefully and blanking out, say, all the adjectives or all the verb forms of a certain tense on the word sheets and getting students to fill them in as they listen.

I was inspired to write this post by an email I received today - yes, another voice from the past ! A lady now in her forties who was in my French A level group in the mid-eighties wrote:

"Was thinking of you the other day as I sang along to 'Je ne regrette rien' chosen by Yoko Ono on "Desert Island Discs". I could still visualise the sheets you gave us with the lyrics and it transported me back to those lessons and those wonderful songs. How lucky I was.
I don't think I ever really thanked you enough for your unique style of French teaching.
Merci mille fois!"

On a related matter, here's how I used to teach A level French students to understand the use of different tenses in a narrative: I'd get, say, a well known fairy story in French [something short but with a good variety of tense usage] put it on the overhead projector and read it out. Each group of 2 or more students would have been given whistles, castanets, triangles or toy drums. Then we'd have whistling every time they heard a past historic, castanet clicking when they heard a perfect tense, triangle pinging for an imperfect and drum banging for a pluperfect. It was noisy but it was fun! Then we'd go through the text and seriously discuss the tense usage. Incidentally, this used to go down much better with adults than with teenagers - 17 or 18-year-olds often took themselves far too seriously for it!


Lee said...

What a wonderful method of definitely would increase the students' interest and desire to learn by the participation.

Making classes fun for them, and for you. Good post, Welsh.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Lee. I like to think I was unconventional as a teacher!

Janejill said...

Brilliant - what a good idea and fun - now I think this would have tickled me at any age (what does that say about me) Oh I Do wish I had had some teachers like you Welshcakes ; if I come to Sicily , would you be my Italian teacher? I am much better behaved than I used to be, though my brain isn't, sadly.

jmb said...

Many the time I've done that in Italian class. Fill in the blanks. But some of those Italians eat their words and make it difficult for us foreigners.

Maria said...

I am quite positive my french would be much better and my Italian would be tons better if I had you as a teacher! There should be more teachers like you! All the best... Still trying to learn,

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

With pleasure, janejill. One thing I would say about coming here, though: as you know, I am an Ital graduate so was fluent before I came. I don't think it would be possible to manage, in an area like this, without a decent level of Italian. So if you're serious, enrol in an evening class for September! Jmb, I suppose they don't realise how fast their speech / singing is! Thanks, M. I'm sure you'd be a fine student. Well done for persevering!


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