TPRS with my granddaughter

June 19 I’ve read Ben Slavic’s TPRS in a Year and am prepared as much as I can be to teach my granddaughter French via tprs. I feel excited about tprs. My French is fluent but limited so I will struggle with the “cute” vocabulary items she may come up with. I know ‘crapaud’ and ‘la porte d’arriere’ and others, but I may have to have my dictionary handy. I’ll keep this a running blog.

July 4 (Happy Fourth). I was telling my granddaughter about le quatorze juillet but she already knew. So I gave her the origin of the Fais Do-Do dance. (One spoil-sport says it doesn’t come from the old French “beddy-bye” saying but from “dos a dos”, back to back. I prefer the former.)

We’re on lesson three and we counted up the words she knows, about 30. I know I am leaving out some key TPRS elements, so when I add them in I think we’ll explode. I already used “Qu’est-ce que veut manger la Mema?” What does Mema (grandma) want to eat? and she answered “grapes” after looking at what was NOT on her plate, indicating to me she grasped the implication of ‘veut manger’ over ‘mange’ (which we haven’t had yet).

I also contrasted this way of learning a language with her Spanish experience. A friend from my book club had written, “It’s been known that children learn languages quickly because they are not burdened by rationalizing what they hear. They connect words with function rather than with comparison.” Very true. So I took “n’aime pas” = doesn’t like, and asked her how you would say “doesn’t want” from ‘veut’, looking for ‘ne veut pas’. She stumbled on it and I pointed out that that was how her Spanish teacher was teaching her: if you know canto = I sing then you must be able to say I walk from caminar. The brain doesn’t process language that way.

Then I said the lesson was over so I could give her a test, in math. She has 30 words now after 3 lessons. If she learns 10 new words a day, how many words will she know after 10 lessons (I had my calculator handy). She got it right (I think).

July 19. The amount of words she understands has grown commensurately. After eleven lessons, I accidently use relative clauses and she gets it. Several times today I asked her to reflect on her pauses in answering and they turned out to be the details of the story i.e. the content, the message, and not the French, certainly not the grammar and not even the vocabulary. She has introduced an odd element to her story – the boat flies to Germany – and she injected a fact I had not had in my head, that the family is flying to Germany from France because the boat has no water to sail on. All that requires why, because, who, where, etc.

I’m itching to get to some new words like trouver, oublier, pouvoir, etc. but the words are mounting so quickly I’m afraid to get out over my skis, as they say these days. I am trying to focus on structures like veut manger, but when I circle she comes up with what TPRS calls cute answers I don’t want to pass up. Since fly and steal are homonyms in French and the captain of the boat doubles as a pirate, we have a set-up for drama. Also, she put the friend they are visiting in Germany, Bambi the fawn, in a forest. I couldn’t check to see if foret and bois are distinguishable so I chose bois as more common. I’ll google it 🙂

The moment will come when she begins answering in French but right now she answers in English.

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