FREN 201 (First Year University French II) is a three-credit introductory French course that further develops the ability to read, understand, speak, and write French. This course enables and encourages students to use French in social situations, discuss a variety of issues, and express opinions. In addition, the course leads students through a major review of grammar and develops the students’ ability to understand and compose short passages.
First Year University French II is made up of twelve units, five written assignments weighing twenty percent each, five oral assignments that weigh twenty percent each, a composition assignment weighing ten percent, an oral examination worth ten percent, and a written examination that weighs forty percent. For students to receive credit for FREN 200, they must complete and submit all of these, and achieve a course composite grade of at least a “D”, which is equivalent to fifty percent, with a grade of at least fifty percent on the written examination.
Dr. Evelyne Gagnon has been working with Athabasca University since 2016 and has been the course coordinator for FREN 201 since joining. She provides a brief introduction of herself, stating “I have researched and studied in Québec, Canada and France. I hold a PhD in literary studies from Université du Québec à Montréal, and I also achieved two postdoctoral fellowships on contemporary literature. My second post-doctoral fellowship brought me to beautiful Alberta, where I worked at the Canadian Literature Centre (CLC-University of Alberta) on renewed forms of melancholia in contemporary Québécois and Canadian literature. My areas of expertise are French lyricism and French Canadian and Québécois literature, but I also have a great passion for poetry, and I am publishing my own creative writings as well. Before joining Athabasca University, I taught French language and French and Quebecois literature at various post-secondary institutions. What I appreciate particularly about AU is the variety of learners we have in our courses. AU’s students possess so many diverse and profound life experiences that nurture their learning paths, and those enrich non-only our teaching approaches but our own relationship to knowledge.”
Alongside this course, she is the course coordinator of FREN 200 (First Year University French I), FREN 305 (La littérature jeunesse), FREN 362 (Second Year University French), FREN 374 (Littérature Québécoise), FREN 375 (Vocabulary Expansion), FREN 405 (Translation from French to English).
Aside from being the course coordinator, she also teaches two of the courses. She states, “I am teaching FREN 305 and FREN 374. FREN 305 is a great introduction to literary studies, precisely we study the history and evolution of Children literature in France and Québec. FREN 374 is a six credits panoramic literary studies course, where we analyze the history and evolution of Quebecois literature and Culture from the Nouvelle-France, to a complex modernity, and then to contemporary works reflecting on the beauty and crisis of the present time.”
Dr. Gagnon describes the course, stating “The aim of this First Year University-Level course is to help students further develop the French reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. We recommend completing the FREN200 (three credits) and FREN201 (three credits) courses successively and chronologically, as those two courses are logically designed to complement one and another. In FREN200, we study the first half of the textbook Le français, ça me plaît, and in FREN201 we study the second half. More specifically, the following French grammatical structures are studied in the FREN201 course: various verbs tenses, interrogative and negative sentences, diverse pronouns, adjectives, or prepositions. Moreover, FREN201 continues the learning of fundamental grammatical structures in French and builds on vocabulary linked to justice, economic issues, education, travelling, contemporary values and the pursuit of happiness.”
She continues, providing some insight into the structure of the course, “The textbook we use in FREN201 contains short reading passages on interesting topics, vocabulary lists, and grammar lessons. In each chapter, there are comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary exercises. At the end of each chapter is a listening exercise. In the course website, students will also find links to short films, some grammar audio lesson overviews, supplemental explanations and didactic videos, and some online self-correcting practice exercises. All the topics and the vocabulary studied in each module are brought to a comprehensive level in the exercises and evaluations. In this course, there are five written assignments, five oral assignments, one composition assignment, one final oral examination, and one final written examination. The written assignments should be submitted to the tutor after having completed the modules on which the assignment is based. In each oral assignment, the student will discuss one or two short readings in the textbook, or a short film assigned for viewing. The oral assignments are to be done over the telephone. Students have topics and questions to prepare in advance, but the oral evaluation aims to be completed as a “real” conversation between a students and his/her tutor.”
When asked what kind of work ethic students will have to have to be successful, Dr. Gagnon states “To ensure a logical pedagogical progression through the course’s content, it is recommended that students complete each module and assignment chronologically. It is also crucial that each assignment represents the entire and sole work of the student. We like to say to students: do not trust online devices or translating programs, they are way less intelligent than you are! As human being, we have this amazing capability to train ourselves to be more and more sensitive toward the diverse meanings and subtleties of any language, and French is such a lovely one! Even if a student makes a lot of errors, the best way of learning language skills is to progressively go through each step and each difficulty of your study yourself and to persevere. Of course, your tutor will be there to guide you along the way.”
She provides some advice for students who are currently enrolled in this course or who are considering enrolling in the future, stating “French 201 contains a variety of material (audio, video, and written components) and numerous exercises to assist students in enhancing various language skills. Because learning a language requires a great deal of practice, it is recommended that students spend several hours per week working through the material. Spending some time each day studying French is an effective way to learn. I would also recommend that students follow their own interests to discover more about the French and Francophone literature and culture, such as listening to songs written in French to familiarize their ears to the pronunciations and sonorities, watching movies or documentaries in French with the subtitles to help them identify and recognize sounds and orthograph, etc.”
Dr. Evelyne Gagnon recommends this course to “Any student attracted to French and Francophone language and culture will be interested in our FREN200 and FREN201 courses. As French is also an official language in Canada (and within our Federal governance), we also have a lot of students in those courses who are aiming to improve their French language skills to then have access to wider career paths. Any student with a basic knowledge in French (from immersion classes in high school, to personal, professional or familial relations to Francophone communities and settings) will find this course very helpful, and especially to review, improve and deepened their French language skills. Some students also have a high capacity to learn various languages and will excel in that kind of course. Strong grammar skills in English can also be an asset.”
When asked what she thinks students will take away from this course, she explains “The course leads students through a major review of French grammar, develops their ability to understand and compose short passages, and enables them to use French in social situations to discuss a variety of issues and express their opinions. This course also allows students to familiarize themselves with the French and Francophone culture, literature, and society in various contexts.”
As for which aspects of the course are most difficult for students, Dr. Gagnon concludes stating, “Some students may think at first sight that oral evaluations are intimidating, but our students soon discover that it is an efficient and even fun way to “mimic” the conversion skills required in “real” life. Moreover, most students enjoy having those punctual conversations with their tutor about the topics studied and the films watched. They appreciate having the opportunity to express their understanding and opinions related to those interesting themes.”
Whether FREN 201 is a degree or program requirement or if the topics above are of interest to you, this course will have you improving your ability to read, write, listen, and speak in French!