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Would you like to share a culture lesson plan with fellow members of the Culture Club?
Contact Christine to discuss your idea.

Lesson Plan: Teaching Culture through Photographs: Street Signs By L. Cavaglieri

Lesson Plan: World Cup Fever: Students as Soccer Match Commentators

Using Photos to Teach Culture
By Ann Williams, Professor of French

Applying the Foreign Languages National Standards to Pas si fous, ces Français
By Marcel LaVergne, Ed.D

June 2011

America’s French Heritage Lesson Plan
By Marcel LaVergne Ed.D.

Note: While created specifically for teachers of French, this lesson plan could be easily adapted, with some additional research, for the German, Italian, or Spanish classroom.
The article that accompanies this lesson plan can be found in the Speaker’s Corner.

Download Lesson Plan

April/May 2011

How up-to-date is your French?
By Marcel Lavergne

How up-to-date are you with the everyday language of the French? The test you can download below is based on information contained in the book Pardon My French by Charles Timoney which has been reviewed in this month’s Library Room. Send your answers to me at for results. Download Test.

March 2011

Our faithful contributor Marcel LaVergne has offered us a fascinating lesson plan based on a fascinating book. I highly recommend both!

Harriet Welty Rochefort’s French Toast
By Marcel LaVergne Ed.D.


This is a lesson plan that offers excerpts from French Toast (Reviewed in this month's Library ) and provides activities based on the excerpts, it is very valuable cultural information fot the teacher of French and can be the subject of discussion about American/French cultural differences. Download Lesson Plan.

February 2011

How do you teach holidays in your classroom? Share your ideas!


The holidays of a culture are an essential part of a foreign language curriculum.  Students generally find these lessons fun. Which holidays do you teach in your classroom and how do you make these lessons educational and enjoyable?
We invite you to send us your holiday lessons to share with your colleagues. We will post them here in the Teachers’ Lounge. And we will put your name on our honor roll of teachers for making the effort to share your creativity with grateful teachers around the country (and perhaps the world). 

At the current time we have one holiday lesson for Spanish teachers in the Teachers’ Lounge: “Día de los Muertos” (The Day of the Dead) by Marcel LaVergne.

We also have articles in the Speaker’s Corner that could serve as springboards for lesson plans for teachers of Italian: “Natale in Italia tra ieri e oggi” (Christmas in Italy, Then and Now) by Cetti Mangano,   “Capodanno a Roma: A Roman New Year: Past and Present” by Carlo Mignani, “The Legend of La Befana” by Christine Meloni, and “The Festival of Saint Agatha” by Laura Fortunato Petrik. An article of interest for teachers of Spanish is Sheila Cockey’s  “Cinco de mayo: To Celebrate or Not To Celebrate?” 

  1. The lesson plan should be sent as an e-mail attachment in Word or PDF format.
  2. Begin by providing a title, the target language, the educational level (e.g. first year high school Spanish) and your name and institution.
  3. Write a short introduction, giving a brief history of the holiday (no more than one paragraph).
  4. Give the following information:
    • Proficiency level
    • A brief description of the activity
    • Objectives of the activity (cultural and linguistic)
    • Materials required
    • Procedures (step by step) and estimate class time required
  5. Provide a brief bibliography of your sources and other useful sources, if relevant.
  6. Illustrations (e.g. photos) are strongly encouraged.

Send your lessons to Christine. Or, before sending your lesson, you may want to run your idea(s) by Christine first. Or, if you have colleagues who have created exceptional holiday lessons but may be too modest to send them in, e-mail us their names and we will contact them.

We welcome lesson plans for all cultures but at this time we are especially interested in lessons for teachers of Arabic, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. We will, however, accept and publish all lessons of interest, regardless of target language.

January 2011

Paris to the Moon

Many thanks to Marcel LaVergne for contributing this lesson plan for teachers of French, based on cultural comparisons from Adam Gopnick’s delightful book, Paris to the Moon. You can find a review of this book in this month's library update. Download Lesson Plan or Go to book review

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December 2010

French or Foe: A Cross Cultural Comparison of the Americans and the French

Marcel LaVergne Ed.D. has prepared a fascinating lesson first and foremost for teachers of French but one that anyone interested in cross cultural comparisons will find absolutely intriguing. Teachers of other languages could adapt this lesson.

This lesson is based on French or Foe? Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living, and Working in France.

The July 2010 issue of the Culture Club contained a review of Polly Platt’s book French or Foe? Getting the Most out of Visiting, Living and Working in France which contains a multitude of information that satisfies the Cultural Comparisons Strand of the Foreign Language National Standards. Most would agree that the best way to immerse oneself in a foreign culture is to live a while in that culture, but, as ideal as that sounds, most secondary teachers do not have the luxury of sabbaticals and cannot afford to take time off. The next best way is to read, read, and read, which being retired I now have the time to do. I offer, therefore, the following cultural facts from Platt’s book and some suggested comparison activities for you to consider.

Download lesson plan

November 2010

Baby Names

Lesson Focus: Giving Babies Names in the Target Country.
This lesson is based on Norwegian names but names in any culture can be readily substituted.
Lists of names in most languages can be easily found on the Internet. Download Lesson Plan

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July 2010

Lesson Plan: Teaching Culture through Photographs: Street Signs

Note: Although this lesson is based on Italian street signs, it can be adapted to any language and culture.
Via Ugo Foscolo poeta 1778-1827
street sign

Title of Activity: Street Signs

Language: Any language (example in Italian)

Proficiency Level: Elementary, Intermediate, or Advanced (This lesson can be adapted to any level.)

Brief description of the activity: Students study a photo of a street sign in Milan, Italy, and reflect on the differences between street signs in US cities and those in Italian cities.

Objectives: To introduce students to street signs in the target culture with a focus on ACTFL Standards 2.2 and 4.2:

Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied.
Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.

Materials: photo of a street sign (e.g. Via Ugo Foscolo in Milan, Italy)

Procedures (step by step):

  1. Divide your class into groups of four or five students.
  1. Ask your students to think about street signs in US cities.
    a. What do they look like?
    b. Where are they located?
    c. What are the usual names for streets? (Ask them to brainstorm a list of common street names in the US.)
  1. Bring your class back together and show them the photo. Use a computer or an overhead so that the photo can be clearly seen by all of the students.
  1. Ask your students how this Italian street sign differs from a US street sign.
    Two obvious answers will be:
    a. The Italian sign has been placed on a building.
    b. The Italian sign has more information. It names the street (e.g. Via Ugo Foscolo) and gives his occupation (poeta) and his dates (1778-1827).
    Another difference: US street names rarely use names of poets or other writers. Have the students look at the lists of common names for US streets that they generated in their small groups. How many times does the name of a poet appear?
  1. Generate a discussion. Here are some possible discussion questions:
    Why do you think the street signs are different in the two countries?
    Do you think it’s a good idea to use names of famous people for street signs?
    Is the extra information beyond the name useful?
    Should any US poets or authors have streets named for them? Can you think of any streets named for poets?
    Would it be possible to provide the extra information in the US?
  1. If your students are not familiar with Ugo Foscolo (or the name on the street sign you have chosen), give some background information about him and share with them one or more of his poems.

Suggested websites in Italian for biographies and works of Ugo Foscolo:

L Cavaglieri


Submitted by L. Cavaglieri, Milan, Italy

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June 2010

Lesson Plan: World Cup Fever: Students as Soccer Match Commentators

Note: Although this lesson plan was specifically prepared for an Italian class, it can be adapted to any other language.

Language: Italian

Level: High School, year 4+

Adaptation: This activity can be easily altered for other languages by choosing a different soccer match/ team.

Lesson Objective and Overview: Students will develop writing and speaking skills with the modal verbs. They will describe and critique how soccer players act on the field: what they can, should, and must do in order to win. Students conduct individual research about a soccer player, write a short paper, and make a 5-minute presentation to the class.


  • A videotape of a soccer match involving the Italian National Team or any team from Italy, commentated in Italian
  • Magazine articles, newspaper clippings, or Internet resources in Italian about soccer
  • A chalkboard, whiteboard, or overhead projector


  1. To teach this lesson, you must have a basic understanding of soccer and its rules. If you're not already familiar with the sport. You may either find this information online or talk to your school's gym teacher.
  2. Complete the section in students' textbooks that covers sports, even if it doesn't include activities related to soccer. Some vocabulary may overlap, and it will help students feel more familiar with sports in Italian.
  3. You may choose to prepare students for the lesson by taking them outside to practice using soccer vocabulary like kick, block, shoot and score with real soccer balls. Divide students into two teams to play a scrimmage match and require them to communicate in Italian by giving them penalty cards for speaking English on the field.
  4. Collect magazine articles and newspaper clippings about players on the teams competing in your videotape. Although all materials need to be appropriate for the students' language level, try to vary their writing content and style. In addition to articles from Football Italia, for example, you may also choose some from Il Diavolo!.
  5. Prepare a worksheet for students to fill out while they watch the soccer match. On the sheet, you may ask them to record the players' positions, what happens during an exciting play, or who scores the winning goal.

Day 1: Soccer Rules

  1. Divide students into small groups to brainstorm soccer terms in Italian together. If their vocabulary is limited, have them group them into two categories: "words we know" and "words we need to learn." Combine the groups' results and provide any supplemental expressions they will need to complete the lesson.
  2. Briefly, review the modal verbs with students. Ask them to name the verbs, describe each of their functions, and tell when they are used. As a class, use soccer vocabulary to make several example sentences of the verbs. Compare and discuss their differences in meaning.
  3. Assign one modal verb to each small group. Students will use it to create a list of rules or suggestions for playing soccer, e.g.:
    Group 1: A player can touch the ball with his feet, legs and chest. The center can shoot to score a goal.
    Group 2: The goalie should stop the ball before it enters the net. The fullback should stay on his team's side of the field.
    Group 3: A player must not touch the ball with her hands. She must play fairly.
    Group 4: The coach might ask players to run 5 miles every day. The players might pass the ball sideways to each other
  4. If class time allows, groups can trade papers and check each other's work to make sure the modal verbs are used correctly.

Day 2: Watch the Match

  1. Before playing the videotape, ask students what they expect to hear while they watch the soccer match. What words will they probably hear often? How do sports commentators usually talk? What types of things do they generally say? As you hand out the worksheet, stress that listening carefully to the commentators will help students to hear the information that they will need to fill it out.
  2. Inform students that after viewing the match they will write a short paper and make a presentation about a player of their choice. Encourage them to decide on a player and take notes to prepare for their future assignment as they watch.
  3. Play the videotape, stopping it once or twice at key moments in order to give students time to fill out the worksheet and take notes. You may choose to play only an exciting five or ten minutes of an overtime, rather than a full half.
  4. Lend out magazines and articles to students so they can research a player for homework. Have them prepare the first draft of a one or two-page paper about the athlete. In particular, ask them to focus on the modal verbs: What can the professional athlete do well? What should he do to improve? What must he do to satisfy his coach? Where might he go if he changes teams?

Day 3: Commentate the Match

  1. Once students have written the first draft of their short papers about a player, they are ready to begin preparing their commentaries on the match. Ask students to share phrases or expressions they remember hearing when they viewed the match the day before.
  2. Write sentences typical of sports commentaries in Italian on the board, focusing on those that employ modal verbs. Use them to lead a class discussion about the tone sports journalists use to commentate a soccer match. In the discussion, encourage students to note that sports commentators often critique a match and the players' skills using the modal verbs.
  3. Allow students to brainstorm their own sentences with a similar tone and share them with the class as well. Then have students use these sentences, their short papers, and extra notes from the videotape or readings to develop their own commentaries for the match that focus on the player of their choice. Make sure that they realize this will be an oral exercise, so they should prepare notes and outlines to help them speak-not another paper to read aloud.
  4. You may want students to spend additional time watching the match, instead of relying heavily on their notes from the first viewing to develop their commentaries. In this case, you could play the videotape on mute for the entire class while students work on them and revise their papers. Alternatively, you could send small groups to watch the videotape in another room with sound while the others work in class.
  5. Provide class time for students to present their commentaries. Collect the worksheets and the final draft of their short papers.


  1. Students will be evaluated by their participation in groups, their worksheets, the final draft of their papers, and their commentaries presented to the class.
  2. Students may also vote by anonymous ballot for the best soccer commentator in the class. The best commentator could receive a mini-soccer ball key chain or some other small award for special achievement in Italian.


  1. Ask students to compare two articles about the same player, concentrating on the similarities and differences they find in the sports journalists' styles. Have them describe which one they prefer and why. Include modal verbs in the activity: Do they see any difference in the way the writers use modal verbs? Does one write "should" or "must" more often than the other? How does that difference change the writer's style?
  2. Ask students to pretend they are a soccer coach. Have them choose players for their own personal World Cup team, then use modal verbs to develop the instructions they would give for training programs and game plans leading up to the championship.

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May 2010

Using Photos to Teach Culture

Do you use photos in your foreign language classroom? If so, we would like to hear from you. Please share with us how you use photos to teach culture.

One of my favorite lesson plans in the Teachers’ Lounge collection is this one by Dr. Ann Williams, Professor of French at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Lesson Plan: Observe and Analyze: Photos and Culture
By Ann Williams, Professor of French, Metropolitan State College of Denver

In 1996, the National Textbook Company published Acquiring Cross-cultural Competence written by the American Association of Teachers of French National Commission on Cultural Competency. This book is in essence an outline of what students need to know to be "culturally competent" at different "Stages" (1 - 4). It also establishes a common core of seven categories of competence; Communication in a Cultural Context, The Value System, Social Patterns and Conventions, Social Institutions, Geography and the Environment, History and Literature and the Arts. Prefacing these areas of knowledge is a section called "Understanding Culture" which shows how learners need observe and analyze cultural phenomena. It also deals with the difficult question of how the students feel about cultures other than their own. Each of these categories is divided into "Stages": Elementary, Basic intercultural skills, Social competence and Socio-professional capability. These stages clarify at what level a student understands and is capable of functioning in the target culture. The learning of culture within this framework can be seen as both horizontal (students learn about a variety of cultural categories) and vertical (students learn in-depth about some or all of these categories). The following activity serves to guide the students through both the horizontal and vertical learning processes. As they look at a photo of French cultural phenomena they are helped by their instructor to see first the concrete nature of culture and then to look beyond the surface to find the values and lifeways that give rise to what they see.

Target Culture: France

Culture Level: Stages 2 to 4 from Acquiring Cross-cultural Competence (Basic intercultural skills, Social competence and Socio-professional capability); appropriate for high school and post-secondary.

Language level: Intermediate and Advanced Time required: Two class periods, minimum.

Objectives: This activity is designed to develop student skills in observing and analyzing culture. It also gives students access to examples of various aspects of contemporary French culture.

Materials: The composite photo below. Computer and projector to allow projection of the photo or a color copy of the photo for each student. Internet access for students (at home or in class) for individual research.


Description of the activity: Students will look at the composite photo and through class discussion with instructor they will decide what aspects of the photo point to cultural content areas. They will then research the cultural content related to these areas and report back to the class to create together an expanded analysis of the photo.

Preparation: Prepare the computer/projector with the slide or make color copies for students. Decide which aspects of the photo you want to have students analyze and expand upon. Prepare a brief presentation on the significance of as many aspects of the photo as you will cover.

For this photo, possible aspects include: selling lily-of-the-valley on May 1 (La fête du travail), PMU (Paris Mutuel Urbain) and the popularity of games of chance, the fresh baguette and the importance of bread and the quality of food, the close proximity of the chairs in the cafè (the notion how interpersonal space is different in different cultures), the information available through the number 92 on the motorcycle license plate (French Départements and administrative divisions of the country).

Make a list of key words in French that will allow students to do Internet research on the cultural aspects you have chosen.

Possible key words:

  • Muguet, La fête du travail, les fêtes en France
  • PMU, la loterie nationale
  • Baguette, Boulangerie, Pain
  • Le café, les cafés
  • La proxémique
  • Les départements français, les provinces, les Régions, la géographie de la France

Explain to the students that they are going to look at a street scene and use it as a springboard for exploring French culture. Ask them what sections of the photo seem typically French and why. Make a list on the board. After discussion, present the areas of culture that you will be asking them to expand upon. Explain to students that they will be doing research on one aspect of the photo and will be presenting their findings to the class. Make sure that they understand that any relevant information or the culture area will contribute to their understanding of French culture. Assign culture content areas to groups of students. Have them individually (as homework) use the key words to research the areas and encourage them to print out or note carefully their findings. The following class period will be devoted first to having students work with the others who have researched the same area to create a brief presentation. Secondly, the small groups will present their findings (their expansion) of the culture areas.

You can either evaluate the cultural knowledge students have acquired by testing them on the materials presented in class (using the same photo and asking them to analyze it) or you can evaluate their ability to observe and analyze by giving them another composite photo and asking them to select areas to analyze (take-home exam).


  1. Assign readings about the values shown through the concrete cultural observations that students were able to make. For example, if students study the administrative divisions, the notion of la centralization and the more recent priority of la décentralization can be emphasized.
  2. Select another composite photo from the target culture. A composite photo is a photo with several components to analyze. A street scene is often a composite photo. A photo of an isolated monument is not.


  1. Use only the cultural content aspects of the photo that correspond to work you are doing in class with your regular course materials. For example, if your textbook has a section on holidays, have students use the "Fête du travail" as a springboard for researching other holidays in France.
  2. Use this format for reviewing cultural knowledge studied in class (in a contemporary culture course).
This process can be used with photos from any culture.

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April 2010

Applying the Foreign Languages National Standards to Pas si fous, ces Français
By Marcel LaVergne, Ed.D

To complement my book review of Pas si fous, ces Français, which appeared in the December 2009 issue of the Culture Club, I attempted to apply the Foreign Languages National Standards to the information found in that book as an aide to any French teacher who might want to purchase it and use its information in the classroom. There is a wealth of present-day information to be found there from the perspective of a husband and wife team of Canadian journalists who lived in France for 2½ years researching France and the French.

The Framework Strands applied to the quotes below are not meant to be all-inclusive and definitive. They reflect my own choices and are certainly open to discussion. I hope that they and the suggested activities serve as a model and encourage readers to do the same with other books they might read.

I. Comparisons: The French and the North-Americans

It is often said that when one learns a foreign language, one also learns something about one’s own language and culture. The National Standards’ Comparison Strand focuses precisely on that feature of L2 learning. Those comparisons are categorized as linguistic and cultural as shown below:

A. Linguistic: Language/vocabulary:

  1. Pour des Québécois comme nous, le mot “pays” ne s’applique qu’aux nations du monde. Pour les Français, il s’applique aussi à leur village ou ville d’origine et plus largement à la région dans laquelle il ou elle se situe, bien que cette région-là soit rarement délimitée par une frontière juridique ou administrative. P. 32
  2. La France est le seul pays développé ou le terme “paysan” n’est pas péjoratif. P. 37
  3. En français, il n’existe pas de vocabulaire aseptisé qui sépare l’animal de sa viande. En anglais, on mange du “pork”, jamais du “pig”; toujours du “veal”, jamais du “calf”…. Il en va tout autrement en français. Boeuf est un terme générique qui s’applique aux bovins, qu’ils soient dans les champs ou dans l’assiette. P. 38
  4. La grandeur est un concept difficile à traduire en anglais. Le mot le plus proche, greatness, évoque l’éminence, la distinction et l’excellence. Mais cela ne suffit pas. Car l’idée de grandeur englobe aussi la puissance, la gloire, l’élévation intellectuelle et morale, et cela dérange l’esprit démocratique des Nord-Américains. Pour les Français, il n’y a là aucune incompatibilité. P. 6
  5. Pour les Américains, la “présidence” est plus importante que “le président.” En conséquence, un politique, même s’il est soupçonné, peut être constraint de démissionner, ce qui sera perçu comme un signe de respect pour sa fonction. Mais, dans le système français, les individus incarnent les institutions qu’ils dirigent. C’est la Patrie qui est reconnaissante aux grands hommes, pas le contraire. P. 72
  6. L’art de la rhétorique est totalement étranger à la culture nord-américaine; à peine sait-on de quoi il s’agit. Mais la rhétorique est aux Français ce que le théâtre est aux Anglais, le chant aux Italiens et le piano aux Allemands. Le but n’est pas tant de convaincre que d’exposer ses arguments avec brio, à l’écrit comme à l’oral. P. 80
  7. Dans un pays où l’éloquence et la rhétorique sont tout un art, les auteurs et les artistes sont très considérés. En Amérique du Nord, quand les gens apprennent que nous écrivons, ils nous demandent immédiatement comment nous gagnons notre vie. Pour éviter cette question, nous nous présentons le plus souvent comme des journalistes. Mais, en France, nous nous sommes présentés comme écrivains. Les invitations à des fêtes, des conférences et des tables rondes se sont multipliées. L’écriture est tout simplement l’une des vocations les plus respectées en France. P. 88-89

Suggested Activities:

  1. What does the word “country” mean to an American? How is that different from what the word pays means to a Frenchman?
  2. Can you think of other examples of the animal/food distinction?
  3. To which Americans would you apply the French concept of la grandeur?
  4. Do you agree that for Americans the “presidency” is more important than the “president?”
  5. What is meant by la rhétorique? How is that different from public speaking?

B. Cultural: What one can and cannot say or do in public

  1. Certaines questions que les Nord-Américains considèrent comme polies et parfaitement banales s’avèrent parfois choquantes pour les Français, en particulier: “Que faites-vous dans la vie?” et “Comment vous appelez-vous”? P. 46
  2. Les Nord-Américains usent librement des noms et parlent sans difficultés de leur profession en public tandis que les Français considèrent que se sont des sujets extrêmement privés. En revanche, les Français s’embrassent et se disputent facilement en public alors que les Nord-Américains trouvent plus approprié de le faire en privé. P. 48
  3. En Amérique du Nord, les magasins sont des extensions de l’espace publique….En France, la boutique est considérée comme l’extension de l’habitation de son propriétaire. P. 49
  4. Les Américains ne désirent rien tant qu’une démonstration d’harmonie entre alliés. Les Français pensent que, si la relation est assez forte, elle peut supporter de fortes oppositions en public. P. 61

Suggested Activities:

  1. What type of questions would you never ask an American? Does it matter if one is asking a man or a woman?
  2. What type of activities do you consider private, that you would never do in public?
  3. Do American men and woman differ in their attitude towards their workplace?
  4. Can you be friends with someone whose beliefs and opinions differ dramatically from your own?

C. Cultural: Morality

  1. Selon divers sondages, une proportion égale d’Américains et de Français admettent avoir commis l’adultère (50%). Dans ces deux pays, l’adultère est très mal vu, mais pour des raisons différentes. Pour les Américains, il s’agit d’une rupture de confiance, ou de contrat. Les Français sont avant tout sensibles à son impact sur la vie de famille: il leur paraît important d’en préserver l’unité, la famille restant le pivot de la société. Ce qui explique en grande partie que l’on divorce moins en France qu’aux Etats-Unis. P. 54
  2. Autre différence d’attitude par rapport à l’Amérique du Nord: féministes ou non, les Françaises ne considèrent pas leur féminité comme un obstacle. En France, on peut complimenter une femme sur sa beauté ou sa tenue vestimentaire sans qu’elle se sente victime de harcèlement. P. 78
  3. Les journalistes anglo-américains usent et abusent du sous-entendu, instrument puissant dans les cultures de langue anglaises….Les Français considèrent que les prises de position et les opinions personnelles sont des faits, au même titre que les événements ou les chiffres. Culturellement, ils n’apprécient pas le sous-entendu qu’ils assimilent à de la manipulation. Le style anglo-américain leur semble hypocrite, voire douteux, car les journalistes n’expriment pas clairement leurs positions. P. 92

Suggested Activities

  1. What is the divorce rate in both the USA and in France?
  2. In your opinion, do American women look upon compliments to their beauty or appearance as a form of sexual harassment?
  3. Do American journalists create the news rather than report the news? Give examples to support your answer.

D. Cultural: Government; Centralization vs. Federalism

  1. En France, de la mi-janvier à la mi-février, c’est la période des soldes. La préfecture fixe les dates de cet événement et en contrôle le bon déroulement. Pour nous qui venons d’un pays où les commerçants vendent leurs marchandises à des prix qu’ils fixent et modifient à leur gré, la rigidité des soldes est pour le moins bizarre. P. 25
  2. Pour ceux qui, comme nous, viennent d’un système politique du type fédéral, le partage du pouvoir est sain. Pour les Français, c’est un handicap. La cohabitation, compromis politique permanent, est incompatible avec l’idée que les gouvernants doivent détenir et exercer le pouvoir, tout le pouvoir. P. 92
  3. Dans le système de valeurs anglo-américain, l’Etat est considéré comme un garde-fou. Il existe pour garantir les libertés individuelles et permettre aux individus de réaliser leurs ambitions. Mais l’Etat français fait beaucoup plus. Il dirige l’économie, dispense les prestations sociales, redistribue les richesses, est censé aplanir les différences et défendre le bien commun, la culture et la langue, et influence même les normes de la beauté et du goût. Il crée l’indentité française. P. 149
  4. L’Etat est aux Français ce que la Constitution est aux Américains: un principe unificateur, un totem, une religion. Cet écart entre les conceptions américaine et française de l’Etat est la source de nombreux malentendus entre les deux peuples. P. 150
  5. Dans la bouche de la plupart des Américains et des Canadiens….le gouvernement fédéral n’existe que pour prendre en charge les questions auxquelles les Etats, Provinces, ville, communautés, quartiers ou encore établissements scolaires n’ont pas les moyens dé repondre. Alors que pour les Français, l’Etat est responsable de la qualité de vie de la population. En France, tout procède de l’Etat. P. 163
  6. Les Français, bien plus que les Américains ou les Britanniques, aiment à souligner le rôle de leur gouvernement dans le domaine de la culture. P. 305
  7. En France, on parle peu du secteur privé: il est relégué à l’arrière-plan à cause de l’importance accordée au rôle de l’Etat. A l’inverse, en Amérique, l’entreprise privée est valorisée au point d’occulter souvent les actions de soutien du gouvernement. P. 306
  8. Les Américains mettent l’accent sur les libertés individuelles, les Français sur l’intérêt général. P. 31

Suggested Activities

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of one-party rule? Of two-party rule?
  2. What responsibilities does the government have towards the people? What responsibilities do the people have towards themselves?
  3. Can you name any areas in which the USA and France disagree?
  4. Which is more successful in solving national problems, the private sector or the public sector?
  5. In your opinion, which is more important, the rights of the individual or the common good?

E. Cultural: The Economy

  1. La France est le deuxième producteur agricole mondial après les Etats-Unis. P. 36
  2. Selon les chiffres fournis par l’OCDE en 1997, les impôts comptent pour 45% du PIB en France, contre 29% aux Etats-Unis, et 37% en Allemagne. Même le loyer est taxé en France (environ 5%). P. 162
  3. La France ne dépense que 9,5% de son PIB pour la santé, contre 13,5% aux Etats-Unis. P. 283
  4. Petit pays de la taille du Texas, mais deux fois plus peuplé que le Canada, la France compte dans l’économie mondiale autant que la Chine et bien davantage que l’Inde ou le Brésil, qui sont beaucoup plus grands. P. 314

Suggested Activities

  1. Do you favor paying more taxes to get more benefits?
  2. How do you feel about a national health insurance policy like those of Canada and France?

F. Cultural: Human rights

  1. Pourquoi les Français ressentent-ils le besoin de “créer” une élite? L’idée est négative pour la plupart des Nord-Américains. P. 68
  2. Comme nous l’avons découvert, les Français totalisent en réalité moins de jours de grève que les Américains en une année. P. 266
  3. Les droits sociaux sont aux Français ce que les libertés individuelles sont aux Américains: essentiels. P. 282

Suggested Activities

  1. Should public sector employees have the right to strike?
  2. Which are more important, human rights or individual freedom?

G. Cultural: Raising children

  1. Les lois françaises rendent difficilement l’embauche des moins de seize ans. Les jeunes passent relativement tard leur permis de conduire parce que la voiture n’est pas une nécessité dans la plupart des villes françaises, et surtout parce qu’ils n’en ont pas besoin pour se déplacer de l’école à leur lieu de travail. Par rapport aux parents américains, les Français essaient de préserver le plus longtemps possible leurs enfants des influences extérieures et de la nécessité de travailler. P. 204

Suggested Activities

  1. Who has the better deal, the French teenager or the American teen? Explain.
  2. How many of your classmates own a car? Have a job?

H. Cultural: Health

  1. Ils ont moins de problèmes cardio-vasculaires que les Américains. P. 10

Suggested Activities

  1. Why do you think that the French have fewer heart problems than the Americans?

II. Connections: What we learn about the French

The National Standard’s Connections Strand is often misunderstood by L2 teachers. It does not expect L2 teachers to become proficient in all disciplines but rather to recognize what discipline is found in the texts to which their students are exposed. In addition to vocabulary and grammar, what else are the students learning? What content matter is being taught? The following can be found in the book Pas si fous, ces Français.

A. The Economy

  1. On travaille 35 heures par semaines. P. 9
  2. On a droit à cinq semaines de congés payés par année. P. 9
  3. On prend des pause-déjeuners de 1½ heures par jour. P. 9
  4. Les fonctionnaires représentent un quart de la population active. P. 9
  5. Les syndicats sont si influents qu’ils infléchissent les décisions du gouvernement et contrôlent même la gestion de certains ministres. P. 9
  6. Quand les travailleurs français manifestent, les augmentations de salaire sont rarement au premier rang des revendications. P. 51
  7. Six millions de fonctionnaires travaillent dans l’administration française. P. 159
  8. Les manifestations, marches et autres défilés constituent des éléments essentiels du tissue social français….Dans un Etat centralisé sans réel contre-pouvoir, les protestations de rue constituent une des rares méthodes légales à laquelle les citoyens peuvent avoir recours pour faire plier le système. P. 267
  9. …l’age de la retraite est de 60 ans….Les fonctionnaires perçoivent une retraite équivalent à 75% de leur salaire (calculée sur la base de ce qu’ils ont gagné durant leurs six derniers mois de travail), alors qu’un employé du secteur privé percevra une retraite équivalent à 50% de son salaire (calculée sur la moyenne des vingt et une meilleures années.) p. 286.
  10. La France à l’aube du troisième millénaire peut se vanter d’être le premier pays du monde pour son taux de productivité par heure travaillée, le troisième pour ses exportations et le quatrième pour sa puissance économique. P. 10
  11. Tout ce qui a trait à l’argent fait aussi partie de la sphère privée. Si la France est le premier pays du monde en matière de produits de luxe, ses habitants donnent souvent l’impression d’avoir une idée négative de l’argent. P. 51

Suggested Activities

  1. Create a Venn Diagram showing what’s unique to France, to the USA and what is the same for both.
  2. What portion of the USA workforce is taken up by civil servants?
  3. The French seem to have a negative view of money. Can the same be said of Americans? Explain.
  4. Compare the retirement benefits of the French fonctionnaire to that of an American civil servant working for the federal government.
  5. How do you view civil disobedience demonstrations against the government?
  6. In your opinion, what is the primary reason that American workers go on strike?

B. Government

  1. Les gens s’attendent à ce que l’Etat s’occupe de tout puisqu’ils paient beaucoup d’impôts. P. 9
  2. Toute forme d’initiative privée est mal considérée. P. 9
  3. Les Français adorent le pouvoir. …. Les Français ne demandent pas aux puissants—élus, intellectuels ou hommes d’affaires—de faire preuve d’humilité. Ceux qui ont du pouvoir doivent en user. P. 69
  4. En France, le pouvoir a tendance à être monopolisé. Une tradition politique permet aux élus de collectionner les fonctions; on parle alors de cumul des mandats. ….En France, le pourcentage est stupéfiant: 89% des députés et 60% des sénateurs exercent deux fonctions. La moitié d’entre eux en ont même trois! P. 73
  5. La France se veut une et indivisible. La concurrence entre les jurisdictions n’existe pas, tout simplement. La centralisation fonctionne parce que les Français ont embrassé trois principes: l’assimilation, l’intérêt général et l’égalité. P. 155
  6. L’administration locale est organisée sur trois niveaux: communal (36 851), départemental (99) et régional (26). P. 169-170
  7. Ceux qui considèrent la France comme une puissance secondaire oublient que son siège au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU a le même poids et la même légitimité que celui de l’Angleterre. La France a l’une des plus grandes armées du monde. P. 318
  8. Ainsi, si le français n’est que la onzième langue par le nombre de locuteurs, il est la deuxième pour le nombre de pays où elle est la langue officielle; ce qui constitue la principale justification de son maintien comme langue de travail à l’ONU. P. 320
  9. En 1999, nous comptions étudier les raisons pour lesquelles la France résistait à la mondialisation. Or nous avons constaté qu’elle n’y résiste aucunement, et même qu’elle y participe activement. ….La seule chose à laquelle elle résiste véritablement est l’américanisation. P. 331

Suggested Activities

  1. Can you name the countries where French is the official language, the second language, or the lingua franca?
  2. Compare the administrative division of France to that of the USA.
  3. How is France becoming Americanized? What things “French” are popular in the USA?
  4. Do you believe that America’s political leaders are or should be humble?
  5. What three principles do you believe sum up America’s political philosophy?
  6. Do you think that politicians should be allowed to hold more than one office at the same time, one at the national level and one at the local level? Explain.
  7. Do the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of our system of government work with or against one another?

C. Sociology

  1. On adore faire le marché le dimanche matin. P. 9
  2. Les clients sont en général servis avec nonchalance, voire impolitesse. P. 9
  3. Dans la France d’aujourd’hui, un tiers de la population a des grands-parents nés ailleurs. P. 23
  4. La cuisine de ces différents “pays” est extrêmement variée, et les Français sont attachés à leurs goûts régionaux et les défendent avec autant de ferveur que leur fierté nationale. P. 32
  5. Par miracle, et on peut s’en étonner, la France donne malgré tout au monde une image d’uniformité culturelle. Mais en réalité, les Français chérissent leur identité régionale comme s’il s’agissait d’une origine ethnique, ce qui est souvent le cas. P. 34
  6. Bien que les chaînes de supermarchés soient implantées dans tous les quartiers de Paris, on trouve encore des boulangeries, des crémeries et des boucheries partout. P. 37
  7. La France est la seule nation européenne qui n’ait jamais connu d’émigration massive vers l’Amérique, à aucun moment de son histoire. P. 41
  8. Les Français, par exemple, font rarement visiter leur maison à leurs invités. Ces derniers, qui viennent pour le dîner ou l’apéro, restent toute la soirée consignés au salon et à la salle à manger. Les portes menant aux autres pièces sont closes. P. 56
  9. Les Français adorent parler et aiment les beaux parleurs. P. 82
  10. Les Français ne sont pas dépourvus de sens de l’humour et nous pouvons rire ensemble des mêmes plaisanteries. Mais ils préfèrent cette forme d’humour agressif qui se nourrit du ridicule et de la moquerie. P. 83
  11. La maîtrise de soi est primordiale dans la société française. Voilà pourquoi les Français se refusent à dire: “Je ne sais pas.”….Les Français, eux, trouvent honteux d’admettre leur ignorance. P. 85
  12. L’aversion des Français pour le compromis ne se limite pas à la politique. Dans bien des domaines de la vie en société, ils semblent particulièrement intransigeants. Dans les journaux télévisés, la conversation, les affaires, la vie quotidienne, ils s’aiment s’affronter et se diviser. En France, il faut toujours qu’il y ait un gagnant et un perdant, un pour et un contre. P. 94

Suggested Activities

  1. How popular are farmers’ markets in the USA? Are there any near where you live?
  2. Do the personnel in stores treat you better here than they do in France?
  3. Do you feel a stronger attachment to the area where you were born than to your country?
  4. What percentage of stores in your town/city are mom and pop stores and what percentage are chains? How do you feel about that?
  5. Generally speaking, do you think Americans are more hospitable than the French? Explain.
  6. How would you describe American humor?
  7. In your opinion, do Americans seek “win-win” situations over “I win-you lose” confrontations?

D. Education

  1. En matière d’éducation, par exemple, les communes ont la gestion des écoles primaires, les départements celle des collèges et les régions celle des lycées, mais aucun droit de regard sur les programmes. P. 179
  2. Le principal objectif du ministère de l’Education nationale est de dispenser la même éducation sur tout le territoire français. …Une cohort de 1800 inspecteurs à plein temps s’assure du bon fonctionnement du système pédagogique et de l’application des instructions officielles. P. 208-209
  3. …les enseignants français ne nous ont pas semblé très bons pédagogues. …Ils ont pour rôle de transmettre le savoir; l’éducation est théorique et formelle. On demande aux élèves de prendre beaucoup de notes et rarement de poser des questions. P. 210
  4. Toutes les grandes écoles exigent la maîtrise d’une autre langue, et souvent une de plus. P. 217
  5. Le travail d’équipe n’est pas enseigné dans le système éducatif français. P. 229

Suggested Activities

  1. Does America have a national policy towards education? If yes, what is it? If no, should it have one? Why?
  2. Compare and contrast the French school system to that of the American system.
  3. In your experience, do American teachers differ from French teachers in their teaching philosophy and practices? How?
  4. How important are foreign languages to one’s education?
  5. How extensive has group work been in your school experience?

E. Religion

  1. La France est le seul pays européen à appliquer très strictement la séparation de l’Eglise et de l’Etat. P. 262
  2. La France est la plus grande nation musulmane d’Europe. Depuis plus de trente ans, l’islam est la deuxième religion du pays, qui compte beaucoup plus de musulmans (cinq millions) que de protestants (un million) et de juifs (sept cent mille) réunis. On peut considérer que la culture arabe fait désormais partie du courant principal de la culture française. P. 337

Suggested Activities

  1. In what areas of your life have you experienced the doctrine of separation of church and state?
  2. What are the top 5 religions in the USA?

F. Human Rights

  1. DeGaulle.…rétablit la loi du sol, encore en vigueur aujourd’hui, selon laquelle tous les enfants nés en France sont français. P. 120.
  2. La France refuse d’identifier ses minorités. P. 156
  3. Dans toutes les colonies françaises, l’esclavage a été aboli en 1794 par les révolutionnaires, rétabli en 1802 par Napoléon, et enfin définitivement aboli en 1848 après une lutte longue et violente. P. 180
  4. Les programmes sociaux sont généreux et les Français paient des impôts élevés pour maintenir cette haute qualité de services publics. P. 259
  5. DeGaulle.…rétablit la loi du sol, encore en vigueur aujourd’hui, selon laquelle tous les enfants nés en France sont français. P. 120.
  6. Le Français moyen ne considère pas la loi comme un absolu mais comme un ensemble de principes généraux que l’on peut ignorer quand les circonstances le justifie. P. 274
  7. Il est difficile d’aborder les questions du racism, de l’immigration et de l’intégration en France. ….Les formulaires officiels ne comportent pas de case à cocher concernant la religion, la langue maternelle ou l’origine ethnique. ….Demander aux citoyens de déclarer leur origine ethnique constituerait une violation de principe à l’encontre de la doctrine française d’assimilation, qui est un des fondements de la République. La France fut la première nation d’ Europe à définir la citoyenneté non par le sang, mais par le droit du sol, ainsi que par l’appartenance à une entité politique et l’adhésion à ces valeurs. P. 345
  8. .…les enfants d’immigrés deviennent citoyens français à leur majorité, à condition d’avoir été élevés sur le territoire français. P. 346

Suggested Activities

  1. Why does the USA break down its population according to minority status?
  2. Is the law absolute or under the right circumstances do you believe we have the right to ignore or break it?
  3. How does one acquire American citizenship?
  4. Do you believe like the French that requiring one to declare their ethnic origin is a violation of their rights and a form of discrimination?

Summary Activity

  1. Create a chart comparing and contrasting France to the USA based on the information contained in this article.

III. Conclusion

This article focused formally on only three of the Strands of the Foreign Languages National Standards: Cultures, Connections, and Comparisons. The Communication and Communities Strands are addressed informally in the suggested activities and should provide the basis for small group work, topics of debate, oral presentations, and individual projects. Each activity is designed to compare America to France through the eyes of the students and is meant to develop the interpersonal and presentational communicative modes.

By providing a model to L2 teachers, I hope that when they assign readings in French they go beyond the vocabulary and the grammar in the texts. Teachers need to go beyond the “words and verbs” approach to teaching a foreign language and include the culture, connections, and comparisons content in the materials that they use.

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