Friday, 27 December 2013

Mot de passe - a word association game for students

This holiday I have discovered a brilliant French TV game show.

It's called Mot de passe.

Mot de passe is a word association game based on the American show, Million Dollar Password and is presented by Patrick Sabatier. It is broadcast daily on France2 at 18:45 and on TV5Monde at 11:00 local time. If you aren't lucky enough to be able to access these channels, there are full episodes here on youtube.

In the game contestants are paired with a "celebrity". One of them is given a "password" which their partner has to guess. They can only give one word clues and are not allowed to use foreign words, hyphenated words, or acronyms but are allowed to use antonyms.

So, for example, if the word to be guessed was "white" the contestant could say "black", or "colour", or "snow". The contestant guessing the "passwords" must guess before the next clue is given. The couple have 30 seconds to guess as many words as they can.

Here is my idea for using it in class:

Students work in pairs. One of them has a list of words e.g. places in a town.

This student will give one word clues to the word.

The partner will have to try to guess.

For example: if the word was "Boulangerie" the first clue might be "pain" or "croissant".

I'd give a minute for the students to do this and then let them change roles.

The winner would be the partner with most words guessed.

A fun way to get students speaking, thinking and using associated words, synonyms and antonyms.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Getting year 8 to speak French using cootie catchers.

I have a lovely (or should that be "lively"?) year 8 class.

They're the kind of class you really wouldn't want to teach last thing on a Friday.

Just for the record, I get them last thing on a Friday.

And Tuesday.

Getting them to speak is sometimes very difficult.

Getting them to stay in their seats is always difficult.

So today we made cootie catchers, fortune tellers, snapdragons, chatterboxes, etc

For the uninitiated they look like this:

We took a few minutes to make them and we made them with a French twist.
  • On the outside we wrote 4 colours in French.
  •  Then, in the middle section, we wrote the numbers from 1 to 8 in French.
  • And on the inside we wrote 8 questions. We've been learning about school subjects so all of their questions started with "Tu aimes" and a school subject and the answer given had to include an adjective. For example: Tu aimes les maths ? J'aime les maths, c'est facile. 
These students love "kinaesthetic learning" so playing with their "cootie catchers" made them forget that they were actually doing some serious work. 

Ofsted would have loved it!

I fooled them into answering questions in full sentences and giving opinions.

I can't show you any examples of their work because they all wanted to take them home.

But, so you're not too disappointed, I made an animated gif of mine as I made it.


PS. I blogged about making animated gifs here ages ago.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

German word of the week

Following yesterday's Lexical gaps post I've gone one better and found an even more interesting resource.

This one comes from the German broadcaster.

It's called Word of the Week and is just exactly that, a new strange German word of which there is no translation into most languages.

Warning: these are not always very funny!

There is a word of the week archive, too, so if you're really bored or a German culture Vulture then this is the ideal place for you to go in a wet weekend with a steaming hot cup of Muckefuck and a freshly baked Weckmann.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Lexical gaps - or why I love the German language.

One of the best things about learning foreign languages is that there are always words and phrases which cannot be translated into English.

Ha! In your face Google Translate!!!

I blogged about this earlier this year in a post called, That's easy for you to say.

Imagine my joy today, then, when I found a couple of youtube clips specifically dedicated to German words and phrases for which there is no translation.

The first is this one from American writer, Robyn Schneider (I love her voice!):

and the second is from Toby's GermanChannel TL which contains some amazing German idiomatic phrases:

If you're a student of all things German I thoroughly recommend them.

So if a Honigkuchenpferd offers you a cup of Muckefuck, you'll be well within your rights to call him a Sitzpinkler with a Backpfeifengesicht.

Which is your favourite?


Sunday, 10 November 2013

#nalasat - MFL Show and Tell

Yesterday I attended #nalasat in Manchester, a Show and Tell event organised by NALA, the National Association of Language Advisors in the UK.

The event took place at the Instituto Cervantes on Deansgate in Manchester and was attended by approximately 70 primary and secondary languages teachers, trainee teachers and language advisors.

The day was extremely well organised and around 20 or so speakers shared their ideas, experiences, and enthusiasm.

I took notes and shall share the day's main points with you now. If I miss out anything, or I've credited the wrong person please let me know and I'll modify this post accordingly.

The speakers were:
Starr shared her mysterious cards with us. These were laminated cards on which there were 4 pictures which had a pronunciation connection. She also told us about some activities were students complete texts by using words which rhyme and also showed us an example the sound dictionaries she uses in Key Stage 4.

Jo had a bag of puppets and props to help students improve their speaking. She had a crocodile puppet, an easyspeak microphone and, my old favourite, lolly sticks (no mention of a mug of misery, though).

  • Louisa Dawes
Louisa showed us a few ICT-based things including prezi and goanimate and her own version of the BBC game show "Pointless"

Here's a goanimate I made about 4 years ago...  
writing dates in German by dmcg on GoAnimate

  • Sara Teare 
Sara shared her All-Most-Some objectives and her Records of Achievement. She finished by showing us a favourite powerpoint of mine: Plenary Squares (this is a different, more user friendly version, not the one she used).

Pauline showed us some really great speed reading ideas and ways of getting students to read texts and identify and practise vocabulary.

Esther presented Animal Talk. She showed us 2 animal type faces featuring llamas and cats. She gets her students to try and work out the sentences  in these type faces. A fantastic idea.

  • t
  • h
  • a
  • n
  • k
  • s
  • e
  • st
  • h
  • e
  • r

Mary is a moodle expert. She showed us some street view mysteries for students to complete online. These were originally conceived as "on paper mysteries" by Vincent Everett and were converted, or if you like, moodled by Mary. They can be found on Vincent's blog and the moodled versions can be found here.

Lisa wasn't in Manchester, her presentation was virtual. Lisa's presentation Jugando en espanol,  about learning through singing and dancing can be seen here.

  • Nikki Perry of NALA
Nikki started the afternoon session with a presentation called Thinking Interculturally. She showed us a list of words in French which we had to put in order of importance. She then asked us to do it again but from the point of view of a child living in Africa. Very thought provoking.

Marie shared some ways of improving reading skills by exploiting a text. We did some exercises where we had to look for patterns in texts e.g. she read out every other word and we had to try to guess the next words and say them with her. A lot of fun and as easy or as difficult as the teacher wants it to be.

Vicky shared some ideas for using Phonics to get students to think about pronunciation. She showed us some resources by Catherine Cheater and explained how the scheme she uses teaches vocabulary, not by topic, but by sounds. She told us about silent letter strikethrough activities to do with students and shared some great reading websites with us, too: 

  • Erzsi Culshaw
Erzsi teaches Spanish in primary schools and showed us the amazing results of an etwinning project she has done with schools in Spain. The pupils share videos and photos with their partner schools in order to improve language learning and cultural knowledge. One of the videos showed pupils saying how they get to school and who they travel with. Fantastic idea.

  • Natalio Ormeno
Natalio is a languages advisor. He showed us some great ways of getting pupils to speak in the target language. He taught us the suits of deck of Spanish playing cards and gave us an activity to do which had us all speaking some very basic (in my case) Spanish.

  •  Daniel Woodvine 
Daniel is president of the Shropshire Languages Society and he shared with us some of the ICT-based games and quizzes his organisation has produced. He explained how the game Telepathy works with students playing against each other show who has the most knowledge of vocabulary.

My offering was the "ipad or my pad" presentation. It went down quite well but I hope that the serious message behind it also struck home. My point is: use ipads but use them properly, effectively and make sure there is some language learning involved. I plugged Joe Dale's MFL ipad CPD session and gave the link to his ipads for learning webinar blog where lots of appley-good information can be found.

  • Vanessa Parker
Vanessa presented Du début à la fin a collection of amazing resources in both Spanish and French. She showed us ideas for remembering vocabulary, good ways to get students to fill in grids and she shared her idea for a display wall of post it notes.

  • Odette Hunt 
Odette is an independent advisor for MFL. She taught us a song with actions les pouces en avant

  • Alison Daly
 Alison shared Daly's Double Drop with us. Sadly, not a real ale but a game in which students accumulate virtual Euros throughout the lesson. They can gamble with her as to whether they have the right answers in their work and they lose and win Euros depending on the quality of their work. A good way to promote MFL in conjunction with moral and social values.

  •  Charlotte Gray
Charlotte shared with us an ipad application iDoceo. I hate to say it but it looks like a great piece of software. It's a teacher planner, mark book, spreadsheet, grade calculator and much more. 

  • Sarah Pearson 
Sarah shared her powerpoint activities Attention aux bombes. A game where students choose a number on the screen behind which there are pictures. The students have to say a phrase, word, sentence about the picture. However, behind some of the pictures are bombs which explode. Students are motivated by trying to find the bombs. Sarah also made some others which had different "bombs" e.g. on the one she made about pets there was a howling wolf instead, the food one had custard pies, etc..
Sarah also shared with us some Thunks. These are questions to which there are no wrong answers but which students must be able to give opinions. e.g. One I've used with AS students: Peut-on vivre sans musique?

It was a fascinating day and, as usual I learned an awful lot and was reminded of many activities, sites and resources which I hadn't used for ages.

Apparently, there will be another one sometime next year.

I can't rate it highly enough and I raise my hat to, and wish to thank, Marie O'Sullivan and anyone else who was involved in organising the day. It was brilliant!  

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Why German is scary...and other things I found on youtube.

As it is the half term holidays I've had a lot of time to trawl the internet and find resources to amuse, entertain and educate my students. Today I found this video "Why German is scary" which I found amusing and decided to share with you.

I also found this video from Buzzfeed called:

9 English words with funny translations in other languages.

Don't show this one to your students...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Google Translate: 10 reasons why it's no match for learning a language

Loathe it or hate it, Google Translate, is not going to go away.

It is the bane of my life at the moment.

I've just stopped marking year 7 books to write this post, as I've just read:

J'aime mes formateurs - I like my trainers.


J'aime mon couche - I like my coat.

I'm going totally crackers.

Or as google translate would put it:

Je vais totalement craquelins.

So, about an hour ago, I found this article by Stuart Heritage in the Guardian called Google Translate: 10 reasons why it's no match for learning a language.

To be honest, I'm sure we could all think of at least 20 reasons.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

#mflsatcov - my presentation

This is the presentation I gave at the MFL Show and Tell at Foxford School in Coventry on 5th October 2013.

I've just realised that if you weren't there it won't make a lot of sense and if you were there it probably won't make much sense either. The links are useful, though. The conference was amazing and I shall blog about it in the coming weeks. Thanks to Emma, Bertram and Garry for the organisation and to all who attended and presented. It was a great day.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

National Poetry Day - George Sand

As it is National Poetry Day, I've decided to treat you all with a poem by George Sand to her lover Alfred de Musset.

The more eagle-eyed amongst you will spot why it's my favourite straight away!

Je suis toute émue de vous dire que j'ai
bien compris l'autre jour que vous aviez
toujours une envie folle de me faire
danser. Je garde le souvenir de votre
baiser et je voudrais bien que ce soit
une preuve que je puisse être aimée
par vous. Je suis prête à montrer mon
affection toute desinteressée et sans cal-
cul, et si vous voulez me voir ainsi
vous dévoiler, sans artifice, mon âme
toute nue, daignez me faire visite,
nous causerons et en amis franchement
je vous prouverai que je suis la femme
sincère, capable de vous offrir l'affection
la plus profonde, comme la plus étroite
amitié, en un mot : la meilleure épouse
dont vous puissiez rêver. Puisque votre
âme est libre, pensez que l'abandon ou je
vis est bien long, bien dur et souvent bien
insupportable. Mon chagrin est trop
gros. Accourrez bien vite et venez me le
faire oublier. A vous je veux me sou-
mettre entièrement.

Monday, 30 September 2013

European stereotypes

I showed these "Learn about Europe" clips to some (older) students a few years ago when talking about stereotypes.

They are certainly entertaining.

everything you wanted to know about Europe and you won't need a guide book next time you visit....

First, the French:

Then the Germans:

And finally, the English:

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Benny Lewis - Languages hacker

I've just read an article from The Irish Mirror about a man, Benny Lewis, who can speak 12 languages.

He's the man behind the Fluent in 3 months website and is known as the Irish Polyglot (although I'm sure there must be others!)

The thing that drew me to this article was the fact that Mr Lewis uses "unconventional techniques" to learn languages.

Mr Lewis admits that he is not a naturally gifted linguist.

He studied German at school and learned nothing and lived in Valencia for 6 months without picking up any of the language.

There are some great quotes from him in the article, but the one which had the most effect on me was this:

At school you’re taught not to make mistakes with pronunciation or grammar and it makes you scared to try.To learn you should speak the language and speak it badly, you shouldn’t be afraid to talk like Tarzan, it’s all about communicating.

I wonder how many students are turned off languages for the same reason?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Skinny jeans, baked potatoes and petechial haemorrhages.

Yes, I know. 

The title of this post sounds like I've had a really interesting weekend. 

Sadly, it's educational...

Today I was asked, "How do you say skinny jeans in French?"

I had no idea. 

The dictionaries at my school were published sometime in the late 1980s (and I even have a German dictionary on my shelf dating from 1948!) and are often worse than useless when looking for contemporary language.

So what did I do?

Usually, in a situation like this I use wikipedia.

When you search for something in wikipedia in English you'll find that, on the left hand side, there is a list of languages. This means that there is an article in each of those languages which corresponds to the one you're reading in English.

It is an ideal resource for every languages teacher and promotes independent learning.

If it weren't for wikipedia, my students would never have found out the French for:


or petechial haemorrhage (don't ask!)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

One of the most important days in the MFL calendar is, obviously, International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

OK, I'm not being serious, but can you think of a better way of capturing the imagination and holding the attention of younger students?

TLAPD as all the cool kids are calling it, was started in 1995 by 2 Americans, Mark Summers and John Baur (pictured below), and is, officially, in the words of its creators, the only holiday to come about because of a sports injury.

You can find the background to TLAPD here on wikipedia and the official TLAPD website here.

There is an English to Pirate online translator here and there are even Android, Apple things and Windows apps, too. 

Sadly, Pirate is not recognised by Ofsted as an official modern foreign language, but, don't fret, I've found some links to foreign language pirate sites for you.

Here goes: 

Lots of pirates phrases and vocabulary in French here.

There are some amazing German phrases and a vocabulary list here.

And for all you scurvy dogs with a hankerin' for the Spanish Main, there's this.

Have fun, me buckos!

PS. About 10 years ago, I actually spent the whole day at school speaking with a traditional "pirate" accent much to the amusement of my colleagues and the frustration of the management team.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My new hat.

This is my new hat.

It's very smart but makes me look like Stan Laurel so I don't wear it outside.


A bowler hat is a very English thing and that is why I bought it.

In my classroom this year, the wearer of this hat is allowed to speak English.

Nobody else.

No hat, no English.

My year 7 students like it.

The idea for it was subconsciously stolen from two people:

Firstly, Alex Bellar's Union Flag Shield and the fact that only when Alex stands on the shield is he allowed to speak English to his classes. (see #MFLSAT post)

Secondly, as a child, I saw the comedian Eric Sykes on stage doing a routine with a "magic hat" which when placed upon his head makes him unable to speak.

So far, the only person who has been allowed to wear this hat is me.

That may change.

I doubt it, though.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Excuses, excuses...

Some years ago I signed up to receive daily emails from linternaute.

It's an online French news/magazine which publishes some very good current affairs articles (really good for teaching A level French) and, often, some incredibly funny features.

Today I was sent this article, a collection of notes from parents to teachers entitled: LES MEILLEURS (ET LES PIRES) MOTS D'EXCUSE DES PARENTS

So I thought of a fun starter activity for advanced level students:

  • Give the students a few of these excuses
  • Get them to rank them in order of silliness, etc.
  • Explain their reasons to a partner or a group.
  • Create some of their own excuses
It's a great way to practise different tenses, too.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

100000 visits

At some point early this morning this blog received its 100000th visit.

After three and a half years, that's not too bad.

In fact, it's pretty amazing.

There are approximately 650 million websites in the world and, according to, mine is currently ranked number 22,085,532.

I don't know which percentile I'm in, though. (UK Teacher joke!)

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that anyone would want to read anything I wrote

Thank you all very much for visiting, reading and commenting. It is very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


In the past I've been accused of not being a fan of linguascope.

This isn't true.

I've not been a fan of lazy teachers using it in lessons on an interactive whiteboard with one student while the other 29 students sit doing nothing. 

I've actually seen it used this way in lessons.

I like students to use linguascope as an independent learning/revision tool. If you have access to computers or tablets (there's an app!), it's an ideal site to get even the least motivated students playing and learning simultaneously.

The whole site has been recently updated and revamped. The graphics are much better and there are new sections with more games and activities. It seems much smoother and looks much more professional. All of the activities are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. There are sections for primary pupils and secondary pupils. Personally, I like the GCSE pages.

Linguascope costs £250 (+vat) for a year's subscription but if you have 1000 students it works out at 25 pence per student - the cost of an exercise book. With the school's login and password pupils can also access the site and play the games from home. Students can even play on their phones by using the mobile site. There is a preview page here with access to a lot of activities in each language and at each level.

It's much more educational and fun than making powerpoint presentations.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Carambar - c'est du sérieux!

Carambar are French sweets, or if you're from across the pond, candy.

Each carambar wrapper contains a terrible joke in French.

For example:
Pourquoi n'y a-t-il plus de mammouths ?

Car il n'y a plus de papouths !

I told you they were terrible.

Terrible, but a great way to introduce real French to your students and to get them to try to understand and explain them.

And they are available in the UK from a company called frenchclick so you really have no excuse not to try them.

You don't need to buy carambar as many of the jokes are on website, on these dedicated pages.

Imagine my horror, then, when I saw this video:


Fortunately, it turned out to be a very elaborate blague.

It was a Poisson d'avril and thousands of French people fell for it.

Some of their comments are in this clip:

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Translated film titles - a languages game.

As the title suggests, here is another game to play with 6th form or really good KS4 students.

When English language films are translated into other languages, they are often given strange titles.

For example:

The Bruce Willis film, "The sixth sense" in China was called, "He's a ghost!" which, if you've seen the film, kind of spoils the plot and if you haven't seen it, then I've just ruined it for you.

The game is this: find some titles of English language films and their French, German, Spanish version titles. The more bizarre the better.

A good place to look for this is wikipedia. On the left hand side of wikipedia pages are the links of foreign language versions of each article.

Here are some examples:

Les dents de la mer = Jaws

Maman, j'ai raté l'avion = Home Alone

Ein Zwilling kommt selten allein = The Parent Trap

Die unglaubliche Reise in einem verrückten Flugzeug = Airplane

A todo gas = Fast and Furious

Gru, mi villano favorito = Despicable Me

R3sacón = The Hangover: Part 3

You could play this as a matching activity, multiple choice activity, or just get the students to try to work out what the original title was. Some students could even find their own titles to test their classmates.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Néologismes & anglicismes et l'Academie Française

This week I've been looking up "anglicismes".

This came about after Terri Dunne posted a link on Facebook to an article from snappily entitled 11 mots merveilleux recently added to the French dictionary

Are you still following this? 


The article gives examples of new French words added to the 2014 edition of the Petit Robert.

I am always fascinated by "new" words so I decided to see if I could find some more.

Quite by accident, I found some more new words on the BBC's 7 day quiz page.   

These words are: 
  • beuverie express - binge drinking
  • mot-diese - hashtag
  • tablette - Ipad (or any tablet device, I suppose)
This, of course, is the work of our old friends at L'Academie Française.

For those of you who are not aware of L'Academie Française, it is the French body responsible for all matters to do with the French language.

The members of L'Academie Française are referred to as the immortels, which probably says a lot about their opinion of themselves. I digress... 

Its role is only advisory, but it will persist in telling the French what they should and should not say, particularly when it comes to borrowing words from other languages.

L'Academie Française has a regularly updated blog (or as they would have it, "cybercarnet") to which correct French versions of adopted phrases appear, with examples.

The blog is called:
and is an invaluable resource for any teacher or higher level student of French.

I like it best of all because it gives me examples of phrases used by the French which foreigners would never get to hear as the French media tends to follow the rules of the Academie.

For example, I had never heard the term Speedez-vous as a replacement for Dépêchez-vous but apparently it is used a lot.

So if you want to learn how to speak French like a real French person, the place to go to find the "bad words" is the place dedicated to keeping the language pure. 

How ironic!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Lessons in argot.

It's the holidays.

The time of year when I can relax and surf the net for fascinating language learning resources.

Today I've discovered this.

Online argot lessons from Dr André Bougaieff of the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières.

There are 5 lessons which come with audio clips (at different speeds), transcripts, translations and online exercises.

Looks like it might be a lot of fun.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

How German Sounds Compared To Other Languages

I found this video on youtube this morning.

I found it mildly amusing and decided to share it with you.


Sunday, 14 July 2013's Bad Translator

If you are a teacher of languages, chances are, you'll occasionally receive work from students which they didn't do themselves.

It is the work of the internet.

More specifically an online translator.

We can usually tell for two reasons:

1) It contains examples of the imperfect subjunctive and was done after eight weeks of learning French.

2) It is absolute gibberish.

These students are, at best, cheating and, at worst, insulting our intelligence.

Very often it would have taken much less time to produce the work themselves rather than type it into an online translator and then copy it into their book.

Perhaps if they knew about Bad Translator they might be less inclined to let the internet do their homework.

After all, if online translators were perfect, most of us would be out of a job.

Bad Translator allows the user to enter any text up to 250 words. It then translates it back and forth up to 35 times into different languages and then back into English with, more often than not, hilarious results.

For example typing:

"You must not commit adultery"

gives us

"Thoust needs potato

A perfect translation.

Have fun!

Friday, 12 July 2013

What Different Languages Think Different Animals Sound Like

Another animal themed blogpost.

I saw this on facebook and had to share.

It was posted by the Scottish Association of Language Teachers (SALT) and I know that some readers of this blog don't facebook so here it is!

It came from Casey Chan via gizmodo.

So, if you ever meet a French cockerel, a Japanese cat or a Dutch pig, you'll know what to say to them.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Wheeldecide - a random spinner thing

I discovered Wheeldecide today.

It's another random name/question picker type thing which you can customise and embed into your blog/website etc. There is no Apple app at the moment but the website informs me that there will be an Android one very soon.

You can type in lists of up to 100 names, questions, numbers, etc individually or copy and paste a list.

Wheeldecide wheels can also be shared via twitter and facebook and there is a feedback option on their site to offer suggestions for new features.

It looks like it might be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Ten body parts, German style.

As usual, whilst searching the web for something important, I got side tracked and found this article.

It comes from the local website.

The article gives 10 trendy, slang words used by Germans to describe different parts of the body.

So, if you don't know your Kummerspeck from your Pornobalkon and are having trouble distinguishing between your Sitzfleisch and your Kauleiste, then you need to read this.

It really is very funny.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

L'âge des chiens et des chats. Part Two.

Last week I recommended an online resource which helped work out your age in dog years and your dog's age in human years.

It would be great for practising numbers with beginners in French.

Today, I found something even better.

"That's not possible!" I hear you cry.

At the risk of sounding pantomimous, Oh, yes it is!

Today's find was a site called Chez Maya which tells you not only how old your dog is but also it has information about cats, too. Fiona will love this.

It even tells us the difference in ages between dog breeds of different sizes.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Quel âge as-tu? Et en années de chien?

This is an idea for practising big numbers with students. 

It came from a tweet from my friend, Fiona, this morning.

Fiona asked,

Dear francophones, how do I say “but he is 70 in dog years”? Would I have to explain the whole concept, or would a French person understand?

and I remembered a site I'd seen a while ago after an argument a conversation I'd had with someone about 1 dog year not being equivalent to 7 human years.

The site is and it is a calculator which tells you your age in dog years or your dog's age in human years. The page can be seen in 9 different languages.

I think this would be a great idea for teaching and practising high numbers with younger students.

By the way, if I were a dog I'd be 189 years old.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Do you speak touriste? Or, are Parisians really rude?

You know how all Parisians are really rude to tourists?

How you are fobbed off in shops with a gallic shrug?

How your taxi driver pretends he doesn't understand you?

Well, I have a secret to tell you.

It appears that 80% of Parisians can't speak English.

Or any foreign languages for that matter.

So don't take it personally!

They aren't being rude at all.

They are just being.....err what's the word? Ah, yes.....French!

It is for this reason that the CCI (Chambre de Commerce et Industrie) Paris Ile-de-France has produced a booklet Do you speak touriste? to help.

You can download it here and I recommend that you do.

It is an informative (and quite possibly racist) guide to the different nationalities who visit Paris.

It has some key phrases which all Parisians should know.

It lists their guests likes and dislikes, the things they want to do and see, and what they expect from their hosts.

It is so bad it is the equivalent of watching the Learn About Europe videos on youtube...


Friday, 7 June 2013

Kérity, la maison des contes - a French film for children.

Last month I blogged about the Luc Besson film Adèle Blanc-Sec and shared the link I found to some fantastic resources for studying the film with older students.

Unbelievably, today I discovered a French film which is suitable for primary school children.

It's called Kérity, la maison des contes.

It's an animated fantasy film about a small boy, Natanael, who can't read, who is bequeathed a collection of old books. He discovers that well-known characters from children's literature and fairy tales are hiding in the books and he sets off on a quest to protect them from an evil witch.

Like they did with Adèle Blanc-Sec, those nice people at the Institut Français in Germany have made a resource pack for studying the film in schools.

The resources are all in French but many of the discussion activities could be done in English.

There are matching exercises and a wordsearch of characters which could be done quite easily.

The pack contains answer sheets for teachers, too.

The DVD of Kérity, la maison des contes is available from the French amazon site. Sadly, amazon uk only sells the  English version of the film, Eleanor's Secret. The original version of the film can be streamed and downloaded from a number of sites on the web, but I wouldn't want to breach any copyright laws by posting links on my blog.

Even if you aren't going to study the film with your students, I heartily recommend it as a film you could watch with your own children. Even the English version.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

MFL Show and Tell York. #mflsaty

Last Saturday I went to #mflsaty at York St John University and spent an enjoyable day with 70 or so MFL teachers doing what MFL teachers do best. 


Not complaining.


It was the latest in a series of MFL Show and Tells and this event was the brain child of Suzi Bewell, MFL expert, PGCE MFL tutor, teacher, writer, expert, genius, builder of industrial strength pinatas and all round good egg.

It was great to see lots of old friends and make some new ones.

The day started off with a very informative and interesting presentation and a quiz by Bob Harrison (from Toshiba) on the importance of technology in teaching. 

Then came the Show and Tell:

Thomas Allison was first up. He told us all about Kidblog a safe and simple blogging platform designed for use in education. 

Next we had a presentation from Marie O'Sullivan. Marie made us sing the time in German to the Eastenders theme tune to show how adapting familiar tunes can help students learn and practise vocabulary. She also showed us Lyricsgaps and AlexTV. There is more information on Marie's blog about all this.

Martin Wheeley then took us on a cultural journey around the Catalonian Christmas phenomenon that is the Caganer.

Then David McDermott gave an impressive presentation on the uses and usefulness of place mats. He showed us some examples of how they can be used to ensure that learning takes place and gave us a link to some really good examples on the TES resources site. 

Will Strange then told us about how he uses sweets as poker chips to increase student participation in his presentation, Group talk poker. A great idea I'd seen before, forgotten about and now promise to use in the future. Thanks, Will.

The amazing Isabelle Jones then shared her experiences of jazzing up revision. She has blogged about it here
already. You'll find her "genius bar" presentation by following the link, too.

Next we heard about an amazing transition project from Lisa Gibbs. Lisa uses an African folk tale Kirikou et la sorcière as a great way to engage year 7 students. A student study pack is available here

Mary Cooch then shared an amazing resource Mystère à Blaru with us. It's a google street view mystery in French which is available on Moodle here and which, for non-moodlers, can be downloaded from here

Ricky Gibson then presented a great way to use google forms to set up online quizzes which could be used for homework and/or tests. A brilliant idea. If only I had access to ICT.

Next we were wowed by Amanda Salt who presented some fantastic ideas for using new technology to teach A level. Amanda has very kindly shared her presentation on her blog: here and shared her thoughts and ideas on the whole day: here.

The final presentation of the morning was from Clare Seccombe. Clare shared her Trash or Treasure idea, which is very simple, yet effective and extremely clever. Clare has shared her presentation on her blog here and has also shared her thoughts on the day here.

Then we had lunch.

The afternoon session started with Claire Hampson.Claire made us sing Abba songs with the lyrics changed to help us learn how to conjugate verbs. It was much more fun than I've described it. Anyway, Claire recorded us singing and has uploaded it to her blog along with her thoughts on the day.

I then presented a new, updated version of my "ipad or my pad" blogpost where I give a dozen or so reasons as to why paper is better than using ICT. This new version involves me "dropping" my ipad a few times to the gasps and stunned silence of all those present. I finished by showing the papier ne sera jamais mort toilet paper commercial. 

The final shower and teller was Alicia McKenna. Her presentation "Making the learning visible" was pretty amazing and a great way to round off the Show and Tell session.

The afternoon then took the form of "Genius bars" where attendees opted to join a small group to listen to (and join in) a 10 minute presentation. I did one on differentiation, which I'll blog about one day. Amanda Salt told us about Triptico, an amazing desktop tool from David Riley, and my old friend Rosemary Hicks shared her ideas on using FOX thinking tools.

The final word came from John Bidder the genius behind the Blippit app creation tool. This is something I'd like to know more about and if you'd like to know more you can read all about it on Jen Turner's blog

The day was an amazing success and ended like most Spanish religious festivals with a donkey being beaten to a pulp. 
I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Mon sandwich - using a dictionary

A task I set my low ability year 8 group recently was to describe, label and draw a sandwich in French. 

We had learned some basic food vocabulary and the partitive article.

The brief was that they could put in anything they wanted - the more disgusting, the better. (It's a group of mostly boys!)

They didn't know the words for almost all of these things so I gave them dictionaries.

I've never seen children so excited about looking up words before.

Sadly (or not!) some of the words they were looking for were not in the school's dictionaries so we settled for some less horrific words.

So, by the end, we had some quite horrible stuff on them  (I hope you're not eating)

We had:

Dans mon sandwich il y a du vomi.

Dans mon sandwich il y a de la morve.

Dans mon sandwich il y a des mouches.

Dans mon sandwich il y a des crottes.

You can see a pattern forming here, can't you?

Anyway the point was not to learn new words but to learn how to use a dictionary properly.

And have fun.

Which we did.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Alibi - making speaking fun

This week is assessment week and some of my classes have been doing speaking exams.

Some students were supposed to have a conversation with a partner using the past tense to find out what they had been doing recently.

It seemed a little tedious and I decided to make it more fun.

Instead of a conversation, it became an interrogation.

One student is the police officer and the other a suspect.

Exactly the same types of questions and answers except with added details.

So, instead of "What did you do at the weekend?" the question becomes more specific: "What were you doing between 7pm and 10pm on Friday evening?"

The interrogator can occasionally interrupt with phrases like, "Liar!", "That's not possible!", "That can't be!" and, obviously, "Don't leave town."

You can do this in any language and boys seem to like it.

I'm even thinking of investing in some dressing up police hats, too.

I'm ashamed to say that the idea came from my overhearing a pupil sing this song...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Les people et les stars - Reading for pleasure?

Loathe them or hate them, you can't switch on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing "celebrities".

It seems that these days everyone is obsessed with the cult of the celebrity.

Everyone except me, of course.


Even the French are becoming curiously interested.

To prove this, here is a list of trashy magazine/website links so that your students can find out who is "dating" whom, when and with what... in French.

  • Actuastar - loads of "scoops" and "news" about "celebs" form around the world. currently obsessed with Kim Kardashian's feet. (I have no idea who this is!)

  • Gossip -  currently obsessed with a young lady who goes by the name of Nabilla. (Again, I have no idea who this is, either!)

  • Closer (les stars et les news people en live - their words, not mine!) - some stuff on Eurovision. (I've heard of this!)

So there you have it. 

A brilliant way to interest the majority of your students in reading for pleasure in the Target Language. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Le sac des filles - opportunities for thinking and speaking

Le sac des filles is a blog which publishes photos of the contents of girls' bags (and sometimes boys' pockets) and lists the contents in French.

That's pretty much it.

I discovered this from a conference I went to in Manchester in 2010 run by Juliet Park and Wendy Adeniji of i-languages. It was from Wendy's session on thinking skills which I just discovered on an old memory stick.

So, why do I like it?

It can be used for lots of things:

  • Learning vocabulary (it's more up to date than your text books and dictionaries)
  • Describing people from the contents of their bags. are they male or female? How old are they?what kind of a person do you think owns this bag? Why? etc...
  • A "Through the Keyhole" activity. Guess the celebrity: This is Rihanna's bag because it contains....
  • Comparing 2 people by studying their personal effects. 
  • Comparing British and French culture. (There's a lot of bags with cigarettes in!)

Some of the pictures are annotated:

and some are just photos with lists added at the end.
These are great if you want to teach in a different language, or if you want to get the students to describe the contents by themselves.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Do you speak English?

I love this clip from the BBC's Big Train comedy programme.

My year 9 students are made to watch this just before they choose their options.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Studying a French film - Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec

One of my favourite French films of recent years is Luc Besson's Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec.

I rediscovered it today as I was going through my collection of French DVDs to find suitable films which I might show to the students at the end of the year.

It's rated 12 in the UK but I would not show it to my younger students as there is a scene where Louise Bourgoin (Adèle) (for no reason I can think of, other than it being a French film) appears, albeit briefly, topless. She is seen smoking, too.

The reason why I'm telling you about this film is that this afternoon I found an amazing resource made by the institut français in Germany.

It is a 27 page work pack in pdf format which contains teacher notes and activities for students based on the film. All of the activities and notes are in French. (This pack is no longer available online but if you contact me I can email it to you!)

The contents of the pack are as follows:


A) Fiche technique du film
B) Informations sur le réalisateur
C) Résumé du film


A) Avant la séance

Fiche-élève n°1: Découvrir le film par l’affiche
Fiche-professeur n°1: Découvrir le film par l’affiche
Fiche-élève n°2: Découvrir le film par la bande-annonce
Fiche-professeur n°2: Découvrir le film par la bande-annonce

B) Après la séance

Fiche-élève n°3: Reconstituer l’histoire du film
Fiche-professeur n°3: Reconstituer l’histoire du film
Fiche-élève n°4: Étudier les personnages du film
Fiche-professeur n°4: Étudier les personnages du film
Fiche-élève n°5: Comprendre un dialogue du film
Fiche-professeur n°5: Comprendre un dialogue du film
Fiche-élève n°6: Étudier les lieux du film
Fiche-professeur n°6: Étudier les lieux du film


A) Champollion et le déchiffrement des hiéroglyphes
B) Les costumes de la Belle Époque
C) L’Égypte à Paris
D) Analyse d’une séquence
E) Résumé du film en séquences
F) Sitographie

The worksheets are not too difficult and could be done by most of the students I teach in KS4.

The film and the workpack could be used as the basis for a piece of Controlled Assessment for GCSE, too.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Le papier ne sera jamais mort.

Last week I went to the Teachmeet at Blakes on Grey Street in Newcastle. There were lots of incredible teacher types there and I managed to catch up with my old ICT and computing expert friend, Mark Clarkson.

Mark is a bit of a genius and he is one of the most enthusiastic teachers I know.

We were discussing a presentation I did a couple of years ago called "I-pad or my pad?" in which I argued (successfully) that a pad of paper is better than an I-pad for so many different reasons.

Admittedly, it might not have been the most serious thing I've ever done, but the point of my presentation was that technology should not be used just for the sake of it and that sometimes the "old fashioned" ways are just as good, if not,better.

This morning Mark sent me a link to this video, which I think proves my point.

And it's in French.

Sort of.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Verbix - conjugate verbs online.

If you read my last post and had a look at the interactive German resources you may have seen the link to Verbix.

Verbix is an online verb conjugator.

You choose the language you want - there are over 60 of them from Afrikaans to Wolof.

It is very easy to use and the layout is easy to follow.

Type in the infinitive (or even the English and it will tell you the infinitive) and you will be given the full paradigm of your chosen verb in the present, perfect, past, pluperfect, future, future perfect, present conditional, past conditional tenses, and the imperative and the progressive (continuous) forms.

It really is jolly good.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

AS & A2 German grammar resources.

It's exam season!

I was looking for some fun ways of practising grammar with my yr12 German group and came across a website form the University of Michigan's German Department.

Their site is called Interactive Grammar Tutor and has explanations, examples and interactive exercises which can be done on PCs, tablets and even those newfangled Ipad contraptions.

My students found the exercises quite challenging but they enjoyed doing them. It was slightly more interesting than completing the exercises in their grammar books and they were given instant feedback,  a :-) or an X, and an explanation as to why their answer was correct or not.

There are separate sections for verbs, cases, gender, adjectives, adverbs and, the ones I used today, relative clauses.

It's not a substitute for a teacher but it's a great source of information and a good way for more advanced learners to practise and revise German grammar.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Dans mon sac - Authentic songs in MFL

When it comes to writing schemes of work many language teachers become obsessed with doing what they have always done.

One of these things is the "dans mon sac" unit where students are taught all the words for stationery items. 

If you've ever been to France you'll hear people talking about nothing else....stylo this.....règle that...bâton de colle...trousse...

OK, I may have made that last bit up. 

One of the reasons I believe students are turned off by languages is the "baby" stuff we do with them. 

Before you get annoyed, I'll explain. In History in KS3 in England and Wales, students study the national and global effects of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In Geography they study urban design, crime, and climate change. In Maths, it's algebra. In Science, students learn particle theory...

...and then they go to French and learn the "classroom words" for stationery items and, quite possibly, stationary items.

In February at #ililc3 I was talking to a lady about how I had used this song to teach year 8 students the "tu" form of verbs in the present tense and then got students to practise by writing their own verse using what they had learned.

This being the Easter break and having time to do things, got me searching for other songs which could be exploited and this morning I came across this song "Dans mon sac" by Alizée.

This song was only released on the 25th March so you probably won't have heard it before.

The lyrics are clear, sung slowly and quite simple.

You could exploit this by getting students to write their own lyrics (simplify it by creating a gapfill exercise - the lyrics are here) and perhaps then include things which they really have in their own school bags.

Much more fun and creative than the "écoutez et répétez" Longmans Audio Visual French type activities which so many of my colleagues love.

Friday, 29 March 2013


Quizdini is a free site which allows teachers to create custom quizzes for students.

You sign up and build quizzes.

It's that simple.

There are 2 types of games which you can create: multiple choice games and matching games.

To create a multiple choice game you enter the title of your quiz, add a question with the correct answer and 3 wrong answers, then add more questions.

There is even a box where you can explain why an answer is correct.

When you have finished you save the quiz.

You can add the link to a blog or wiki but I'm fairly sure that you can't embed them as yet.

There are a lot of quiz builder sites around but I like this one because you can use foreign characters.There is even a drop down box with accented letters in it which you just click on to insert them.

Here is an example of a multiple choice game which I built in only a few minutes which tests knowledge of irregular past participles in French.

The quiz can be played in "practice mode" or "race mode". In "race mode" there is a timer.

If students get a question wrong they lose a life or "magic wand" as Quizdini calls it.

After losing 10 magic wands, or answering all the questions, the game is over.

Personally, I wouldn't use this kind of exercise in class but they provide an ideal opportunity for students to practise and revise grammar and vocabulary independently.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

That's easy for you to say...

As you are probably aware, I like languages.

One of the things I love about different languages is that there are some words which cannot be translated into English.

I found this picture on which shows this to great effect:

I started searching the net for more examples and found a site called: which is dedicated to these types of phrases.

One of my favourites is the hungarian word,


which literally means "Donald Ducking" and is a word used to describe the act of wearing a shirt but nothing else whilst wandering around the house.

I also like: 


the Japanese word for buying books but never reading them and allowing them to pile up at home. This is something I do a lot.

A further search found this site:

On this site you enter a phrase in English and it uses various online translators to keep translating your phrase into different languages and then back into English when it has something incredibly amusing or just completely unlike the original text.

So entering: 

I love learning French.

was translated as:

France is correct.

It's the most fun you can have with an online translator.

Or as bad translator would say: 

Get the best in online gaming.