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French teacher: Camille Chevalier Karfis discusses Fluent French Audio

Camille Chevalier Karfis

Q: A lot of your students have had no French before, or have forgotten the little French they learned 20 years ago in college. Why do they come to you? What are their goals?

A: Their motivations are as different as they are: a future trip to France, friends who speak French, business in Canada, an urge to study something different... The reasons are multiple, but they all have a common ground; they want to be able to communicate in French, effectively, and sooner rather than later.

Q:  So an adult comes to you who knows nothing: how much chance does he or she have of learning French?

A:  Adults can and do learn - when you don't treat them like children! They need to understand so they can memorize. They are self-motivated, so you don't need to fight to get their attention, but they also are very self-conscious. I believe the first thing to do is to build up their confidence, to set them up for success.

Q: A lot of people give up because they are on their own and they see this big mountain in front of them. So what is your method? How do you set people up for success? 

A:  At first, I only speak in the present tense and indicate past and future actions by using key words like "2 weeks ago" or "in 3 years." I put a strong focus on pronunciation and grammatical structure (place in the sentence of adjectives, adverbs, pronouns etc...), teach everyday vocabulary and then we role play situations adapted to each student's life and chat away! Pretty soon,  my student can communicate; okay, their tenses are not correct, but who cares! They speak with a decent accent, understand a lot, and more importantly, are understood and able to carry on a conversation with a French native. You should see how proud that makes them!

Q:  So, to make sure I understand, the student will go to France and say something that would sound like, "I come to Paris last week."?

A:  Right. And the French person understands. So I take adults who don't know French, but want to experience the culture, and I help them express themselves and understand what is being said. Their French verbs may not be perfect, but believe me, I get people feeling comfortable pretty quickly. When you work with adults, you realize that people can spend a year or two mastering those verb tenses, but it's really not necessary at first. I remove that source of frustration. 

Q:  Your French books and recordings have been featured on About.com and one of them, "A Moi Paris, une histoire au présent" is available for free on your site. Can you tell me why you decided to produce your own learning materials?

A:  My students were frustrated because they couldn't find any novel suited for their level. Children's stories are boring for adults and often too complicated anyway. And French novels and newspapers are way too difficult. So I wrote: "A Moi Paris, une histoire au pr�sent," a beginner/intermediate story/study book with 3 hours of matching audio recordings. My students learned so much from it that I decided to share it with others, and, thanks to my techy husband, put it on my website for free, along with other free lessons. It was a huge success and people kept asking for more. So I wrote: "Une Semaine à Paris, a traveler's guide with a novel twist," a bilingual intermediate novel that doubles as a guide to Paris, also with 3 hours of audio recordings. Both books are available on my site: http://www.frenchtoday.com/products/audiobooks.

Q:  Camille, you recommend Fluent French Audio for your intermediate and advanced students. Can you tell us why?

A:  When my students are able to handle a "fluent" conversation in the Present, we study the other tenses; since all the other points of the language are already implemented, they are able to concentrate on the tenses, and the transition is easy and natural. Fluent French audio is a wonderful source for different accents, gliding, and everyday vocabulary. What I love about this program is that it sets up the intermediate student for success; the slow recordings enable them to study their way into full speed conversation. The pronunciation disc allows them to understand what they didn't get the first time (and why) and train on it. I use the CDs in class, and it's amazing the progress my students make in a few repetitions. And success is a wonderful feeling!

Visit Camille’s website for info on phone tutoring, blog, French audio novels and audio lessons