Eurovision 2019 : Bring the magic to your classroom!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Saturday is Eurovision day! And it is a great opportunity to introduce some musical MFL magic to your classes.

In the distant, pre-Internet days, Eurovision was amongst the most accessible ways to catch a glimpse of overseas media. Once a year, families sat down together to listen to songs in many languages other than their own. As a young language enthusiast, that was something to be treasured, for sure – how else could you experience that cultural and linguistic diversity without leaving your living room?

Today, with target-language resources available via a five-second Google search, some of that exclusivity has disappeared. But there still remains something particularly spectacular and attention-grabbing about our wonderful, colourful and uniquely international song contest.

So what does Tel Aviv 2019 have to offer us?

France, Italy and Spain

France, Italy and Spain turn up the goods for language teachers again this year. Each act chooses quite a different hot topic to sing about, all of which are excellent springboards for classroom discussion (especially at A-level).

France sends Bilal Hassani with the rousing ballad “Roi”, espousing a message of inclusion and acceptance. To drive the point home, he will be accompanied by two ballerinas on stage. Both have struggled against conventional expectations of their art. Hopes for a good placing are high, with Bilal moving into the top five favourites to win this week.

Find out more about Bilal, and see the lyrics to “Roi” at this link.

Mahmood sings “Soldi” for Italy this year. The lyrics are hard-hitting with some tough life messages (and some colourful language which you might want to be cautious of with younger students). The song has already won a lot of attention, making an official Spotify playlist celebrating Europe, and causing some political controversy back home.

Get to know Mahmood, and read the lyrics to Soldi at this link.

Spain sends the upbeat “La venda” sung by the charismatic Miki Núñez. Miki encourages listeners to discard the blindfold of commercialism and appreciate the authentic things in life. The stage show will be a joyful confluence of colour and fun, with the obligatory high-energy choreography.

Meet Miki and read the lyrics to “La venda” at this link.

No German… again

Once again, Germanists are left wanting this time round. Sadly (for us linguists), Germany, Austria and Switzerland all send a song in English for Tel Aviv 2019.

The problem is ongoing; since countries were allowed once more to enter in any language (for ‘any’, read: English!), we are only treated to snatches of German now and then. Austria 2004 and Germany 2007 are exceptional, ever rarer examples of German in the modern Eurovision age.

But not to fear – there is a huge archive of material available online, right back to the days when a national language rule was standard.

Fun with lyrics

YouTube is a cinch to mine for Eurovision songs, for example. Just search for “Eurovision country year” and you’ll get a whole raft of user uploads for that particular entry. As a rule of thumb, anything before 1973, and anything between 1978 and 1998 is almost certainly in the national language of the country. (Odd exceptions include a couple of Austrian entries sung in dialect, for example!)

Once you have your song, head over to Diggiloo Thrush – please stifle your titters at the name – and look up the lyrics for it. They have an archive of song texts right up to 2013, so you can easily copy/paste/print MFL song words into your own classroom materials.

Try lyrics gapfills as a starter. Play the song in class while your students attempt to identify the words you have blanked out. Linguascope.com has a handy gapfill worksheet creator in the Activity Builder section just for such tasks!

Ride the press wave

As an entertainment jamboree, the contest always generates a colossal amount of secondary material. New articles on the contest, being light entertainment pieces, can often be quite accessible reading pieces for upper beginner to intermediate learners. And, naturally, they tend to focus on the drama and intrigue that make the run-up to the contest so captivating. It’s a very serious business, this Eurovision!

Some outlets have a special page or feed for the latest Euro-goss, like ABC.es Eurovisión in Spain. Otherwise, a quick Google news search will always yield results at this time of year, such as this article from Le Monde on how broadcasters can use the contest to promote a specific image of the host country. Frequently, such articles tie in to wider current affairs, making a nice segue into classroom topics on social and political issues. France’s entry offers an interesting route into discussion around identity and inclusion, for example.

Language awareness

Of course, it’s always great to show students that there is a world of diversity even beyond your target language. Eurovision song clips can provide some great opportunities for language / cultural awareness. Gather together a set of songs in far-flung tongues, give your students a list of options, and ask them to listen and match the song to the language. Try closely related ones to make it extra hard (Dutch for German students, Portuguese for Spanish ones, for example).

If you’re using YouTube, you can use this little trick to start your clips in the middle of the song. This not only speeds things up, but prevents the students from getting spoilers when the country flag appears at the start of the performance. Otherwise, the official 2018 song list is available on Spotify from this link. With Albanian, Hungarian, Serbian and Slovenian-language entries included on the list, there should be ample unfamiliar language to keep students scratching their heads.

Sowing the seeds of (happy) discord

After all that, there is another characteristic of Eurovision that you can use in your lessons – its ability to elicit discussion, disagreement and general (light-hearted!) discord. A single performance can represent fertile ground for talking about likes/dislikes, clothing, physical descriptions and more.

Do you like this song? Why not? How would you present it differently? Is it modern? Old-fashioned? Even if your students just find the whole thing ‘stupid’, then get them to explain why, in the target language. It’s not possible to accept a simple ‘no’ when it comes to Eurovision!

However you choose to mark Eurovision 2019 with your classes, we hope the spectacle of the whole thing can convert a few reluctant linguists into passionate polyglots. And beyond that, who doesn’t want a bit of musical magic in their lessons every now and then?

Richard West-Soley heads the technical team at Linguascope. Languages and music have been part of his life as long as he can remember. As well as coding for Linguascope, he regularly writes on language learning topics at Polyglossic.com.

Showing films in the Modern Languages classroom – It is allowed?

In the last few days of term, many teachers choose to show films to their students. Language teachers are prone to showing films in the target language for example. But is it legal to do so or are they unwittingly breaching copyrights?

The answer is not straightforward. Films are protected by copyright laws and you usually require a licence to show them – but there are exceptions.

Educational purposes

You can show films in the classroom for educational purposes as long as you are genuinely using the work in question in your teaching. For example, you could be showing a scene from a film and follow it up with questions about the characters, the language used, and so on.

Under ‘fair use’ policy, you may even make copies of an extract (but not the whole film) for your students to study it at home.

However, you should under no circumstances show an unlawful copy of a film. This would constitute a breach of copyright and you could be prosecuted.

Entertainment purposes

It is important to note that you cannot show a film purely for entertainment purposes (e.g. during wet playtime, at after school clubs or on the last day of term) without a licence. In order to show films, your school should acquire a licence from the Motion Picture Licensing Company and/or Filmbank. These companies represent different film studios so you’ll need to make sure they cover the films you want. An annual school licence costs around £100 (more or less depending on the number of students) so it’s fairly affordable for most schools.

However, if you work in a state-funded English school, there is good news: The Department for Education is likely to have already procured a Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL) on behalf of your school. Note that this licence does not cover commercial use (i.e. showing films to a paying audience). Licence holders are required to submit a report on a quarterly basis detailing the films screened in their premises. This is to ensure correct reporting to the film studios and distributors participating in the scheme.

Independent fee-paying schools can purchase a licence through the Independent Association of Prep Schools or the Centre for Education and Finance Management.

Netflix and streaming platforms

The Netflix user agreement overtly conveys that “the Software is only for your own personal, non-commercial use”. When signing an agreement with Netflix, you are agreeing to only stream videos in the privacy of your own home. Consequently you cannot use your personal Netflix account to stream video content in your classroom. However, many teachers have sought verbal assurances from Netflix. Reportedly, some have been told over the phone that using their account in that context should be OK, but Netflix will not provide written confirmation. Others were told that it was not permitted.

Our advice would be to exercise caution and refrain from using Netflix or similar streaming services. When you stream from the platform, Netflix can identify you by your personal user account; they can also see your school’s IP address.

It appears that Netflix has been turning a blind eye to teachers streaming content from their platform. They have not to date prosecuted a school for violation of their terms of service. Of course, it does not mean they never will. If they choose to prosecute, they will have all of the information and evidence they need to fine you and your employer.

Note: The advice above applied to schools in the UK. Rules and regulations may vary from country to country.

Free formative assessment tools for language teachers

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

One of the challenges language teachers face today is formative assessment. How do you manage to find the time not only to teach the content but also review students’ progress and help them improve, while keeping the pace of a lesson going and keeping motivation in a subject that some students’ may find less than engaging?

Online assessment tools

The answer? Integrating online formative assessment tools into language lessons and for distance learning are a ‘win-win’ for teachers and students alike. Firstly for the students, they are motivating and encourage healthy competition through gamification. They can allow learners to learn languages at their own pace wherever and whenever they wish. For teachers, self-marking vocabulary or grammar tests are helpful time-savers. The tests can be easily shared, edited and tailored to the needs of individual learners. They provide evidence of every student’s performance on a given day and work on any internet-connected device too. They also allow for quick responses and reflections from the whole class which inform the teacher of what the students are thinking in real time. This information is of course useful. It should inform future planning as well as create immediate teaching opportunities.

Tools such as Google Forms with Flubaroo, Socrative, Mentimeter, Kahoot or Quizizz run in the browser or have cross-platform apps making them perfect for a bring your own device (BYOD) environment. They are good time-savers too for busy teachers as they are quick and easy to set up. Some also generate Excel spreadsheets with individualised scores which can be stored in the cloud.

Google Forms are versatile for carrying out surveys, submitting web links for students’ work and administering tests. When combined with the Google Sheets Add-on Flubaroo, results can be marked automatically and saved to Google Drive.

Socrative lets you generate multiple-choice, true or false and short-answer questions on the fly as well as pre-made quizzes which can be shared with colleagues. Kahoot and Quizizz add gamification to quizzes as well as a motivational scoreboard for the highest scores.

Q&A feature

In addition to multiple-choice questions, Q&A features in Google Slides and Mentimeter also include the ability to crowd-source opinions from the class, publish content in real time and give an immediate real audience to student work and ideas.

The Q&A feature in Google Slides, once enabled, displays an URL in the header of the current slide. Students type in the link on their devices and send the teacher questions which they can choose to display with one click of the mouse or one tap of the finger. Students have the possibility of posting anonymously or be named if they log into their Google account. They are also able to see each other’s questions. They can vote for their favourite one (if they are logged in) in the hope the teacher displays it on the screen. The idea behind the Q&A feature is to make presentations more interactive and engaging through audience participation. Being able to ask questions about their teacher’s presentation allows them to clarify meaning and deepen their understanding. They feel more directly and actively involved in their own learning process.

Mentimeter includes a range of exercise types and allows you to post responses to different pre-prepared questions. You can generate a word cloud in real time, a bar chart from a poll or open-ended questions. You can also have the answers appear as tiles on screen. It is easy to export the results as a PDF or individual images too.

Additional tools

For those hungry for further free formative assessment tools to explore, I suggest checking out Quizlet, NearPod, Triventy, ClassroomQ, Glisser, Quizalise, Goformative and Plickers for starters.

Check out these wonderful and free services for reducing time spent marking and shortening the feedback loop in your classroom.

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.

Eurovision 2018 : Bring some musical magic into your classroom!

This Saturday evening, a very special window opens up onto the voices of Europe again. The Eurovision Song Contest 2018 is revved up and ready to go. And for language teachers, it’s a chance to bring a bit of musical magic into your lessons.

In the distant, pre-Internet days, Eurovision was amongst the most accessible ways to catch a glimpse of overseas media. Once a year, families sat down together to listen to songs in many languages other than their own. As a young language enthusiast, that was something to be treasured, for sure – how else could you experience that cultural and linguistic diversity without leaving your living room?

Today, with target-language resources available via a five-second Google search, some of that exclusivity has disappeared. But there still remains something particularly spectacular and attention-grabbing about our wonderful, colourful and unique international song contest.

France, Italy and Spain

French, Italian and Spanish teachers are spoilt this year, with three entries in the national language of each country. France sends an entry with a topical message on the refugee crisis. Italy deals with a terror-tainted world. And Spain, somewhat bucking the trend, sends “Your Song” (not the Elton John hit, of course, but Tu canción), a male-female ballad sung by a real-life couple of lovebirds. Video clips and full lyrics are available from the above links on the official eurovision.tv website.

No German this year

On the other hand, Germanists are left wanting this time round. Sadly (for us linguists), Germany, Austria and Switzerland all send a song in English for Lisbon 2018.

The problem is ongoing; since countries were allowed once more to enter in any language (for ‘any’, read: English!), we are only treated to snatches of German now and then. Austria 2004 and Germany 2007 are nice, but ever rarer examples of German in the modern Eurovision age.

But not to fear – there is a huge archive of material available online, right back to the days when a national language rule was standard.

Mine Eurovision past

YouTube is a cinch to mine for Eurovision songs, for example. Just search for “Eurovision country year” and you’ll get a whole raft of user uploads for that particular entry. As a rule of thumb, anything before 1973, and anything between 1978 and 1998 is almost certainly in the national language of the country. (Odd exceptions include a couple of Austrian entries sung in dialect, for example!)

Once you have your song, head over to Diggiloo Thrush – forgive the name – and look up the lyrics for that song. They have an archive of song texts right up to 2013, so you can easily copy/paste/print MFL song words into your own classroom materials. Try lyrics gapfills as a starter – can your students identify the sung lyrics you’ve blanked out?

Ride the press wave

As an entertainment jamboree, the contest always generates a colossal amount of secondary material. New articles on the contest, being light entertainment pieces, can often be quite accessible reading pieces for upper beginner to intermediate learners. And, naturally, they tend to focus on the drama and intrigue that make the run-up to the contest so captivating. It’s a very serious business, this Eurovision!

Some outlets have a special page or feed for the latest Euro-goss, like ABC.es Eurovisión in Spain. Otherwise, a quick Google news search will always yield results at this time of year, such as this article in Le Monde on the upcoming French performance. Frequently, such articles will also tie in to wider world news events, so can be a nice way to ease into more general topics on social and political issues. France’s entry could make an interesting segue into a discussion on the refufgee crisis, for example.

Language awareness

Of course, it’s always great to show students that there is a world of diversity even beyond your target language. Eurovision song clips can provide some great opportunities for language / cultural awareness. Gather together a set of songs in far-flung tongues, give your students a list of options, and ask them to listen and match the song to the language. Try closely related ones to make it extra hard (Dutch for German students, Portuguese for Spanish ones, for example).

If you’re using YouTube, you can use this little trick to start your clips in the middle of the song. This not only speeds things up, but prevents the students from getting spoilers when the country flag appears at the start of the performance. Otherwise, the official 2018 song list is available on Spotify from this link. With Albanian, Greek, Serbian and Slovenian-language entries included on the list, there should be ample unfamiliar language to keep students scratching their heads.

Sowing the seeds of (happy) discord

After all that, there is another characteristic of Eurovision that you can use in your lessons – its ability to elicit discussion, disagreement and general (light-hearted!) discord. A single performance can represent fertile ground for talking about likes/dislikes, clothing, physical descriptions and more.

Do you like this song? Why not? How would you present it differently? Is it modern? Old-fashioned? Even if your students just find the whole thing ‘stupid’, then get them to explain why, in the target language. It’s not possible to accept a simple ‘no’ when it comes to Eurovision!

However you choose to mark Eurovision 2018 with your classes, we hope the spectacle of the whole thing can convert a few reluctant linguists into passionate polyglots. And beyond that, who doesn’t want a bit of musical magic in their lessons every now and then?

Richard West-Soley heads the technical team at Linguascope. Languages and music have been part of his life as long as he can remember. As well as coding for Linguascope, he regularly writes on language learning topics at Polyglossic.com.

Using avatars & filters to promote speaking & listening skills

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

Using iPads to create customisable video avatars and face filters in the languages classroom can boost the confidence of learners and facilitate their creativity. Avatars allow learners to play a role rather than be themselves in front of the camera. This can be particularly effective with shier students and encourage them to extend their speaking.

Free iOS apps

There are a number of different free iOS apps which make voice recordings fun. They bring pictures to life through multimedia and turn inanimate objects into talking characters. The resulting clips can be saved to the camera roll of the iPad and uploaded to a platform such as Padlet or Seesaw. They can be used for assessment purposes and to give the students a real audience for their work.

For example, the popular Snapchat-like cross platform app MSQRD is great for promoting speaking skills creatively in the languages classroom. You can add live filters over your face and  pretend to be a spaceman, shark or fox, etc.

PhotoSpeak is a similar app which lets you animate the mouth of a person’s face in a still photo. You can also record a voice-over and export the video it produces. Students can animate themselves or the face of a famous person they like and practise speaking as if they were the character in question. For downloading royalty-free images from the web to use in PhotoSpeak, I would recommend the website photosforclass.com. It is a directory of Creative Commons images which when downloaded display the image’s licensing attribution in the footer. This makes them perfect for use in class as there is no risk of breaching copyright.

Chatterpix Kid lets you animate a photo with a moving mouth too and records up to 30 seconds. You could also import a hand-drawn image of a character as a background and add a mouth to this too. This would be perfect for younger learners in particular.

Customised avatars

My Talking Avatar Free, BuddyPoke and Kouji are apps which give you the opportunity to create a customised avatar with lots of choices over your appearance and animation style. You can then add your voice as before. With My Talking Avatar Free you can also add your own background produced in an app such as Pic Collage and record for up to 5 minutes of audio! So, you could produce a video promoting both speaking and writing where the Pic Collage is used as a background putting the language learning into context.

Animating several characters simultaneously

Superhero Comic Book Maker is another cool app for bringing to life characters in a still image and making them speak in the target language. But with this app, it is possible to animate two avatars at the same time making it great for pair work. There are a number of default backgrounds you can choose from or import your own from your camera roll. You can even combine scenes together to make a more varied video featuring a range of contexts for your talking avatars to describe.

Other iOS apps which let you animate two or more avatars simultaneously include iFunFace, Toontastic 3D, Plotagon, Evertoon, Puppet Pals 2 and Storyfab. Storyfab is an augmented reality app. It lets you choose different characters such as zombies, knights and explorers, animate them in different scenes in a movie. You can also record a voice-over for each person.

Adding speech bubbles and audio

Balloon Stickies PlusAvatars is an easy way of adding speech bubbles to any image. The image could then be imported into an app such as Adobe Spark Video or iMovie. You can also add a voice-over to promote both writing and speaking. Likewise, the app Sticky AI  uses artificial intelligence to remove the background of a picture automatically. You could use this to make a sequence of headshots with text and then narrated over in a movie editing app.

If you have access to iPads, why not try out some of these apps as a way of enabling learners to present both spoken and written information in different dynamic ways? They can extend their speaking with professional looking multimedia outcomes. Many of the apps are available for Android too, so you can also incorporate them into homework tasks.

Here is some further reading on the topic too:

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.

Finding foreign language films and series on Netflix

When you log in to Netflix, you’re typically shown a selection of the most popular programmes – i.e. the predictable blockbusters. Thankfully, Netflix also recommends films and series it thinks you might like based on your viewing habits. If you’ve watched a few French films for example, Netflix might suggest a few popular French programmes. Sadly, those recommendations are only a tiny sample of what you can actually access. You are likely to be kept in the dark as to all the other foreign language gems available on Netflix – unless you know where to look.

How to unlock hidden foreign language films and series?

You can try the search function, but unless you know exactly what you’re looking for (i.e. the title, main actors or the director of a specific film), it’s difficult to get recommendations. And if you try to type keywords such as “French” or “Spanish” you might just find programmes with Dawn French or a documentary about holidaying in Spain.

There is a better way to find foreign content, which most Netflix users are unaware of. There are hidden categories you can use to access content in specific languages. To start with, log in to your Netflix account then click on one of the following categories:

If you know Netflix category shortcuts for other languages, please share using the comments section.

Enjoy!

Using Clips ™ in the modern languages classroom

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

The Clips app from Apple has proved a real classroom hit around the world since its launch last year. This app is popular with both primary and secondary age learners. Moreover, it is straightforward to use and has simplified the process of movie-making with Instagram-like square videos. That means learners are able to focus on their learning and not on the technology. Clips can be put together with little technical expertise. They can feature animated titles, labels, emoticons, arrows, shapes filters and a soundtrack. These support all learners in producing professional-looking multimedia outcomes to showcase their learning. Check out the hashtag #classroomclips on Twitter to see a plethora of examples.

Multilingual live captions

The killer feature for language learning is multilingual live captioning. Students are able to record themselves speaking in front of the camera. They can also create subtitles in real time over video or stills. These lip-sync automatically with their voice. This is a game changer for easy subtitling. Live captioning is available in an impressive range of languages. It should also provide welcome support to those with hearing difficulties, reluctant writers. It is also helpful for those who like to learn through making sound-spelling links. Please note the Clips app will only work if your device has the latest iOS.

Ideas for using Clips™ in the languages classroom

  • Record a one stop animation with the iMotion app in portrait mode so it produces a square video and add a voiceover in Clips. If you choose the time-lapse option it makes the process even quicker.
  • In the app PicsArt Animator, choose the square format and draw an animation using the duplicate slide feature where you add a new element in each new slide. Export results as a video and add a voiceover in Clips with live titles.
  • Take a selfie with a filter. Then, pinch the picture with thumb and finger. This moves it to the right or left of the screen so a black column appears. Add animated text labels in the column and edit them with short phrases.
  • Use Photosforclass.com or Flaticon.com to find royalty free images you can add to Clips.
  • Use Autodraw.com to draw images with the square template, turn them into clip art and import them into Clips.
  • Video different shots of a town plan and add arrows and speech bubbles with a voiceover for the topic of giving directions.
  • Use emojis with speech bubbles or import videos made in avatar apps such as My Talking Avatar Free to practise dialogues.
  • Add speech bubbles to photos using Balloon Stickies Plus, combine them into a grid in Pic Collage and import the photo story into Clips where you can add a voiceover while planning from frame to frame in the grid.
  • Add different text labels on to one background for some vocabulary or verb conjugations, import the video into the IMGPlay app so you can turn it into a gif and upload it on to a Padlet wall where it will loop forever reinforcing the content through animation.
  • Use iOS11 screen recording to capture simple animations made in Keynote, trim them in the photos app and import them into Clips.
  • Ask your class to upload their Clips to Padlet or Flipgrid so they can be all watched in the same place and commented on.

Exploring more ideas with Clips

For further ideas on using Clips in the classroom, I would recommend you download the eBook Using Clips in the Foreign Languages Classroom by Rachel Smith and Short Film in Clips by Simon Pile from The iBookStore. For Android users, I would suggest the closest equivalent to Clips would be the app InShot although this doesn’t have live titles. It is also available on iOS.

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.

Using QR codes in the languages classroom

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

QR codes, or Quick Response codes to give them their full title, are black and white codes similar to barcodes. When scanned on a mobile device, they perform various actions. These include taking the user to a website, displaying some text on screen or playing back some multimedia. Marketers have been incorporating QR codes in their advertising campaigns for many years as a shortcut for the general public to find out more information from film posters, billboards, glossy magazines or television ads.

If you have access to iPads, or your students are allowed to use their smartphones in your classroom, QR codes can be a great time saver for transferring web links and short texts quickly and easily from your teacher tablet or class PC to your students’ devices.

You can turn any URL into a QR code using the iOS share extension QuiQR, a site like QRstuff or install The QR Code Extension by Manuel Braun from the Chrome Web Store. Simply project a QR code as large as possible from your screen. Then, tell your students to scan it using their device instead of asking them to type in an address. If they are too far from the board, they may have to move forwards to be able to scan effectively. However, this process should still save a lot of time when you want your class to access a web link.

So how can we use QR codes in the languages classroom?

Well, here are some of my suggestions:

  • Promote speaking skills by recording a video or grammar screencast in Seesaw and place the QR code it automatically generates in exercise books as evidence of student work or display it as part of a ‘talking wall’.
  • Ask students to use Vocaroo for speaking HW. Choose the QR code option when exporting and send you the code. Please note the QR code will only working for a couple of months before the link expires. For audio recordings which don’t expire unless you choose to archive them or delete them, try Seesaw or the forthcoming app ClassQR.
  • Draw a sketch with the web tool Sketchtoy.com and turn the URL into a QR code. When you scan the QR code, the sketch will play back as an animation. This may describe a grammar point, reinforce vocabulary or show understanding of a speaking activity.
  • Create an animated short phrase using Gzaas.com and share the link via a QR code as above. The links could also be posted to a Padlet wall and commented on individually.
  • Build an e-portfolio in Padlet over a school year and stick its QR code in an exercise book. This will serve as evidence of an individual student’s multimedia learning outcomes.
  • Start a TodaysMeet session to promote class collaboration and share via the inbuilt QR code. TodaysMeet can serve as a backchannel which runs alongside your lesson. It gives students the opportunity to ask questions and share reflections all in the same place. The free web tool can also be used for quick translation activities, Q&A instead of mini-whiteboards and building a dialogue as a model.
  • Print out an A5 sheet with a grid of QR codes pointing to revision sites such as Kahoot! for HW and ask students to glue them into their books
  • Make a text-based QR code of a short reading comprehension. Provide accompanying questions in plain text on a worksheet, or instructions to draw.
  • Build a Google Form for a vocabulary test then share it via a QR code and mark it automatically with the Google Sheets add–on Flubaroo.
  • Use Russel Tarr’s QR Treasure Hunt Generator to make a text based QR code treasure hunt in the target language

Choosing a QR reader

To make life easier, in iOS11, there is now an inbuilt QR code reader which you can activate via Settings/Camera. You can also install the Chrome app and add the Chrome Quick Actions widget which includes a QR code scanner accessible via the Today View. I’d also recommend i-nigma which is the fastest QR code reader I know and which works on iOS and Android. For more ideas on using QR codes, check out this article I wrote a few years ago by way of introduction.

How do you use QR codes in the languages classroom? Leave a comment to share your ideas. 

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.

Should you be teaching l’écriture inclusive?

Inclusive writing is a hot topic in France at the moment. French newspapers in particular, but also the international press, seem fascinated by the debate and try to offer some clarity. French teachers worldwide are observing the discussions and it is only natural that they should wonder whether to incorporate inclusive writing in their teaching.

What is l’écriture inclusive?

In essence, inclusive writing endeavours to represent both sexes equally in written language. In concrete terms, it advocates the following principles:

  • Le point milieu:

Writing (image from freeimages.com)Traditionally, if you have both male and female friends, you would refer to them as mes amis. This is because the rule is as follows: the masculine form trumps the feminine form when referring to a group that contains at least one man. Supporters of inclusive writing advocate that you should write mes ami·e·s instead. The strange dot used to insert the feminine mark ‘e’ is called point milieu (= middle dot, sometimes also referred to as point médian).

Other examples: les directeur·rice·s / les chef·fe·s / les écolier·ère·s

The approach applies the same principle to pronouns and adjectives: il·elle·s / chacun·e·s / tou·te·s…

Note: To type the point milieu, on Windows hold the ALT key down and enter 0183 on your keypad, or on Mac hold down simultaneously ALT + Shift + F.

  • Functions, jobs and titles:

Gare du Nord (picture from freeimages.com)Official titles are considered gender-neutral by the Académie française so you should say Madame le maire, Madame le président, Madame le ministre… There are also a great number of jobs that do not have a feminine form (e.g. le professeur). Advocates of inclusive writing argue that all those words should have a feminine form. A female teacher, for example, should carry the title la professeure, and a female president la présidente.

  • The rule of proximity (la règle de proximité):

In the example Les garçons et les filles sont égaux, the adjective égal agrees takes the masculine form by default. However, with inclusive writing the adjective agrees in gender with the closest noun (in this case les filles) so you should say: Les garçons et les filles sont égales.

  • Proscribing generic use of Homme:

Another recommendation is that words such as Homme when generically referring to both men and woman (e.g. droits de l’Homme) are to be proscribed. It is worth noting that the first draft of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights referred to ‘Man Rights’ in its English version. Eleanor Roosevelt, the only woman on the panel, however insisted the term ‘Human Rights’ was used instead. But the English language still includes words such as ‘mankind’ so it’s fair to say the problematic is not specifically French.

What’s the official policy?

To start with, it is important to note that a private communications agency (Mots clés) originally developed inclusive writing, working for special interest groups. Therefore there is clearly an agenda behind the proposal. It is not backed by the Académie française or any governmental agency. Indeed the Académie française is fiercely opposed to inclusive writing and the French Prime Minister has recently instructed his ministers not to use this new form of writing in official documents claiming that “the masculine form is a neutral form”.

At the French Ministry of Education, the official line is that nothing has changed and teachers should continue to teach the traditional way.

So what’s the big deal with l’écriture inclusive?

Notebook, l'écriture inclusive (image from freeimages.com)The controversy started when a French textbook introduced inclusive writing earlier this year. It attracted a lot of criticism from grammar purists who think the new method is unnecessary, sloppy and too complicated. Critics point out that grammatical gender has nothing to do with sex. Indeed feminine words such as une personne’, ‘une vedette’, or une célébrité’ can refer to both men and women.

Backers of inclusive writing in turn argue that traditional grammar rules are sexist. They add that a change is necessary to ensure equal representation for men and women in language. They believe that a lack of feminine forms is a sign that women occupy a less highly considered position as men.

So is the French language sexist?

French women (image from freeimages.com)To try to understand the complexity of the problem, let’s draw a parallel with the English language: we’ve all heard in recent times actresses referring to themselves as ‘actors’. The word ‘actor’ refers to a person who acts regardless of gender. ‘Actress’ being a specifically feminine word, some argue that the term is sexist, maybe even condescending.

To take another example, a female mayor usually takes the title ‘mayor’, while ‘mayoress’ traditionally refers to a mayor’s wife. However in recent years it has become common in the UK to refer to a woman elected to the position of mayor as ’mayoress’. Indeed, some female mayors prefer the term. This of course raises further questions: how do you then call the husband of a mayoress? Officially ‘mayor’, as a title, is already gender-neutral, and official government guidelines recommend referring to female mayors as ‘Mrs Mayor” and to their husband as ‘Mr Consort”.

The principle is the same in French. However, the vast majority of elected female officials state they prefer the feminine form (la maire). Consequently, dictionaries are now classifying words such as maire as epicene words. This means that speakers can use them with either a masculine or a feminine article.

What should French teachers do?

It is probably too early to decide whether to teach inclusive writing or ignore it. Certainly, if the Académie française and/or the French government were to back it, there would be a strong case for switching to inclusive writing. As it stands, the general public has not yet embraced the new method either. However, it is a good idea to introduce the concept and principles of inclusive writing to learners of French. Perhaps this should not be at beginner level to avoid adding another level of complexity. But students should be aware of inclusive writing as this is something they are likely to encounter at some stage. So in short: stick to the old rules, but introduce students to the new rules and allow them to practise and use L'écriture inclusive (image from freeimages.com)them if they choose to.  A good place to start is this simple video by 1 jour 1 actu.

Linguascope has also produced a worksheet to practice the point milieu. Readers of this blog can download it free of charge using promo code LINGUABLOG.

Links:

ecriture-inclusive.fr

French schoolteachers push for ‘gender neutral’ grammar in row with language purists

Comment fait-on… pour appeler une femme maire ?

Écriture inclusive: que risquent les profs refusant que “le masculin l’emporte”?

Ecriture inclusive : la polémique entre enseignants, académiciens et ministres en six actes

Pour ou contre l’écriture inclusive à l’école ? Deux enseignantes témoignent

L’écriture inclusive, choquante ou nécessaire ?

Écriture inclusive: plus de 300 professeurs refusent d’enseigner que “le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin”

L’écriture inclusive, ça marchera jamais (et tant mieux)

How to watch French TV when you live abroad

Trying to watch French TV channels when you don’t live in France can be a real challenge. Most channels available online apply geographical restrictions so you cannot watch them outside France. You would think they wanted as many people as possible to be able to access their content, but the fact is that they are not allowed to broadcast outside their territory for licencing reasons: If for example they are showing episodes of The Simpsons, the licence they acquired only allows them to broadcast within their territory so as not to compete with other channels that acquired the rights in their own territories.

Channels that are easily accessible

The good news is that geographical restrictions do not apply to channels producing their own content for their exclusive use – news networks for example. This is why you can watch channels such as BFMTV, France 24, or Euronews without any problem. Besides, BFMTV has an excellent free app that allows you to watch their live feed (search for ‘BFMTV’ in your app store).

Another great channel is TV5 Monde which broadcasts selected programmes from French-speaking countries (France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland…) In their case, they have negotiated worldwide rights with the respective programme producers. The channel is widely available via satellite and cable (Sky or Virgin on the UK).  Check out the TV5 Monde website to check how you can receive it in your country.
Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to watch TV5 Monde live online, but you can view news programmes on their website as well as a wide selection of videos on their YouTube channel. You will also find a section for French teachers with video clips and educational resources to exploit them.

Arte is another interesting channel with programmes in both French and German. Arte is a public Franco-German TV network that promotes programming in the area of culture and the arts. You can watch live and catch up TV via their website and there is also an Arte app for mobile devices and well as for Smart TVs.

French TV via satellite

If you’d like to receive the main channels (TF1, France 2, M6…), the most straightforward way is to get a satellite dish. In the UK, companies such as Fransat or Totalsat can install a dish for around £250. If installing a satellite dish is not practical (e.g. you live in a flat) or out of your price range, there are subscription services such as Téléfrance allowing you to watch a small selection of French channels online and via your Smart TV for £6.99 monthly.

Using a Virtual Private Network

If you’ve tried to view French catch-up TV (or ‘replay’ as it’s called in French – e.g. TF1 Replay, Pluzz by France Télévisions or 6 Play), you will have noticed that all of them apply geographical restrictions. If you want to get around those restrictions, you will need to be a bit tech-savvy. To start with, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which redirects your connection to the Internet via a remote server run by a VPN provider such as Nord VPN. By connecting to a remote server based in France, you will be able to access content normally only available if you are in France. For more details, check the Nord VPN website.

Using a Virtual Private Network is legal in the vast majority of countries but note that authorities consider it illegal in China, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Oman, Iran, North Korea and Turkmenistan.