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Face-à-face in the NECTFL Review
The NECTFL Review #67, January 2011
Andrzej Dziedzic, Professor of French, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Ghillebaert, Françoise. Face-à-face: Conversation et Rédaction. Boston: Vista Higher Learning, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-60576-257-9
textbook, online workbook and video manual, Supersite (faceaface.vhlcentral.com) powered by MAESTRO. Supplementary materials for teachers include an instructor’s annotated edition of the textbook and a film collection DVD with instructor Supersite passcode.
Following the success of Vista Higher Learning’s Espaces (beginning level) and Imaginez le monde sans frontières (intermediate level), this new advanced-level program, Face-à-face, contains an appealing, well-integrated textbook accompanied by a variety of ancillary materials. The book features a flexible lesson organization designed to meet the needs of diverse teaching styles, institutions, and instructional goals. It seamlessly integrates speaking, writing, reading, listening comprehension, and culture. According to the principles of the prevalent communicative approach, its emphasis is primarily on oral communication. The language used and practiced in the book is not only contextualized and embedded in Francophone cultures, but also representative of situations similar to those encountered in real life. Thematic vocabulary and grammar are fully integrated to help students enrich their lexicon and improve their communicative skills.
The textbook contains six lessons centered on different themes: les relations personnelles, les médias et la technologie, les générations, les voyages et les transports, la nature et l’environnement, and la société. Each lesson is divided into four sections, which follow a similar format. The first section, “Court métrage,” contains a short film by a contemporary filmmaker from a French-speaking country. There are eight different movies included in the program: Manon sur le bitume, Idole, Il neige à Marrakech, Pas de bagage, Le lagon néo-calédonien, and Sans titre. These films are excellent vehicles for students to listen to authentic spoken French. Pre-viewing and post-viewing exercises as well as a variety of excellent vocabulary practice exercises accompany each movie. The next section, “Structures,” is designed to review and practice grammar points tied to major language functions. Grammar activities are linked to a video still from the lesson’s film, thus providing a meaningful and relevant context for the grammar point in question. The “Lectures” section provides selections from both well-known and lesser-known French and Francophone authors in various genres and from various historical periods. Students will get to know Marie de France, Michel de Montaigne, Denis Diderot, Claude Lévy-Strauss, Andrée Chedid, and Leïla Sebbar, among others. Each reading is accompanied by well thought-out pre-reading and post-reading exercises, which serve as a springboard for conversation. Reading comprehension is further enhanced in the “Bande dessinée” section, which highlights cartoonists from various French-speaking countries and presents excerpts of their work. Each comic strip offers thought-provoking insights into various themes as well as comprehension questions. The “Rédaction” section gives students the opportunity to use their critical thinking skills and express themselves in writing about the lesson’s topic while synthesizing the vocabulary and grammar. It is designed to guide them through the writing process with pre-writing and post-writing activities, and expose them to a variety of text types, ranging from a comparative and analytical essay to an analysis of a poem. The last section, “Conversation,” pulls the whole lesson together with a lively discussion. Students have an opportunity to improve their speaking skills through a variety of topics and types of discourse. At the end of the textbook, the author includes a conjugation table of French verbs as well as a French-English glossary.
What sets Face-à-face apart from other recent advanced French textbooks is its state-of-the-art Supersite, a thoroughly planned and very well designed Website. It offers an expansive set of tools and resources that support and enhance the language teaching and learning experience. Numerous Supersite icons, which can be found throughout the textbook, indicate additional material available online both with and without auto-grading. Students can record and submit their recording for oral assessments, access and watch a complete film collection, and listen to complete Textbook and Lab Manual audio programs in MP3 format. The Student Activities Manual, WebSAM, with all the accompanying exercises, is also available online. For instructors, the Supersite offers a variety of useful learning and planning resources, including the complete film collection in streaming video, audio MP3s, and dramatic readings of literary selections, testing program and teacher resource RTFs, grammar PowerPoint presentations, lesson plans, audio and video scripts, and answer keys, as well as online course management tools. Additionally, it offers Voice Board voice recording technology ideal for whole-group or one-on-one oral communication. With fully integrated technology, the Website is very easy to use and navigate.
Overall, I found Face-à-face to be an innovative, original, and flexible program. It can easily be used over one or two semesters. Its unique magazine-like format and highly structured graphic design, a wide variety of oral and written activities, and an array of instructional resources for instructors make Face-à-face one of the best textbooks currently available on the market. This new program will no doubt motivate French students and inspire instructors by providing a unique and compelling learning experience within the framework of Francophone cultures.