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Imaginez in the NECTFL Review
The NECTFL Review #63, Fall/Winter 2008
Course Materials and Methodology, edited by Carolyn Gascoigne
Andrzej Dziedzic, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Mitschke, Cherie. Imaginez le monde sans frontières, Boston, Vista Higher Learning, 2008, ISBN 1-60007-158-9, 501 pp
Student Activities Manual (SAM=Workbook/Lab Manual) and Answer Key, Lab Audio Program MP3s, DVD (films), Instructor’s Resource CD and DVD set, Testing Program, Test Generator, Instructor’s Annotated Edition, Supersite
The main objective of Imaginez le monde sans frontières is to “provide students with an active and rewarding learning experience as they strengthen their language skills and develop their cultural competency” (Preface). This new intermediate program offers a smooth transition between first-year and second-year French texts. It features a flexible lesson organization designed to meet the needs of diverse teaching styles, institutions, and instructional goals. By presenting and rehearsing situations similar to the ones encountered in real life, and by adopting an interactive, communicative approach, it expands students’ reading, speaking, listening and writing skills. The textbook is correlated with authentic, short-subject films used as a starting point for discussions and accompanied by a wide range of pre- and post-viewing activities.
Imaginez is composed of ten chapters divided into several sections: pour commencer (presentation of new vocabulary in thematic lists), court métrage (video program and accompanying activities), imaginez (texts and interactive activities related to Francophone countries), structure (grammar explanations and exercises), culture (cultural readings followed by questions), and littérature (authentic literary selections from Francophone authors). In order to emphasize the idea that French is an international language capable of creating an international linguistic community sans frontières, the author has introduced a wealth of historical, cultural, and literary information about various Francophone countries and about the specificity of their cultures. Moreover, an excellent section, titled A fond la sono and included in each chapter, introduces various musicians and songs by them that are thematically related to the chapter’s vocabulary. Next to familiar names like Céline Dion, students will also learn about less familiar singers such as Natasha Atlas, Indochine, Paris Combo, or Les Nubians. Many additional resources and activities related to the musicians are available on the Website. Another interesting aspect of this program is the inclusion of La galerie de créateurs, which ties language learning to other disciplines and highlights important cultural figures ranging from writers, fashion designers, and film directors to dancers and sculptors. Supplemental grammar explanations, Fiches de grammaire, included at the end of the textbook, build on concepts introduced in each lesson and provide additional concepts for review and enrichment. Each chapter features authentic short films from a variety of Francophone countries that relate to the chapter themes. The films provide a springboard for students to learn more about the cultural themes and language presented in the chapter. Imaginez comes with a wide range of ancillaries, such as the Instructor’s Resource CD and DVD set, Student Activities Manual (SAM=Workbook/Lab Manual) and Answer Key, Lab Audio Program MP3s, and film collection DVD. Particularly innovative is the Supersite, a brand-new language learning system specifically developed for this program and powered by the groundbreaking MAESTRO engine. Totally interactive, with MP3 audio files and video files, it allows students to access auto-graded activities and exercises with feedback for practice. For instructors, the Website provides a useful course management system that provides tracking, grading, and monitoring of student performance. The Web Student Activities Manual contains the Workbook and the Lab Manual and is also powered by the powerful MAESTRO engine.
For the most part, I liked the selection of topics presented in Imaginez. Rather than talk about the clothes, weather, and other typical subjects found in other textbooks, the author chose to introduce various challenging aspects of everyday life, great for discussions, conversations, or group work. Among the themes selected are: la justice et la politique, le progrès et la recherche, and le travail et les finances. Lists of vocabulary followed by synonyms and other interesting lexical notes introduce each theme. Occasionally, I found that the vocabulary was not entirely up-to-date. For example, in the chapter devoted to personal relations and civil status, the list of new words and expressions includes le mariage, l’union libre, and le divorce, but there is no mention whatsoever of PACS or the corresponding verb se pacser. Given that PACS has become such an integral part of French culture since 2001, this omission is rather surprising, especially for a book published in 2008. In other chapters, however, the vocabulary is current, comprehensive, and well chosen for the intermediate level.
The author’s goal was to create a user-friendly learning environment. Consequently, the textbook has a fresh, magazine-like design. It incorporates excellent page layout and use of colors, typefaces, and other graphic elements as an integral part of the learning process. Lesson sections are color-coded, and the textbook pages are visually dramatic, featuring pictures, drawings, realia, charts, word lists, and maps of the French-speaking world, all designed for both instructional impact and visual appeal.
Imaginez will no doubt motivate and inspire intermediate French students. Because of the program’s innovative nature and flexibility, it will provide a unique and compelling learning experience. The user-friendly and video-integrated approach, the presentation of the language embedded in a Francophone cultural context, and the treatment of vocabulary and grammar as tools for effective and successful communication will prepare students to interact and communicate in French in real-life contexts.
Imaginez featured in the French Review
The French Review, October 2008, Volume 82, No. 1
Course Materials and Methodology, edited by Carolyn Gascoigne
Reviewer: Andrzej Dziedzic, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Program:MITSCHKE, CHERIE. Imaginez: le français sans frontiers (2008) Vista Higher Learning, Boston, MA, ISBN 1-60007-176-7, 501 pp, Text with Supersite Code
This intermediate French text builds on the skills acquired in the elementary text, Espaces. Both books are very comprehensive, with cultural information and biographies of singers and artists from the Francophone world and both have features especially appealing to the visually-oriented college student: a magazine-style layout and the inclusion of many photos and short films or video clips.
An activities manual, a lab audio program in MP3 files, and a film collection on DVD are available for students. Instructors have a CD-ROM containing answer keys and a testing program. Additionally, a Supersite has most of the above ancillaries. Currently the entire second lesson—an excellent preview of the entire book for interested educators—can be accessed here. Both instructors and students should spend some time with the helpful seventeen-page orientation at the beginning of the book, which is important given the variety of features and activities and the need for selectivity in classroom use.
The proficiency-based program emphasizes the ACTFL-formulated Standards for Language Learning (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities) and each lesson has 14 to 16 activities (indicated by icons) related to these standards. The annotated teacher’s edition is extremely well executed: answers for all exercises and quizzes are overprinted in small blue font. Additionally, synonyms, comments on vocabulary, suggested questions for further discussion or expansion of grammar, activities for groups or pairs, additional grammar examples, and cultural contexts are found in the margins.
Each of the ten lessons follows the same pattern: sommaire; pour commencer (vocabulary and communicative activities); court métrage (an authentic film, 4 ½ to 34 minutes long, with pre and post viewing activities); imaginez (a two-page geographically-focused reading, a page on a musician and lyrics, and a quiz); Galérie de Créateurs (artists, poets, chefs, and so forth from the targeted country or region); structures (three grammar points, each one reinforced by two pages of exercises); synthèse (review of all three grammar points with pair and group activities); culture and literature (a short story or poem) bracketed by Préparation and Analyse and culminating in a composition. The last page of each lesson contains another vocabulary list.
A unique feature is Fiches de grammaire, supplementary grammar coverage preceding the appendices, with two pages of grammar points from each lesson and additional mise en pratique for enrichment and further practice. Appendices include film transcripts, tables de conjugaison, and vocabulary. The geographical range is highly inclusive: Québec, l’Afrique de l’Ouest, l’Afrique du Nord et le Liban, La Belgique, la Suisse, le Luxembourg, l’Océan Indien, l’Afrique Centrale, la Polynésie Française, and les Antilles. The geographic components and vocabulary are well integrated into all the readings, the exercises, and the grammar examples.
The order for receiving grammar is sometimes unconventional. The parlitif, comparative and superlative, irregular oir verbs, and prepositions with geographical names, introduced early in most books, are found more than half way through this text. Given the average length of chapters (35 pages) and the amount of material in each chapter, including an extensive vocabulary list (from 106 to 117 items), the suggestions under course planning are not always helpful and the distribution of chapters for two or three semesters is the only information given. Although the vocabulary includes numerous cognates and already-familiar words, and although the author differentiates between active and recognition-only vocabulary, the sheer number of items might discourage some students.
All in all, the book is recommended for its sweeping range of activities, readings, culture, and exercises with a caveat: careful planning is important given the unlikelihood of covering all of the material and the necessity of choosing carefully what should be covered in class and what should be assigned for out-of class work.