A Spanish teacher friend of mine asked me on Facebook: “Cécile, how will this affect the teaching of French here in the US?” She was talking about the “new” (well, not so new but read on…) French spelling reform, which textbook publishers will implement next school year.
OK. I don’t claim to be an expert but here is my answer: YOU. DON’T. “TEACH”. IT.
First a little context, this “reform” was approved by the Académie Française, our official language moderator if you will, in 1990 (that’s right 26 years ago) and teachers have been asked to teach to the new spelling as of 2008. The reason for the big brouhaha now is because publishers had up to now not always implemented it consistently in their textbooks. As of next school year, all textbooks will have the new spelling.
The new sticker showing that a French textbook is applying the new spelling. BTW this sticker is called a “macaron”. Don’t you just love the French language?
OK? So why do I say you don’t “teach” it? Well, first off, according to the Académie Française, both spelling are acceptable, so if you have learned one spelling you are correct and no one should penalize you.
Second, how frequent are the 2000 words impacted by this reform? I have not found an exhaustive list yet but the ones I have seen on the internet are not frequent.
Finally, these changes are either “minor” (I am going to get crucified by my language aficionado friends) or completely logical. E.g. “charriot” with two “r” to harmonize with other words such as “charrette” which already has 2 “r”, or bring composed words together: weekend instead of week-end. A lot of people are already spelling that way, which is why the Académie Française made the decision to make the new spelling official in the first place.
Therefore, if my students write “chariot” instead of “charriot”, “oignon” instead of “ognon”, “week-end” instead of “weekend” they are still COMPREHENSIBLE. And you know I value comprehensibility over accuracy, especially in the lower levels.
What I want to teach my AP students however, is the passionate reaction this reform has brought about: how attached (and sometimes elitist) French people are about their language. I find this infinitely more interesting than the actual reform. I love reading/seeing all these debates and people’s motivation. So, I am definitely going to update my AP unit on the French Language. In the meantime, I have prepared a persuasive essay on this topic (AP Exam format) which I am sharing with you. As usual, feel free to re-apply or modify as you see fit.
What do you think about this reform? French teachers, are you planing on “teaching” it?
Have your students google the hashtag #Jesuiscirconflexe and enjoy the show!