Considering the dearth of high-quality, content-rich textbooks available to language teachers, it seems that we will have to create our own. This is not always an easy task: non-native language teachers, even after reaching a high level of linguistic proficiency, usually lack the kind of effortlessly rich and fluent language that comes naturally to native speakers. Of course most of what we produce would probably be satisfactory for the purposes of second-level pupils. But still, it’d be nice to make sure that any language presented to students is not only correct but authentic and sounds natural to native speakers.
One way to get around this problem is to adapt authentic texts (magazine and newspaper articles, etc.) for our purposes, but it can be difficult to find suitable texts containing everyday topics and language at the right level. I think the best option is to write our own texts, getting feedback and corrections from native speakers. Running the texts by French friends is an option, but if you don’t want to be constantly nagging them another option is to post your efforts on an online language forum where native speakers are happy to help. I recently posted some paragraphs on a forum and within hours had two responses from native speakers correcting my efforts and adding an authentic touch.
How can you trust the accuracy of these corrections? Generally language teachers should be able to recognise this themselves: in my own case, I was happy with the way my efforts were clarified or modified to make them sound less formal. Furthermore, the contributors on such forums are generally linguistic buffs who love to help foreigners with various queries about their beloved language. If you’re still doubtful you can look at the contributor’s profile to see the quality of their previous responses and what kind of thing they’re interested in. However, I’ve since posted two more paragraphs on the same forum and have yet to receive a response: maybe there’s a limit to people’s goodwill in helping random strangers with their French for free! Who’d have thought it… I guess there are more forums, however. Although I haven’t used them for this purpose, websites such as ConversationExchange.com allow you to find penpals who might be willing to correct your work in exchange for doing the same for them in English. If anyone wants to swap or exchange resources let me know!
Below is a sample of one I got corrected.
Paula : Mon père est homme d’affaires. Il me conseille d’étudier le commerce à la fac, mais je ne suis pas sûre de le vouloir. Le commerce ne m’attire pas vraiment. Mais si je veux gagner beaucoup d’argent, je dois suivre le conseil de mon père ! Ma mère me conseille de faire ce que je veux, sans trop m’inquiéter de faire plaisir à mon père. Mais elle ne me donne guère de bons conseils ! Selon elle, peu importe ce que je fais à la fac. Elle pense que je réussirai quoi que je fasse dans la vie. Ma mère est infirmière. C’est un métier difficile, mais elle en tire beaucoup de satisfaction. Elle aime soigner les gens en écoutant leurs histoires. Je vais peut-être devenir infirmière moi aussi. Je ne sais pas. Il faut que j’y réfléchisse encore. Heureusement, il me reste encore quelques années pour me décider.