The Challenges Associated with the Teaching and Learning of French Language in an Anglophone Environment
The main purpose of the study was to investigate the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of French language in an Anglophone environment. The study was conducted in three selected secondary schools in Uyo Local Government Area with the population of one thousand two hundred (1200) students. Simple random sampling technique was used to select one hundred and twenty (120) in the study area.
The study adopted quasi-experimental design since it has to do with manipulation of the variables. The instrument used for this study was four point likert scale questionnaires 4, 3,2,1 ranging from “strongly agree”, “agree”, “disagree” and “strongly disagree” respectively. A self-designed questionnaire titled; The Instrument for Assessing French Language Acquisition (IFAFLA) was used to collect information from the subjects.
Data obtained from this questionnaire was analysed using one sample t-test. A test value of 2.50 which is the mean of the ratio 4, 3, 2, 1 was compared with the mean value of students. The 2-tailed value was used because of the significant difference hypothesis which could be negative or positive.
1.1 Background to the Study
The French language is the second official language spoken in Nigeria. Having been surrounded by French-speaking countries; Niger, Cameroun, Benin Republic and Chad, it is of great necessity for Nigerians to speak the French language. A lot has been done by the government to encourage many Nigerians to speak the language and many French teachers have put in their best to help the learners speak the language yet still, these teachers are faced with challenges on achieving this set goal.
A French Language teacher is one who instructs or teaches learners the communication skills of French Language. Most times, the language teacher faces a lot of issues starting from learners problems to environmental issues and even to the teachers’ specific problems too, etc (Uguma & Akpama, 2013; Agbor,2019; Timothy & Obiekezie, 2019).
One of the responsibilities of a French-language teacher is to build a learner’s reading and speaking skills and vocabulary. Helping them understand the written and spoken aspect of the language too, these will foster a positive learning environment for the learners and encourage practising the skills and continue to learn the language. It is, therefore, part of the teacher’s duty to tackle these common challenges and put into place the needed information those students’ needs and instil in them the interest by telling them the reason why they should learn and speak the French language.
There are several challenges associated with the teaching and learning of french language in an anglophone environment like Nigeria. Nigeria is an Anglophone country that is surrounded by francophone countries (Niger Republic in the North, Tchad in the North-East, Cameroon in the East and Benin Republic in the West). For effective interaction with the neighbouring countries, Nigerian citizens need the knowledge of French language.
There are also learners’ issues, environmental issues, psychological issues and even teachers’ specific issues, to mention but few. This paper is focused on issues or challenges in the French Language classrooms; also, it will briefly look at some issues that the French language teacher encounters.
The mother tongue Interference is definitely one common issue in teaching and learning language including the French language. Especially, in a country like Nigeria where diverse languages exist. The mother tongue interferes greatly with the English language, national languages (Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba) and even foreign languages like French, German, etc.
It is always very easy for students to communicate in their local or native languages (Timothy & Uguma, 2017) instead of the English language which is an official language in use in the schools especially during recreation periods or even in class. The mother tongue interference disallows the French learners to rethink and reword their thoughts in the target language they are learning (French).
Without a doubt, the instructional materials such as French textbooks and other instructional materials in the classroom which help learners to lay the fundamentals or basic aspects of the target language may sometimes use very difficult terminologies or definitions or grammatical rules that are uncommon or outdated which can lead to confusion for the learner or sometimes contradict issues.
Sometimes the teachers may not also be able to make proper use of these materials and may need the teacher to be trained on its use. For example, the projector, computer or laptops or educational tablets, some language laboratory equipment, etc.
Moreover, the target language confusion is another issue of the written or spoken target language (French). In French Language, oral French is quite different from written French. A learner may be able to speak French fluently but confuse sentence structure when putting the same concept into writing.
Teachers often observe this problem in the French language classroom. Students are often perplexed too by the gender classification of French words. Unlike English and most Nigerian languages in which inanimate things are gender-neutral, French has the masculine and feminine forms for almost all concepts.
Furthermore, in the area of modern technological needs. As the world evolves, it brings about change in every sphere of life even in language art pedagogy. Modern technology is trendy now and it is brought into our classrooms, things are fast evolving from the traditional ways to the digital era!
The French language teacher is faced with the challenges of the modern technological trend in his or her classroom and this is one aspect that can affect learning experiences negatively because a teacher who refuses to embrace the digital trend is left behind in a competitive world like ours and this also will affect the learners greatly.
A classroom that does not have the needed technological equipment like Projectors, Internet Services, Educational Tablets, E-Library, etc or the French teacher who is not computer literate, well informed and up to date on issues that concerns his or her discipline, or has the ability to make good use of some educational sites on the web, language learning or educational apps on the mobile phone, on social media and platforms, etc.
may not be able to meet up with the modern technological requirements for this present age and this will certainly affect the learning experiences of the French language learners.
The Challenges Associated with the Teaching and Learning of French Language in an Anglophone Environment
In addition, the French teacher who teaches the language can become an issue. He or she must build a very good relationship with the French learners. The methods or approaches he or she uses to teach the language should be more of student-centered which will enable the learners get interested and participate actively otherwise, this can pose a negative response to the set objectives.
The teachers who are not professionals can become an issue in a language class. They are likely to use wrong pedagogy, fail in classroom management and serve as poor models of the language. Therefore, French Language teachers should get adequate information on the language content and the language use.
The teacher’s lack of interest in the teaching profession can also be an issue in language pedagogy; a situation where a communication arts graduate from the university seeks for a job anywhere and everywhere just to make ends meetf and ends up in the classroom as an English Teacher! This issue can be disastrous for the teacher, learners and even the school.
Classroom management issues; (requirements, time, structure, size, disciplinary issues, environment): classroom requirements that French language learners may not meet up with are; coming prepared to learn, being punctual and ready, bringing all supplies and books for learning, etc.
the teacher may also have the challenge of having insufficient time on delivery of content, the class structure could pose as a problem, insufficient space, handling issues that involves discipline in class, unconducive learning environment, not neat and tidy, not having enough seats, tables or other facilities, class being over-populated due to free education statuses, insecurity threats, all these and more can deter effective learning experiences even the French class too. Therefore, this study was carried out to investigate the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of French language in an Anglophone environment.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The French language shares with English the distinction of being taught as a foreign language in the education systems of most countries around the world, of which Nigeria is one of such countries. Thus, the Federal government of Nigeria stated in it is National Policy on Education (2013) edition among other things that, “French shall be the second official language in Nigeria and it shall be compulsory in primary and junior secondary schools…”
Despite this policy statement and the status given to the language in Nigeria, it appears Nigerians and the government itself have lost interest in the teaching and learning of the language. Currently, French teachers are hardly employed. This negative attitude towards the subject has greatly contributed to the lack of interest in the matter. In fact, most
Nigerians see the study of the French as a mere waste of time, and as such, students often pay very little or no attention to the French as a subject in the few secondary schools where the subject is still taught. As a result of this attitude, the departments of French language in Nigerian universities hardly get students coming on their own volition to study the course.
Most often, at times, students who applied for other courses are given admission to study the French language against their own will. Thus, in most universities in Nigeria, the population of students studying French language as a course is very low.
Undeniably, this situation is very disheartening as Nigeria is surrounded by countries (The Republic of Benin, Republic of Cameroon and the Niger Republic) whose official medium of communication in French.
Since language has been described as a powerful medium for social reforms, the French language should be treated as a crucial subject so that Nigeria as a nation can effectively interact with her neighbours. This situation, motivates the researcher to carried a study on the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of French language in an Anglophone environment.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study was to investigate the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of French language in an Anglophone environment.
Specifically, the objectives of the study are:
- To investigate how teachers attitude towards teaching French constitute a problem to students learning French.
- To investigate the impact of adequate teaching/learning materials in use for the study of French.
- To investigate how the absence of language immersion programmes constitute a problem in the study of French.
- To investigate how the foreign language status of French constitute a problem to students.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The study will be of importance in the following ways:-
- The study will help the parent to identify the need of encouraging their wards that choose to study French language.
- The study will help the students to develop a positive attitude towards learning French language in schools.
- This study will serve as a reference manual to future researchers on related topics.
- Enlighten the students on the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of French language and possible solutions.
- This study will serves as a reminder to the educational stake holders that disciplines such as French language learning in an Anglophone country like Nigeria would have students do better with some steps taken towards motivation.
- This study will be helpful to the educational stakeholders and educational administrators on the need of provision of more recent and up-to-date laboratory equipment, textbooks, excursion and training trips to Francophone countries such as Benin Republic, Togo, Senegal, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire and France will inspire the students to give their all to the learning of the language.
- To the Government, it will act as a reminder of the importance of sponsoring of French teachers and students to France for short stay programmes in French. This will serve as a genuine form of motivation especially for the students. This strategy will in turn boost the awareness, consciousness and seriousness in learning French amongst Nigerians.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions were raised to guide this study.
- Does the attitude of the teacher towards teaching French constitute a problem to students learning French?
- Are there adequate teaching/learning materials in use for the study of French?
- Does absence of language immersion programmes constitute a problem in the study of French?
- Does the foreign language status of French constitute a problem to students?
1.6 Research Hypotheses
- There is no significant influence on the attitude of the teacher to French teaching on student’s ability to learn French.
- There is no significant influence on the availability of instructional materials as it affects student’s ability to learn French.
- There is no significant influence on the availability of language immersion programmes on student’s ability to learn French.
- There is no significant influence on the status of French as a foreign language on student’s ability to learn French.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
Some of the challenges encountered while conducting the research include lack of sufficient funds and short duration assigned for the study.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
The following concepts are defined as they are applied in the study.
French: French means belonging or relating to France, or to its people, language, or culture.
Anglophone: Anglophones are people whose native language is English or who speak English because they live in a country where English is one of the official languages.
Teaching: Teaching is the practice implemented by a teacher aimed at transmitting skills to a learner, a student, or any other audience in the context of an educational institution.
Learning: Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences.