As a teacher, I strive to achieve a fruitful balance between my European formation, subject-based and attentive to structure and form, and its North-American development, learner-based, pragmatic and flexible. My approach to teaching language aims to optimize each student’s game by helping them make the best of what they already know. Like an athletic coach targets specific muscle groups and coordinated movements to win in a specific discipline, I train them to acquire automatic linguistic responses rather than rely on memory. In its usual dimension, this approach benefits from techniques akin to some used in online learning — while feeding on the dynamics of in-person exchanges.

Whenever feasible, in order to provide fuller cultural snapshots, my courses take students off the beaten path, blending classics and lesser-known cultural items that also resonate through society. With due regards to course needs, I enjoy enhancing instruction with hands-on activities, such as facsimile document translation (journalism, comics, brochures,), webzine publishing, and film subtitling and overdubbing (fiction and documentary). Here is a sample of what I taught at Northern Illinois University. There, I redeveloped some existing courses to broaden their links to professional applications, all the while providing solid theoretical foundations. Blue denotes courses and activities I created for the NIU Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures:

Focus on language acquisition

  • 101 – Beginning French 1
  • 102 – Beginning French 2
  • 201 – Intermediate French 1
  • 202 – Intermediate French 2

Focus on techniques

  • 302 – Grammar and translation
  • 311 & 312 – French conversation
  • 320 – Analyse de texte (text analysis; Poetry/Theater/Prose/Graphic novel/Film)
  • 412 – Français des affaires (French for business)
  • 480/580 – French publishing atelier– See PerspectivesLe magazine du cours FLFR480-580 de NIU
  • 481/581 – French phonetics and phonemics
  • 483/583 – Thème et version (Literary translation; includes workshops on film subtitling and overdubbing)
  • 484/584 – Non-literary translation (includes workshops on film subtitling and overdubbing and on the use of professional translating software Trados)

Focus on culture & literature 

  • 206 – Introduction à la littérature francaise (SMCM)
  • 213 – France through her Media (Vassar)
  • 279 – Jules Verne’s Children (Vassar)
  • 355 – Culture et civilisation : La France métropolitaine (SMCM)
  • 371 – French literature in translation
  • 372 – Masques et société : L’être et le paraître au crépuscule de l’Ancien Régime (SMCM)
  • 415 – Contemporary French
  • 435/535 – Special Topics: La modernité à l’ère du train à vapeur (modernity in the age of the steam engine)
  • 482/540 – Special Topics: Réel et réalisme au dix-neuvième siècle (real and realism in the nineteenth century)
  • 482/540 – Author in Context: Le siècle de Nadar (Nadar’s century)
  • 482/582 – La bande dessinée d’expression française (the French-language comic strip)

Trivia: Would you have guessed that satire of gimmicks in teaching already existed as early as the 1830s, and in comic-strip form, no less? It comes from Rodolphe Töpffer, himself an educator and proponent of such progressive approaches to teaching in his time as hands-on experience of nature and image-based education of the illiterate. He started out as a schoolteacher, became the director of a boarding school, and eventually the first professor of rhetoric at the Geneva Academy. Today, outside of his native Switzerland, he is mostly recognized as the “father of the comic strip.”

Rodolphe Töpffer. Histoire de Mr Crépin. 1837. Gallica.

Rodolphe Töpffer. Histoire de Mr Crépin, 1837 (Aubert pirated edition). Source: Gallica.


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