Pesky Pronouns: Helping Students of French with Object Pronouns

Deborah Monroy, French, Providence High School

(Abstract PDF)

(Unit PDF)         


Ideally, the acquisition of a foreign language would be a smooth process – gradual, perhaps slow, but with no bumps in the road. As a language teacher, it is my observation that this is not always the case. Students may progress smoothly for a while, only to be jolted out of their comfort zone by some thorny problem along the way. Such difficulties can be very demoralizing to students who were beginning to feel that they were “getting somewhere.” They can affect students’ confidence and even cause them to want to give up French. In this unit, I first of all take a look at different theories of how students learn second languages with a view to finding avenues to more effective teaching of pronouns. I then report on linguists’ perspectives on French pronouns and ask a number of questions. What exactly is their function in a French sentence? How can Anglophone French learners “get their head” around their position in sentences and the past participle agreements they cause with the passé composé? I then describe activities designed to teach pronouns playfully, but effectively.