What makes a good French course?
The French teacher
The teacher is the foundation stone of the course. A teacher has the knowledge you want, builds the programme you are going to follow, presents it in interesting ways. The place and the equipment are important for your comfort and ease; the people in the group take part in creating the right atmosphere. The teacher enables the learning, the enjoyment and the right atmosphere.
Native or not
The teacher’s age and gender don’t matter, provided they have the energy and creativity to keep you interested and involved.
Being a native speaker can be an advantage, as native speakers can spot an error straight away; though they might not always be able to explain why it’s an error.
I currently study Italian with a non-native speaker and can assure you that, at this stage at least, my teacher’s origin does not matter. The important thing being how she presents what I need to learn and helps me memorise it.
Also, in all modesty, I know that my English grammar and spelling are superior to some British born and raised people, despite my French origins.
The most important is that the native speaker keeps their language current. Yes, languages change all the time, which is why reading classical literature might be good but not enough. Imagine a person speaking nowadays in Charles Dickens English… I have so often heard my students use “là” when they meant there or “méchant” when they meant nasty. This is not current French and won’t help you communicate.
Language within language
Another important consideration is that your teacher knows the different regiters of language, from literary to slang. Not that I would have you speak like a rebel teenager, but so you can understand what is being said and, further along, the nuances of what is being said. Think of the different ways to understand “this film is wicked”…
Some people are naturally better than others at teaching – my husband is a born teacher: patient, clear, happy to repeat things, self-questioning, etc. – but a good teacher also needs training. It does not need to be a PHD but a teaching qualification which enables your teacher to find and create interesting learning materials. I learnt a lot about teaching during my PGCE. It’s likely I still have a lot to learn, but it set me in the right path: trying to provide different and varied ways to teach my language.
Check it out
What materials does your teacher use in class? Is it all written and not spoken? Is it up-to-date or from previous centuries? Is it varied? Are you involved in making your own sentences? Are you encouraged to speak? Is there variety and enjoyment in the learning activities? Is it a bit same all, same all? Is your teacher qualified?
In short, have you got a good teacher?