Students must find and interview a French speaker in London, then write up the interview and create a piece of ‘digital storytelling’ from it. The activity develops multiple student skills: interviewing, writing an article (similar to a magazine or newspaper), and editing video and/or audio with a student voiceover and other visual/audio elements – a deliberately creative assessment.
Students who are studying Level 3 (B1/B2) French. At this stage, they should be able to ask questions and answer them, in a flexible conversation.
We created a learning and assessment activity in which students identify a French speaker in London, and conduct a French language interview with them. This focuses on:
- French language
- The person’s place of origin (they must be from somewhere other than France)
- their experience of London
Students then write an article (similar to a magazine or newspaper piece) inspired by the individual. They find a specific aspect to expand on, and conduct some additional investigation to add this context. This introduces a social science angle to the project.
Students also record the interview – using audio and/or video - and use the recording as the basis for digital storytelling, adding new elements and a voiceover by the student. This was designed to be a more creative assessment method.
We display the digital stories and articles online at the end of the project, at Le Londonphone.
Our start-point was the ‘textbook gap’ – that French is often taught through depictions of France, but French speakers are everywhere in the world, including a lot of African countries. The aim of the activity was to demonstrate that French is not only the language of France, but spoken around the world. Part of the challenge for the students is encountering a specific variety of French, with a different vocabulary and accent. The activity also shows students that there are many opportunities for them to speak French within London.
We were also inspired by Susan Hall work (in LSE Cities) on Multilingual Citizenship. London is a linguistic hub, and the School can use that in teaching.
The Tube Tongues project by Oliver O’Brien at UCL is a good start-point for discussing the linguistic composition of London: who are the French speakers in different areas?
Feedback from students suggested that the most useful aspect of the project was to use the language to communicate in a real environment, and the cultural aspect (learning about people’s background and way of life). Some also appreciated the sociological dimension of the project; writing the article required the students to locate their interviewee in a broader socio-political context.
Some students use the project to further their own specialist interests; two students have arranged interviews with embassy staff, and discussed language politics with them.
Working jointly with another University or another multilingual city would be great but hard to organise.
A showcasing exhibition and/or event to conclude the project would be ideal. We could print the articles in a newspaper format, show the films on small screens, and hold a celebratory event.
Work on both sides is hard. Staff need to bring a lot of energy to inspire the students and persuade them to undertake the project.
We built in some preparation and checks for the interviews. The tutor reviews the questions the student wants to ask. There’s also a session on ethics and a consent form - useful research considerations.