French Language in Context Emerging Competent Abroad I

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Course Information
French Language
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 

Proficiency at a level equivalent to IES Abroad’s Independent Abroad, as determined by placement test.


Research has demonstrated that study abroad can enhance every aspect of language ability. One of the most important general findings of this research is, however, that study abroad is most beneficial for the development of abilities related to social interaction. Students who go abroad are able to learn how to produce language in a variety of situations, such as the making of requests, the use of compliments and apologies, and they also may develop skills to interpret such interactions within the local cultural context. In short, study abroad has been shown to enhance the aspects of communicative competence that are most difficult to foster in classroom settings (IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, p. 6).

Student Profile
Students who enter this course will have mastered most of the outcomes of the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. Among other characteristics, these students are able to converse at a rate of speed approaching normal conversation. They are creative, spontaneous, and self-reliant as they solve problems, interpret texts, negotiate, and express their opinions, likes, and dislikes in the culture. Although they still make errors and experience communication breakdowns, these students tend to resolve these challenges on their own. Students who enter this level can already understand a variety of colloquial expressions and slang.

Students entering this level can succeed in a range of moderately complex university courses designed for native speakers. Before registering, they should consult with the appropriate IES Abroad academic advisor on course selection.

By the end of this course, students will have started to acquire the subtlety of expression and control of complex structures that characterize Competent Abroad learners. However, Emerging Competent Abroad learners have only partial mastery of these structures and quite often resort to simpler and more direct modes of expression, particularly when negotiating linguistically difficult or unfamiliar situations. Students at this level begin to understand some local cultural attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior patterns. However, there will be numerous gaps and inconsistencies in their knowledge, and they lack the depth of understanding and sophistication of those who have spent more time living and working in the local context.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES classes, including field studies. If a student misses more than two classes, half a letter grade will be deducted from the final grade for every additional absence.

Learning outcomes: 

Students who are placed in this level should be capable of achieving the outcomes in the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication.

By the end of the course, students will be able to achieve some of the outcomes for the Emerging Competent Abroad level as defined by the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. The key learning outcomes from the MAP are summarized below:

  1. Intercultural Communication

    1. Students will begin to recognize and describe key host cultures, subcultures, habits, norms, and behaviors in a variety of settings, and they will be aware of the risk that generalizations can lead to stereotypes.
    2. Students will be able to reflect on and discuss the validity of their own cultural beliefs, behaviors, and values by contrasting and comparing them with those of the host cultures. 
    3. Students will demonstrate openness toward different beliefs and styles even when they do not agree with them.
    4. Students will accept responsibility for their own learning by defining their linguistic goals and demonstrating independence in their exploration of the culture.
  2. Listening
    1. Students will be able to understand many complex communications on a wide range of everyday topics as well as abstract topics covered in classes.
    2. Students will be able to understand a variety of native speakers and non-native experts and comprehend an array of moderately complex interactions.
  3. Speaking
    1. Students will participate reasonably well in most academic and social interactions using when appropriate complex language including slang, colloquial expressions, double meaning, and humor with increasing confidence.
    2. Students will be able to make arguments and form opinions on almost any topic of their interest.
  4. Reading
    1. Students will be able to read and understand textbooks and academic articles for classes taught in the host language as well as some popular texts for enjoyment.
    2. Students will be able to read and understand authentic materials including newspapers, advertisements, brochures, instruction manuals, etc. on abstract and unfamiliar topics with some assistance at times. 
  5. Writing
    1. Students will be able to write for certain native audiences (resumes, applications, administrative documents) and express themselves somewhat clearly and effectively.
    2. Students will be able to write essays for classes incorporating aspects of appropriate academic style with some assistance at times. See below for specific information on each writing assignment.
Method of presentation: 

Each week, we will study a different aspect of French grammar. Students will have to do exercices on and integrate those grammatical rules in three written essays. We will discuss different social and cultural characteristics of the French society (which were debated this year or the last year) by reading and analysing newspapers articles, documents videos, songs.

The students are required to regularly read the French press by consulting websites such as: "" ,  "" ,  "" , "" .

The student will also explore a Parisian neighborhood for one of their written projects entitiled “Paris off the beaten tracks”.

The weekly schedule given below is likely to be slightly modified according to the rythm of the class, current events and the interest, or needs, of the students for a given theme.

Required work and form of assessment: 

Propédeutique (intensive introductory classes): 10%

Written assignments and grammar tests: 40% (an average of the written essays grades and the grammar tests)

Midterm exam: 10%

Oral competence: 20% (the grade will be given according the participation in class and the little presentation of an article a student gives at the beginning of each class) 

Final Exam: 20%


Week 1

1.Functional: Analysing one’s own culture from the point of view of a foreigner

2.Grammatical: Review conjugation of the subjunctive

3.Vocabulary: Vocabulary of Camille Laurens text

4.Culture: Historical and social data explaining various clichés about France, and relations between France and the United States

Propédeutique test

Text: Dany Laferrière « Paris n’est pas toujours une ville du Texas »

Camille Laurens « Culture »

Video: Cyprien « Les Etats-Unis »


Week 2

1.Functional: Talking about a city, compare two cities

2.Grammatical: The use of subjunctive (present and past). When to use indicative, when to use subjunctive

3.Vocabulary: The city, urbanism developpement

4.Culture: Paris, its history, its development, its future

Audio : Song « J’aime plus Paris » de Thomas Dutronc

Video : website of Pavillon de l’Arsenal (Paris architecture and urbanism museum) ; « Paris Architecture » documentary (

Texts: « Ne transformons pas Paris en Shangaï ou Dubaï ». « Paris toujours aux armes »

Presentation of the writing project for the semester: “Paris off the beaten tracks” exploration of a parisian surrounding, description in the manner of Georges Perec in « Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien » The student will be given a piece of Perec book « Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien » » where G Perec described in a very detailed manner everything he saw for a determined time while sitting Place Saint-Sulpice in Paris.After having observed the piece, the student will have to pick a place he likes and make a first observation in Perec’s manner according a format given by the teacher. This first observation will be corrected by the teacher. Then the student will make a second observation trying not to reproduce the same errors. The teacher will collect all the observations to create a collective book. The objective of this work is to force the student to observe his Paris surrounding in a different manner. This task gives also the opportunity to come back on small mistakes that should be eradicated at this level but still appear.


Week 3

1.Functional: Commenting on a movie excerpt

2.Grammatical: The subjunctive (other uses)

3.Vocabulary: familiar vocabulary of the suburbs, verlan (a kind of slang)

4.Culture: History of the suburb, the immigration (preparation of the visit of the National city of immigration:

Texts : Camille Laurens “Banlieue”

Audio: Song « Je viens de là » by Grand Corps Malade

Video: Excerpt of a movie « L’esquive »


Week 4

1.Functional: Comparing and analysing food habits of two different countries

2.Grammatical: Hypothesis and condition (sentences with “if”)

3.Vocabulary: Food

4.Culture: French gastronomy. French food habits

Texts: « Serons-nous tous végétariens en 2050 »,

« Le Banana-split », Philippe Delerm in « la première gorgée de bière et autres plaisirs minuscules »

Video: « Christophe Vasseur : l’ami du pain » on the website of the bakery: « Du pain et des idées »


Document : Summary of the Credoc survey about French food habits


First written essay

You will be inspired by the exercise about a philosopher talking about his vision of the world (see gramamtical reader). You have the choice between two subjects : either you give your point of view about the world we are living in, expressing your feelings, your thoughts, your doubts, either you write about a more specific subject about society (education, environnment, ethics….)


Week 5

1.Functional: Debating by collecting facts and making pro and con arguments

2.Grammatical: Hypothesis and condition (other ways of expressing condition)

3.Vocabulary: Education

4.Culture: The French school system

Text : Excerpt from the book « Entre les murs ». « Le bac n’est pas un rite de passage mais un lavage de cerveau »

Vidéo : Excerpt of the film « Entre les murs »

Guided tour of the “National Cité of Immigration”


Week 6

1.Functional: Commenting on statistics and data of an official survey

2.Grammatical: Review for the midterm

3.Vocabulary: Education

4.Culture: Higher Education in France (University and the Grandes Ecoles)

Text : « Fautes d’étudiants des matières disparaissent »

Document : « Regards sur l’éducation en France» OECD survey on education in France and in other countries

Midterm exam


Week 7

1.Functional: Analysing a commercial from the written or audiovisual press

2.Grammatical: The cause

3.Vocabulary: The working world

4.Culture: History of women’s rights in France

Website of the association “Ni putes, ni soumises”


Website of the association

Text : Inégalités salariales « Au moment de l’arrivée, dans le monde du travail, il est déjà trop tard »

Documents : Commercials found in the french press

Vidéo : « Egalité » commercial campaign for wage inequality

First oral report of the exploration of a Parisian neighborhood (project “Paris off the beaten track”)

Written report of the visit at the “National Cité of immigration”

The student will have to write a report about the visit as an article for the university newspaper


Week 8

1.Functional: Asking French people about their European point of view

2.Grammatical: The cause

3.Vocabulary: Vocabulary from the text « L’Europe, un rêve que nous avions »

4.Culture: France in the EU

Texts : « L’Europe, un rêve que nous avions ». « Trois couples, trois façons de vivre l’Europe »

Official EU website


Video on the EU website




Second written essay


The second essay will have to integrate again the subjunctive but also the expression of the hypothesis and the cause. The student will have to write a comment on one of the articles in the reader


Week 9

1.Functional: Researching pro and con information about a subject

2.Grammatical: The consequence

3.Vocabulary: Les OGM, la recherche scientifique, les nouvelles technologies

4.Culture: Ethical questions in France

Texts: File “OGM pour un vrai débat » published in Libération (22/10/ 2012)

Look for written or audiovisual information published in other medias on the subject


Final written report of the project “Paris off the beaten tracks”


Week 10

1.Functional: Defending a cause

2.Grammatical: The purpose

3.Vocabulary: Religion

4.Culture: Religions in France

Text: “Le mariage homosexuel libère l’église »

Audio : Song « Mon petit mec et moi » by the Wriggles

Document : Study of the newspaper La Croix about French Catholics fifty years after Vatican II (October 2012)



Week 11

1.Functional: Analysing a work of art

2.Grammatical: The opposition

3.Vocabulary: Art

4.Culture: Art and Litterature

Texts: “Des bêtes à Bon Dieu contre Castelluci ». « Richard Millet au cœur d’une violente polémique »

Debate: Does freedom of speech have limits (look for concrete examples) ?

Video: Analyse of a work of art (excerpt of the programm “d’art d’art”)


Third written essay


In this third essay the student must integrate all the argumentative connectors we studied so far. He must select an event which happened in France during their semester, introduce it to someone who doesn’t know french society and give a personnal commentary as a foreign observer of french society (in an intercultural way)


Week 12

1.Functional: Making a survey on a current controversial theme (legalisation of cannabis) and report the results in class

2. Grammatical: The opposition. General summary of argumentation

3.Vocabulary: Vocabulary on the subject of addictions

4.Culture: Facts on the consumption of tobacco and alcohol in France

Texts: “Salles de shoot : Touraine espère des expérimentations fin 2012 »

« Une étude souligne les effets néfastes du cannabis sur le cerveau des adolescents »



Required readings: 

Documents given by the professor (Documents to be found on Moodle).