Tips for Accessing Native Speakers At Our Fingertips
Lauren Racela, French Teacher
Milford Junior High School, Milford, Ohio
As many of us are learning, there are plenty of online resources for world language teachers. Sometimes, the key is actually paring down these resources to find the important ones that we can use. We also know that it’s crucial to provide our students with access to authentic resources, which is any text created by native speakers for native speakers.
I teach French 1 to 8th graders and in my classroom, I show students as many native speakers as I can. This is critical because it’s a chance for students to hear diverse voices. I want my students to hear a variety of accents, nationalities, genders, and ages represented in their experience of French speakers. If their only experience of spoken French comes from me, a non-native speaker, then I’ve failed them. I want my students to understand that many types of people in the world speak French because it helps them grasp the diversity in this beautiful language.
There are endless online authentic resources available in all world languages. There have been hundreds more uploaded in the time it took you to read this sentence. These resources come in the form of text posts, pictures, videos, and more. Where can we find them? On social media!
For those of us who are not tech-savvy or who do not use social media, this may seem like a daunting task. It certainly does take some time to sift through and find quality authentic resources on social media. However, it’s worthwhile because these are small, digestible, high-motivation texts that are created to be eye-catching to our students’ generation.
One of my first assignments for French 1 is a slideshow where students use context clues to decipher Instagram captions 1. I do this at the beginning of the year, when students have only been exposed to less than 100 words in the target language. These captions are full of new words that the students haven’t studied yet. However, Instagram’s visual platform allows students to use context clues such as cognates, pictures, formatting, hashtags, and emojis to decode the meaning of the caption. Instagram is an excellent resource for these reasons. Seeing the target language in a familiar format with lots of context can increase student motivation, and it can make them more willing to read in the target language.
When searching for Instagram posts, hashtags are your friend! Try searching things like #travel, #food, or #school in your target language 2. You’ll see posts sorted by relevance and popularity, so photos with lots of likes, followers, and interactions will appear at the top. These posts may come from famous influencers or celebrities, so check their pages for more content! You can do this by clicking on their username.
Instagram is easiest to navigate if you have an account. You can create an account without posting or following anyone. Or, you may choose to create an account and follow native speakers of your target language. This will provide you with a landing page full of new authentic resources to refresh whenever you need new resources. This is what I’ve done, and it helps me bookmark helpful accounts that I think students would find interesting 3.
On Twitter, there’s a search bar to type in hashtags and topics. The difference between searching Twitter and searching Instagram is that on Twitter, you can search for a phrase or word set, whereas on Instagram, you can only search for a hashtag. This makes the search on Twitter much broader.
For example, to find resources about Labor Day in France, I searched for “fête du travail” in the Twitter search bar 4. Once you search for a term or hashtag, you can sort your results. You can search only for tweets that contain a picture or video. You can sort for the most popular or the most recent results on a topic. However, Twitter can be a bit difficult to search because there are so many tweets and replies.
To simplify the process, I like to start by finding relevant official accounts for cities, sports teams, and businesses. These pages are often used as advertising hubs and can spread very useful information. For example, I follow Twitter accounts for various cities in France because they often feature pictures, current events, and travel tips. I also follow accounts for various FC soccer teams in France because they feature pictures and videos of the players and stadiums. I find that on Twitter, it’s easiest to find quality accounts versus searching for specific topics.
Through some more advanced searching, I’ve also found a few “Twitter debates.” One really interesting one was about the grammatical gender of the word “WiFi,” which is obviously borrowed from English 5. I found another more lighthearted one about the word “chips” and its grammatical gender 6. These turned out to be really fun for my French 4 students who have a bit more of a grasp on grammatical gender. This is the type of magic that authentic resources can provide – through this lesson, my students got to see that French isn’t static, and neither are other languages. We started talking about linguistic differences in English, such as saying “pop” versus “soda” and the spelling of “color” versus “colour.” This activity gave my students an opportunity to play with both French and English. Higher-level students may really appreciate this discourse.
There are plenty of pages on Facebook to join and browse. Some of them focus on certain topics and others are more general spaces for posting stories, memes, and pop culture references. I find that Facebook is amazing for finding short authentic videos. Following pages such as @konbinifr and @brutofficiel can help lead you to fun, comprehensible videos. These videos are also typically captioned in the target language.
When using social media resources in the classroom, I do not recommend giving students the links to the posts. Instead, take a screenshot or screen recording of the post. This way, students are not directly accessing the social media site. Because anyone can post on social media, there could potentially be harmful comments or names displayed on the page that might not have been there the last time you visited the post. Additionally, you may click the link and find that the post has been deleted by the user. Taking a screenshot ensures that the students are only seeing what you’ve pre-approved and that the post will still be available to you for future years.
Social media is an important topic for world languages because it connects us to communities of native speakers in real time. It’s our best source for updated, authentic texts. Social media posts always have a purpose. By nature, they’re meant to captivate, entertain, and educate. These high-motivation texts are readily available to us as teachers – it just takes some searching!
Social media texts also help students break stereotypes they may have about speakers of world languages. It’s important for them to see that whatever they’re doing on social media, there is a community of millions who are creating similar types of content in other languages. Social media allows you to bring diverse voices into your classroom.
If you have any questions, I am always available through the OFLA Technology Integration Committee. If you teach French and you enjoyed the resources linked in this article, I’d be more than happy to share some other French resources with you. If there’s a specific topic that you’d like to research, such as a city or a holiday, we can look together. Finally, if this is a topic you’d like to hear more about, we can mobilize the OFLA Technology Integration Committee to do some more PD about social media literacy. By taking the time to educate ourselves on social media, we’re not only connecting with our students, but we’re connecting our students to the world.
- Here is a link to the slideshow I use during Week 3 of French 1. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1qAJxKFveFP2TKubkq_E4_UO4awc7KujTg1_20vhnQ4Y/edit?usp=sharing
- Here is a sample search on Instagram for #voyage to find Francophone resources about travel. https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/voyage/
- Feel free to look through the accounts I follow to get ideas! https://www.instagram.com/l44uren
- Here is the video I found, incorporated into a Google Slides with many other tweets. This activity is great for May 1st for French! I used this for French 2, but the task could certainly be adapted for other levels. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ggHCdXyVjHx1tP1hJyzJn-OqRAQK22x_6NCTHgPNM7M/edit?usp=sharing
- Here is a brief slideshow about technology words, grammatical gender, and borrowing from English. There are Twitter screenshots showing authentic conversations/debates about the word “wifi” in French. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1iPjpiMnJKv-ley0zaNJW1137oungs1X3–cxz4H5kGc/edit?usp=sharing
- Here is a brief slideshow featuring Twitter screenshots about “un/une chips.” This would be a great talking point for the French borrowing words from English. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-Oym1pHeFxg2lEON0NvcP8blSCQrZwTDtiiieybwKlE/edit?usp=sharing