Why do we communicate? DP French B author Christine Trumper discusses the importance of purpose...
Communication can be understood as receptive, productive and interactive skills, but it cannot be kept in isolation or without purpose...
I remember a few years ago taking a group of IB Diploma Programme students on an exchange trip to a francophone IB World School in Togo and their disbelief when I told them about their programme during their stay: “Do you mean that they will be teaching maths and economics in French?” And their excitement on their return because, not only they had understood the French-speaking teachers but they had taken part in class projects with their Togolese counterparts who, by then, had become firm friends.
Thanks to their experience in Togo, my students had fulfilled the main aim of learning French or any foreign language, which is communication.
In the new Language B Syllabus Outline (see diagram), communication can be understood as receptive, productive and interactive skills, but it cannot be kept in isolation or without purpose. Communication takes place in a framework or a situation (themes). Communication is intentional (texts).
When we communicate, we have a purpose. We want to inform, tell a story, convince someone; we might want to sell a product or an idea. Our state of mind, our previous experience, where we are, will influence what we communicate and how we do it. Whom we address, their state of mind, their previous experience, where they are, will also influence how we will address them. All these elements will define the choice of text with its audience, its context, its purpose, its meaning and its variation (conceptual understanding).
But, of course, in order to communicate, students need language, the necessary tool to communicate as precisely, as appropriately as possible, to achieve their purpose.
In short, when writing a letter, it is not sufficient to write the address in the correct place, the date, the appropriate greetings and a signature. Over the years, I have read so many letters to the head of an imaginary school with an unlikely address where the content was merely an emotionless essay. On those occasions, I have always told my students: “You are in a school with a Head Teacher/Principal. You know him/her and what makes him/her tick. Write to him/her. Think of what he/she would like to hear. Do not write an essay to me pretending to be a letter!” It is important to get students to put themselves in a real situation rather than imagine an unlikely one.
I remember a student who had always achieved very good results in French until she started the IB Diploma Programme. After explaining to her the purpose of communication she then exclaimed: “Oh! Now I understand. So there is more to it than just vocabulary and grammar!”
The French B Course Companion is a catalyst for such insights. The general framework consists of the five prescribed themes; texts (from varied francophone countries) and activities (many linked to TOK) have been chosen to meet a variety of different situations and communication objectives while encouraging students to reflect on and understand the concepts which underpin appropriate and efficient communication in productive, receptive and interactive skills.
Christine Trumper has over 40 years of IB DP experience as a teacher, Head of Modern Languages Department, Subject Area Manager in the IB Office, workshop leader and examiner. She has worked mainly in the UK and Africa, most recently in Ghana. Alongside her co-author, Christine has developed the new DP French B Course Book pack, in cooperation with the IB.
Developed in cooperation with the IB, each new Course Book pack contains one print textbook and one enhanced online textbook – providing a wealth of digital content to support all aspects of the 2018 DP Language B syllabus, including the new listening assessment component.
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