This is the third installment in a five-part series on world-language textbooks used by students inside and outside of school.
Two French teens, Julien and Aurelie, are chatting in the hallway of their high school. Suddenly, a third comes rushing in.
This scene is from a story in “C’est à Toi!” the textbook series French teacher Richard Day uses for his French I-IV classes.
He uses the level one book for French I, the level two for French II and III and the level three book in French IV.
The series includes a textbook, a workbook and a grammar and vocabulary book for extra practice.
At the beginning of each chapter of “C’est à Toi!”, there is a “Conversation Culturelle,” a dialogue between two or more people that incorporates the chapter’s vocabulary and grammar.
The recurring friend group in these conversations consists of Leila, Julien and Aurelie, along with their friends, siblings and parents.
They are also featured in the corresponding “C’est à Toi!” video series, which Day uses in his French I-III classes.
The series follows the teens until they finish high school in the coastal city of La Rochelle.
Senior Annya Dahmani, who finished AP French last year, said she thought the series was “really interesting, funny and dramatic.”
For example, Dahmani said there was an ongoing love triangle between Leila, Aurelie, and Julien. Aurelie and Julien kissed at a party, so later Leila starts dating another boy.
She said she appreciated that while watching the videos, students would fill out corresponding exercises.
“I was able to get work done and be entertained at the same time,” Dahmani said.
The actors who play the students are real French students, which Day said he likes.
Day said he also appreciates that the series is a bit exaggerated because it helps students who are less proficient in French understand what is happening.
Senior Katia Dahmani, who also finished AP French last year, agrees with Day.
“I thought the stories were really funny because they tried so hard to be dramatic,” Katia said.
For example, she said, the books “made the biggest deal” of two teens learning to bargain while attending a flea market.
The conversation topics in general were trivial, according to Katia, as they often had to do with small aspects of the friend group’s lives, like deciding what they wanted to do on a Friday night.
However, Katia said the conversations are a good way to learn French because they incorporate vocabulary and idioms.
But Day said some of the cultural references are outdated, as the last edition of the books dates back to 2012.
For example, the book references “télécartes,” phone cards that are useful as currency only in French phone booths, which are extremely scarce nowadays.
Furthermore, he said students sometimes complain that the French used in the videos can be more Canadian than French from France, as most of the material was written by French-American or Canadian authors. However, Day said he believes that exposure to a variety of accents is good for students.
In AP French, Day uses three different books: “Allons au-delà!”, “Bravo!” and “Advanced Placement French: Preparing for the Language and Culture Examination.”
Only “Bravo!”, a college-level grammar book, includes conversations between a group of French friends at the beginning of each chapter.
While both “Bravo!” and “C’est à Toi!” were most recently published in 2012, the conversations in “Bravo!” are trendier because they’re shown as emails or comments on a social media page, whereas those in “C’est à Toi!” are either face to face, letters or postcards.
Katia said the conversations in her AP French books were very different from those in previous textbooks.
“They felt really adult-like to me,” she said, recalling conversations discussing marriage, families, jobs and political beliefs.
However, she did not like the conversations’ bias toward the French.
“There were several passages talking about how vapid and materialistic Americans are and how Americans are fake and have meaningless friendships, whereas the French have (profound relationships),” Katia said.
Some of the supplementary materials Day adds feature families as well.
In French IV, for example, students read “Le petit Nicolas,” a series of illustrated French children’s books that follows a mischievous boy named Nicolas and his family.
Day also uses “Extr@,” a language-education series that focuses on Sam, an American who barely speaks French and comes to stay with his pen pal, Sacha, and her roommate, Annie, in Paris.
—By Héloïse Schep