Pourquoi Learn French?

Etienne asked the question: ‘Pourquoi learn French?’ before it became popular to really think about its importance.  It seems to be the recurring theme for many kids when they come to a French class.


I have to admit I can never sleep the night before the first day of school; still to this day.  About the week before, I start planning for the adventure that awaits and I find that I end up with a million and one ideas that I get super excited about, but that land themselves on sticky notes that end up lost in the bottom of my bag.

As a core French teacher, I don’t have to play name games or get to know you activities because I have already taught 90 percent of my students the year before.  When I started my teaching career, this left me feeling like a part of my program was missing.  It is hard to explain, and I have to admit its nice going into the year already knowing names, etc.  But I feel like the first day of the year is ‘supposed’ to be ‘fun’ get to know you type of things.

I came to the realization that this is just one of those ways that core French differs from having a homeroom classroom and I just had to find my own way of starting the year.

I finally found that activity two years ago.  I was sick and tired of the same old question popping up from students: “Why do I have to take French anyways?! I’m never going to use it.”.  It broke my heart every time I heard it, as if it was a personal attack on me or something.  I feel like I work hard at making the class fun and engaging.  I decided after the last time that I heard a student say that, that I needed to do something to change their opinions.

It dawned on me, if I am going to expect my students to take French and enjoy it, they need to know the value in it and truly appreciate its importance and usefulness.

Every year now, we start with the activity “Pourquoi Take French?”.

I ask my students to reflect (yes in English) on different reasons it is important to learn French.  I ask them to put themselves into different situations that they might possibly encounter in their lifetime, where knowing a second language is either a necessity or would significantly improve their experience.

I hand every student 1 sticky note, and give them about 3 minutes to write down any ideas that pop to their head.  After they are finished, we discuss the different ideas that they thought of and create 1 giant list. I save the sticky notes and use them to cover the bulletin board in the hallway at the beginning year.

Pourquoi Take French

In the past, this is where the activity ended.

This year, I had my junior and intermediate students take this activity one step further.  I split them into groups of 2 to 3 and with an iPad (or their own device) and they further researched the topic to see if they could find any additional reasons that they had not come up with as a class.

With this, the students have begun to find some new and interesting reasons, that they might not have thought of before.  (For example, the idea that learning a second language increases cultural awareness).

This year I am also going to try to revamp the bulletin board.  On top of adding the sticky notes, I am going to try to have my students record videos of themselves saying what motivates them to learn French or telling why they want to learn it.  I would like them to then upload these videos to Google Drive, so they can be shared on our bulletin board via QR codes.  We will see how that goes. (wish me luck!)

Overall, my hope is that at least one of the reasons discussed in class or that they find on the internet will resonate with each student.  I believe that if they see the significance and benefits, that maybe they will be a bit more intrinsically motivated in class to practice and learn the language.


How do you start your school year in Core French and get your students motivated to learn a new language?


Here are some of the results we have received thus far this year.

Pourquoi Learn French


Stay tuned for our QR codes!



6 Responses

  1. Hi Myria!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and this great idea! I completely agree with you that students have absolutely no motivation when they can’t find any reason that really resonates with them for why they should be there. Your first day idea is great because it allows them to learn from each other and think about learning French in different ways. I also liked your extension ideas. Having the students engaged with some form of technology is always good, and this way, like you said, they were able to bring new ideas to the table that could potentially spark further interest in some of them. Also, having the students create videos and using them to make the bulletin board interactive is a really cool idea. I’m sure the other students in the school would be excited to try it out and again, this could potentially spark more interest in French.

  2. Helen Somerville

    This is inspirational! I feel just like you with those questions – ahhh – the millennials!
    Love the whole project of putting ownership back on the student !
    Thanks so much for sharing!


    I love the why take french activity. It is meaningful and tackles that hard question us core french teacher need to answer! Thank you very much!

    • Thanks so much! Sometimes half of the battle is getting students to understand how it can help them in the future so they can truly appreciate it and hopefully want to learn the second language. 🙂

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