Tag Archives: teaching french

Frequent French Words in Lexique Database

Frequent French Words in Lexique Database

French Language Database: Lexique

Lexique is a free database of frequent French words that you can download (text file or spreadsheet) or consult online. It contains 135,000 French words that can easily be filtered or sorted to look at patterns such as most frequent words or phrases, number of homophones, parts of speech, etc. The corpus that it is based on includes both literature and film subtitles so you can also compare differences among books and films. You can also search the corpus for the sentences containing certain words to see how they are used in context.

Frequent French Words: Verbs

One aspect of Lexique that I prefer over other databases or frequency lists is that verbs are not only included as the infinitive form. All conjugated forms are included so you can easily see which tense or person/number is more frequent. Auxiliary verbs (avoir and être used in compound tenses) are separated from regular verbs, so if you are interested in form only rather than meaning, you’ll need to add up the frequencies. Homonyms such as va (imperative) and va (present tense) are not separated, but different parts of speech are, i.e. danse as a verb vs. danse a noun are two separate entries in the database.

If you download the Excel spreadsheet, apply a filter to only show AUX and VER, then sort the list by frequency, you can get some interesting on data on verb forms. In the table below, you will see that the imperfect tense is quite common in books. There are also a few conditional forms, but no future or subjunctive, in the top 30 verb conjugations.

Verb Form Infinitive Aux/Verb Frequency Conjugation
est être VER 6331.76 ind:pre:3s;
était être VER 3688.99 ind:imp:3s;
avait avoir AUX 3116.42 ind:imp:3s;
a avoir AUX 2926.69 ind:pre:3s;
ai avoir AUX 2119.12 ind:pre:1s;
a avoir VER 1669.39 ind:pre:3s;
est être AUX 1600.27 ind:pre:3s;
était être AUX 1497.84 ind:imp:3s;
avait avoir VER 1496.15 ind:imp:3s;
été être VER 818.99 par:pas;
sont être VER 713.18 ind:pre:3p;
être être AUX 685.47 inf;
avoir avoir AUX 649.26 inf;
ai avoir VER 619.05 ind:pre:1s;
avais avoir AUX 566.76 ind:imp:2s;
suis être AUX 560.47 ind:pre:1s;
ont avoir AUX 553.31 ind:pre:3p;
étaient être VER 534.19 ind:imp:3p;ind:pre:3p;sub:pre:3p;
avaient avoir AUX 524.26 ind:imp:3p;
être être VER 505.61 inf;;inf;;inf;;
aurait avoir AUX 491.15 cnd:pre:3s;
eu avoir VER 436.76 par:pas;
étais être VER 403.11 ind:imp:1s;ind:imp:2s;
étaient être AUX 393.85 ind:imp:3p;
sont être AUX 386.35 ind:pre:3p;
avais avoir VER 351.96 ind:imp:1s;ind:imp:2s;
as avoir AUX 294.46 ind:pre:2s;
serait être VER 285.27 cnd:pre:3s;
fut être VER 284.46 ind:pas:3s;
es être VER 256.62 ind:pre:2s;

This is something to keep in mind when learning/teaching French. Perhaps we should introduce the conditional before the future? Most textbooks tend to do the opposite, especially since the future and conditional use the same stems. However, the imperfect and conditional use the same endings, so the same argument could be made for teaching them together – which is strengthened by the fact that conditional forms are more frequent than future forms, as the Lexique database indicates.

I’ve always disagreed with teaching tenses separately (going from present to passé composé, then adding imperfect, followed by future, conditional, subjunctive, etc.) It seems more useful to me to teach the most common verbs and their forms regardless of the tense. This is why I include imperfect and future forms when I first introduce avoir and être in my French Language Tutorial – though now I see that I should perhaps have included conditional instead.

Thanks to corpus linguistics techniques, it is easier to design language learning materials that represent actual language use. Part of my PhD dissertation explores this topic if you’re interested in learning more.

Let me know if there are other databases of frequent French words that include conjugated verb forms instead of just infinitives!

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

If your students already use Buzzfeed to waste time online, make sure they know about the French language version so they can turn that wasted time into learning opportunities. Not only is French Buzzfeed useful for learning informal language, it is also useful for learning about cultural differences.

Learning French language and culture with Buzzfeed

The list, 28 choses bizarres pour tous les Français qui visitent les États-Unis, is great content for teaching and learning about cultural differences between France and the US – especially for students who have never spent time in France. There is a slightly different version in English, with more explanations, which you can also use for a few more differences.

The lists include practices related to shopping, eating out, school, fashion, money, etc. which can guide discussions on what is common in America and why the French find it weird or odd. For students who have not experienced living or studying in France, they may have never thought about these American practices, and maybe assumed that they were the same in other countries. Personally, I was delighted to find out the air conditioning wasn’t so extreme and there were fewer commercials on TV, but annoyed that there were no 24 hour stores. I liked that tax is already included in prices, yet I hated having to get the server’s attention in restaurants.

These practices can also lead to deeper discussions about what is considered normal, correct, polite, rude, or strange to different cultures. Americans might not understand why people smiling all the time would be odd to the French. What is so “wrong” about flying the flag everywhere? Why do the French think that coffee must be drunk only at a café or while sitting down?

The information learned from these lists is certainly useful for students who are about to go abroad and what to expect. They will learn that 24 hour stores are very rare in France, you can’t buy food and drinks at pharmacies, waiters will ignore you in restaurants, wearing pajamas in public is not acceptable, you won’t get ice in your drinks, and you won’t have to figure out how much to leave for a tip.

Another interesting list is Comment les Américains imaginent la France vs. la réalité, which offers a more realistic look at life in France through stereotypes and the extreme opposites.

Buzzfeed has versions for other countries/languages as well: Brazil, Germany, Spain, MexicoSpanish, and Japan.

Classroom Games for Introductory / Beginning French Classes

Every week in my first semester French class, we played games to review and reinforce what we did in the previous class. For other French teachers out there who are looking for more activities, these are what I actually used in my class this year. A lot of these I found on Pinterest, where I have a Teaching French at Uni board. Some of these classroom games require little to no prep, but having dice and maybe some playing pieces on hand is always a good idea.

Classroom Games for Beginning French Classes

Hangman is the first game I start with to practice the alphabet, though I change it to Escape from Alcatraz (draw the stickman jumping into the water and escaping from the island) to make it somewhat less depressing.

Bingo is an obvious choice for practicing numbers, and I have also used it with regular vocabulary. I only included the English words and did not allow them to write down the French words, but they did have to recite the words in French in order to win. I used a bingo card generator in Excel.

Battleship is pretty handy for practicing verb conjugations and putting sentences together. I used the clothes and porter one from the French Teachers in New Zealand site, and made my own for practicing être and aller with prepositions and places. [download .doc]

For family members, we play le jeu de sept familles and I have them alternate with using est-ce que tu as and est-ce que vous avez. I bought 5 decks from amazon.fr for about 20 euros instead of making my own.

Guess Who ? / Qui est-ce ? is the obvious choice for describing physical appearance. I just pasted in Francophone names. [download .jpg]

Où se trouve ___ ? is a speaking activity for prepositions and places that I adapted from a Spanish version. [download .xls]

Faire expressions just requires a dice. Students must say a sentence using an expression with faire in order to move to that square. [download .doc]

To review vocabulary at the end of the semester, we played Scattergories / Le petit bac, which requires virtually no preparation.

Jeopardy was also great for review at the end of the semester. This site has lots of Powerpoint games to choose from.

Other games that I thought about  using but didn’t have the time to make (or money to buy) include:

Uno to practice verb conjugations (you must play either the same verb or the same conjugation); Teacher’s Discovery created Verbo

Connect 4 – you just need to create the boards with words/phrases or pictures and have some playing pieces

Word Roll – somewhat similar to Connect 4, especially if you only have dice and not enough playing pieces

Alphabet Game – students must think quickly to name words that begin with the letter they chose

Apples to Apples would be a good review of vocabulary. Teacher’s Discovery has a game called Cognate Frenzy that they bill as their version of Apples to Apples for first year French students.

Slap and Spoons are two card games that I’d like to try next year, while Pictionary, Taboo, and Password seem like they would be fun as well. If I do create more games for next semester, I will update this post!

Update I: Teaching Tools Tip of the Day: Dry Erase Sheets and Dry Erase Pockets

Update II: Bescherelle Le Jeu and Other French Language Games