Beginning French via the Read-and-Speak Method



ABSTRACT  An innovative foreign language methodology, “Read-and-Speak,” was tried in a yearlong pilot section of beginning French at the University of Utah in academic 1984–85. The method involves the following: (a) from the outset students were assigned massive easy readings in the foreign language (300 pages during the first quarter); (b) from the outset they were encouraged to speak the foreign language in class; and (c) formal grammar instruction was delayed until April when an entire introductory text was covered in five weeks. At the end of the year, standardized testing showed the-Read-and-Speak method to be significantly more effective than the traditional method. Moreover, student response was positive: the new method was perceived to be a relatively pleasurable way to learn French. Read-and-Speak's success may be explained by its grounding in basic learning theory: the new method lays down maximal memory traces, it widely spaces those traces over time, and it sets the traces in pleasing contexts. The success of Read-and-Speak may also be explained by its insistence upon early unstructured speech.