Learning and Practicing French Through Interaction with the Elderly: A Community Project

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents an academic community-engagement project inspired by communicative language teaching and social pedagogies. It brings together learners of French as a foreign language and French as heritage language—and native-French-speaking senior citizens in Israel. Through non-directive interviews, students practice their oral French skills in a nonjudgmental real setting. As holders of a precious cultural resource, the elderly share their fluency in French with the students to improve those students' skills in oral comprehension and speaking a foreign language. This project thus reverses prejudicial beliefs regarding old age by encouraging knowledge transfer through intergenerational and cross-cultural meetings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-161
Number of pages19
JournalThe French Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The challenge was how to compensate effectively for the lack of French language practice available in our academic curriculum by leveraging readily available resources in the community. Through integrating communicative lan - guage learning tools, the project seeks to compensate for the lack of authentic interactions in French without compromising the academic components of foreign and heritage language learning (grammar, syntax, written genres). This article reports a solution created to meet this challenge. Conceived by the French Department at Bar-Ilan University (a Hebrew-speaking university), and originally financed by Israel’s Council for Higher Education (2014–16), the project ‘Documentation and Conservation of Life Stories of French Speaking Elderly in Retirement Homes and in the Community’ is conducted in one-year cycles. The project goal is to bring together for mutual benefit students from the French de - partment—FFL learners (intermediate mid, intermediate high, advanced low students on the ACTFL proficiency scale in both writing and speaking skills) or FHL learners—who are pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in French linguistics or French culture and literature and French L1 (first language or mother tongue) and senior citizens, either long-term immigrants or newcomers.


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