01 Jul 2022
The course I teach most often is Advanced French Part 1 (French 321). This is an important course in my department, because it is usually the first course taken by new students who learned French as missionaries. For many of those who go on to major or minor in French in my department, French 321 is where they first started considering their course of study. I work hard to improve this course every semester to make a good first impression with these students.
One way I’ve been wanting to improve the course is with an updated textbook. The textbook that has traditionally been used in this course (and the Part 2 course that follows it) has been receiving declining support from its publisher, and like many college textbooks suffers from problems of expense and outdated information. In my graduate studies at the University of Texas, I did some work with COERLL, the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning. COERLL is funded by the Department of Education and housed at UT Austin with the mission to create foreign language education resources and publish them under an open license — i.e., for free and with open rights for educators to remix the materials as they see fit. Open educational resources (OERs) are the future of education, and I saw the development of an OER textbook as a top priority for French 321. With an OER textbook, I’m able to update the material regularly to keep it current (such as to describe changes in how French is used online, or the neopronouns used by some nonbinary French speakers, or new findings regarding understudied varieties of French in Africa, North America, and the Pacific). Other teachers are able to publish their own modified versions of an OER textbook to suit their own courses. And most importantly, students (and anyone else on the internet who wants to improve their French) can access the textbook for free.
So since late last year, I’ve been working on a new textbook for advanced French grammar, Grammaire Ouverte. I started with an existing OER, Tex’s French Grammar (published by COERLL), which is intended for beginning students and written in English. To make it appropriate for French 321, I organized it into thematic chapters, translated it into French, wrote new sections to add more detail on advanced topics, and did a lot of revising. I also added some features to make this textbook a better learning tool: chapter intros based around excerpts from public domain French novels, a glossary of French linguistic terms, examples from a large and diversified linguistic corpus (the CRFC, which Dirk Siepmann from Osnabrück University was kind enough to share access to), notes on dialectal and stylistic variation (with lots of insights gained from my reading of the newly published and wonderful Grande Grammaire du Français), and quizzes at the end of each chapter. The book is published through BYU’s OER platform at open.byu.edu/grammaire_ouverte.
I’ve been really pleased with the experience. BYU’s OER platform is really easy to use, and while writing I’ve learned a ton about both French grammar and web design. Although my attention will shift back toward my research now, this project has gotten me excited to develop more OER’s for my other courses in the future.