The role play component in language learning as integrated in learning oral skills in French as a foreign language in Kenyan secondary schools
Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation 2013 83 Pages
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of figures
List of tables
List of abbreviations and acronyms
1.0 General Introduction
1.1. The main objective of the research
1.2 The Research Questions
1.3 The study sample
2.1 Assessment and Evaluation
2.2 Kenya Association of Teachers of French (KATF)
2.3 Regional French Language Centers
2.4 French Language presence in Kenya
2.5 Alliance Française
2.6 Schools Drama festival
2.7 French for specific purposes
3.0 General analysis
3.1 The conceptual Framework
3.2 Kraschen’s Monitor Model
3.4 The Grounded Theory
4.0 The results of the study
4.1 The course books- General overview
4.2 The role play content in Pierre et Seydou series
4.3 The role play content in the Parlons Français series
4.4 The role play content in the Entre Copains series
4.5 The National examination assessment
4.6 Schools Drama Festival –Plays interpreted in French
4.7 The results from the questionnaires
4.8 The aspect of language learning which learners enjoy most
4.9 How best should French as a foreign language be taught
4.10 How does one gain fluency and confidence in expressing oneself in a language
4.11 Interview and remarks from the teachers
Annex 1 - 7
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: A map of Africa showing the major francophone blocs
Figure 2: Regional French language centres set-up by the French Embassy in Kenya
Figure 3: Initial oral practice (source- The research questionnaire)
Figure 4: The initial role play/simulation (source- The research questionnaire)
Figure 5: The initial role play/simulation (source – The research questionnaire)
Figure 6: Role play preparation (Source – The research questionnaire)
Figure 7: The four skills of language learning (source – The research questionnaire)
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 : The study sample size (students) drawn from the eight provinces in Kenya
Table 2: Role play/simulation situations in Entre Copains book 1
Table 3: Role play/ simulation situations in Entre Copains book 2
Table 4: Role play / simulation situations in Entre Copains book 3
Table 5: Role play situations in Entre Copains book 4
Table 6 : Rating of French paper 3
Table 7: Rating of French paper 3 (oral French)
Table 8: Role Play situations set by Kenya National Examinations Council for French candidates between 1995 – 2005
Table 9: The micro-assessment criteria
Table 10: The KNEC assessment structure for oral French (paper 3)
Table 11: The micro- assessment criteria
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
This thesis focuses on role play and the development of oral skills in French as a foreign language in Kenya. Ideally as I have observed in this write-up, role play is a low input high output process. The development of speaking skills in French are well enhanced using role-play as a strategy-cum-technique to facilitate the French oral skills to Kenyan learners who have opted to study French as a foreign language.
The conceptual Framework which I have opted to use in this particular academic write-up is Stephen Kraschen’s Monitor Model and the Grounded theory. I have made a deliberate and elaborate focus on Kraschen’s comprehension input theory. For one to speak s(he) has to get some snippets or basic aspects of the language being learnt. My research findings have established that the urge to speak a language being introduced for the first time to the learner, the eagerness and motivation is always there right at the immediate and initial encounter with the language. With the well trained instructor or teacher the oral skills will develop well in tandem with the reading, listening and writing skills.
The grounded theory which I have grafted together with Kraschen’s Monitor Model on language acquisition is well buttressed in social research. Role play is social research on a linguistic perspective.
The numerous authorities I have quoted in this academic presentation attest that role play and language learning is an ongoing study and my research findings and display of data is a contribution towards how oral skills in language learning are acquired by using role play as a technique. The restricted focus in my case is on French as a foreign language within the Kenyan context.
My findings and recommendations corroborate with the other researchers who have done extensive research on language learning and acquisition. The speaking skill is pre-dominantly the most appreciated skill among the four classical language skills. Language educationists, linguists and other social researchers who focus their biased research on language and its varied dynamics in our varied human societies, have observed that the oral skills should be nurtured and developed side by side with the other language skills.
French as a foreign language in Kenya is no exception. My research proves that role play as a technique being used to facilitate the acquisition of oral skills to the learners aged between 13 and 20 years, their behavior, aptitude and learning strategies and their overall observation is that the speaking skill is vital for one to be assessed that s(he) has some knowledge in a particular language.
Profuse thanks to my brother Rev. Dr. Charles Onyango Oduke for his support and selfless love.
Thanks also to all my friends and professional colleagues who gave me the support and encouragement to soldier on especially when I encountered challenging and low moments in my academic pursuit especially during this doctoral phase of my academic endeavor.
My sincere thanks to Dr. Franklin Valcin . He was extremely prompt and timely with his valuable advice and direction whenever I was in doubt and I made an inquiry. I candidly implemented his suggestions which made me to egg on when I was at times in my lowest ebb in this academic journey which was indeed some sort of a pilgrimage in the academic arena in pursuit of deeper knowledge and understanding of my chosen aspect and area in language study.
My appreciation to Atlantic International University Academic Board for their keen assessment of my academic potential and being able to ascertain my determination and commitment to accomplish my academic tasks and assignments as prescribed by the institution towards the attainment of this doctoral thesis.
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
The focus of this study is on role play and foreign language learning. Generally we learn languages to communicate. We also learn languages to appreciate the diverse nature of humanity since humanity is as varied as its languages. Oral communication is the hallmark of mastery of a language being learnt. Writing is always a fairly challenging skill because the graphical aspect of grafting the letters or the symbols is never done “off- the- cuff”.
However oral expression despite its ‘broken’ nature from a tyro or a novice or a beginner a re-expression is allowed to‘re-communicate’ one’s intended message. Role play facilitates the training of developing the oral skills when the learning of a language takes place.
French being a foreign language presents a different scenario. The oral aspect of French within the Kenyan context presents some peculiar characteristics. The assumption that the learners of French will automatically speak it once they have learnt it has been a tall order. Learners of French as a foreign language in Kenya have the latent knowledge (Kraschen,1987).The challenge most of them have always encountered is to articulate the latent French that they already have in their mental faculty.
The language acquisition device according to Kraschen , never shuts off unless one is declared clinically dead. Language acquisition is a subconscious process. The speaking aspect is the next process once the language has been acquired.
The utterances are bound to encounter challenges where the conventional correct grammar is at times compromised during the actual communication since perfection is a habitual practice which is gained with time and effort. This study would wish to focus more on the oral output via role play and simulation and the challenges encountered therein.
According to Horwitz (1985) foreign language learners who have few or zero contact hours with the natural speakers of the language being learnt, role play and simulation activities are the only avenues which may afford the only opportunities to experience complex linguistic situations similar to those they would encounter in a natural environment where the language is spoken. In a nutshell, Horwitz observes that speaking another language involves acting in that particular language.
Verriour (1985) and Dickson (1989) documented that role play is stimulating and interesting when obstacles are encountered in the actual communication. This is the essence of role-play. A good role-play normally has obstacles (conflicts) well plotted to motivate communication.
When participants struggle to overcome the obstacles, these blockages create the reasons which facilitate communication. The two authorities concur that language is only interesting when social transaction seems to be blocked for a moment and then it is spurred on with many other numerous obstacles formulated and overcome by the logical utterances within any given language that is being learnt.
Cook (2000) divides the features of language play into three main categories: linguistic, semantic and pragmatic. These three categories are always fused in role play. The linguistic aspect always many a times focuses on phonetics and phonology where the sounds of the language are studied. The pragmatic aspect which involves that actual articulation is always intended to convey meaning and herein the aspect of semantics is implied. Role-play fuses these three aspects of the language into one act of performance.
Lantlof (1997) observes that role play which enlists the model utterances facilitates the imbibing of these model replicas which will eventually mould the learner to be a competent speaker of the language being learnt.
Richards (2001), Rogers (2001) and Nunan (2004) observe that role play appeals to the learners since it gives them practice with language use in situations they are likely to encounter in their daily lives within or without their immediate ‘ environments’. The learners who have a good command of the language can engage fairly well in role-play with precise instructions given. However, for the debutants or the learners who are being initiated into the foreign language they need to be given extreme support. The Lantolf model cited above comes in handy to help them develop confidence as they perform role play.
Beutler (1976) referred to role play as an activity which involves cognitive and affective learning. These two components of learning is what facilitates effective language learning because the reasoning (cognitive) and emotional (affective) aspects are always in tandem in language learning and practice.
The study I have undertaken on role play and language learning is a low input high output process. The scenarios which are designed or devised to motivate the practice of oral skills are always economically designed. The dialogue lines which are designed and churned out by the learners are always vast, varied and quite extensive in certain aspects.
The essence of language learning is to motivate the development of vocabulary and other linguistic aspects to be applied in the actual presentation of role play. This actually is the essence of role play in language learning. Learning French as a foreign language in Kenyan secondary schools is no exception.
The poor self-image of the learner and the inferiority complex which some learners at times experience and encounter are always well ‘weeded’ out when role play is well and purposefully used. Dennison and Kirk (1990) observe that a good introduction which gets rid of poor self image and inferiority complex should be encouraged to place the language learner on a good motivated and positive footing in the language learning process. I would wish to quote them verbatim thus:
“Poor self-image is a powerful block to learning and a very powerful block to clear communication, and it is also a very persistent block which is difficult to remove once it has developed”
The epitome and essence of language learning is to facilitate communication in that particular language. Role play facilitates this communication. The focus ends up not being the language while in essence one requires the linguistic ‘ingredients’ to perform role-play-cum-simulation. Crookall& Oxford (1990) observe that the challenge and the onus is on the teacher to facilitate the role-play activities to help the learner to navigate in the communication using the appropriate linguistic tools to convey the intended messages meaningfully despite the challenges at the projected linguistic finesse.
I would wish to cite an instance of ‘Dumb English’ which Wang &Motteram (2006) observed amongst the Chinese learners who study English as a foreign language. The learners always would wish to communicate in English however they cannot perform the task fairly competently because they are tense, shy and they feel that they lack sufficient English vocabulary and other linguistic expressions for them to communicate effectively.
This situation is perfectly akin to our Kenyan situation of the learners who study French as a foreign language. The learners are always shy, tense and since they know that the French linguistic competence and flair is not at their disposal they tend to either keep quiet or devise strategies which will make them shy away from oral practice. This is why role play will be a good panacea towards motivating them to speak the ‘snippets’ of the French language which they have already learnt.
1.1 THE MAIN OBJECTIVE OF THE RESEARCH
I would wish to study role play within the Kenyan context. My focus will be on French as a foreign language being taught in Kenyan secondary schools. My other focus is on the French oral skills with role play as a technique for teaching or giving the learners orientation to acquire this skill.
Acquiring oral skills in French is always a challenge for learners in Kenyan secondary schools. Students who end up acquiring good oral skills generally display good mastery of the French language even in writing. I would wish to analyze the presence and importance of role play.
What motivates me to carry out this study and research is that no authoritative study has been done in Kenyan on role play and the teaching of French as foreign language. This study will be a launching pad for further and future studies on role play and foreign language learning in Kenya.
The research will also inform the policy makers on how oral French can be well taught and assessed within the national context. Further research on role play and language learning in general will also draw reference from this study in future within the Kenyan context and also within the wider context on language teaching and learning especially where imbibing of oral skills are concerned.
1.2 THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Some of the issues I would wish to research on are:
- Why has the French teaching syllabus not explicitly mentioned the importance of role play yet in the recommended texts simulation and role play is conspicuously present?
- Role play was tested in the national French examination (The oral section) between 1995 and 2005.Thereafter it was abandoned with the revision of the syllabus. Why did this happen and what has been the impact since then?
- Schools Drama festival in Kenya has motivated the use of oral French since 1986 to date. How does role play impact on the preparation of the French plays which are interpreted in this festival?
- Role play on the whole is a classical technique of teaching oral skills. What experiences have the teachers encountered when they organize role play sessions for their students?
Other research questions which are closely tied to the above major issues
- How long does the Kenyan French language learner take before he or she can confidently utter even a word in French?
- How long does the French language learner take to gain some confidence and speak ‘broken French’ at the first instance?
- At what point do we assess the learners to have gained confidence to speak with ease?
- Does constructive role play well grafted or designed have any positive effects on improving the speaking performance of learners with different levels of proficiency?
- Does role play/simulation actually motivate the acquisition of the French oral skill?
1.3 THE STUDY SAMPLE
My focus will basically be on the Kenyan students enrolled in secondary schools. The reduced focus will be students who have opted to study French as a foreign language. In Kenya we have approximately 4,000 secondary schools. About 10% of these schools teach French as foreign language. My study sample will be drawn from these 400 schools spread within the eight provinces.
The independent variable in this research is French as a foreign language and the dependent variable will be the students or the learners who have opted to study French as foreign language under the guidance of their teachers. My one dependent variable will the learners and this will comprise my study population.
To limit my sample frame I will rely on the authority of Krejcie Morgan (1970) as quoted by Cohen et al (2000) that when a sample frame is between 15,000 and 20,000 people, a population of between 375 to 377 based on the criteria analyzed by the researcher will suffice to facilitate the study,
I base my criteria on the following:
- The students I am going to give the questionnaires to fill are aged between 13 and 20 years age cohort. They are enrolled in secondary schools and they are spread from form one to four. They have also opted to study French as a foreign language.
- The teachers I am going to interview about 10 of them are aged between 24- 60 years and they hold the minimum qualification of Diploma in Education with a bias of teaching French as a foreign language
I would wish to tabulate the proportional probability sample frame below (as suggested by Morgan )
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Table 1- The study sample size (students) drawn from the eight provinces in Kenya
The ideal situation or scenario is always on French teacher per school. Extremely special instances there are two teachers of French in one school. Ideally I shall collect data from at least ten teachers.
Purposive and quota sampling will be my strategic approach in this research. My main objective is to study the importance of role play in French language learning in the Kenyan secondary schools. My concentration will be on the learners who have opted to study French as a foreign language.
I have opted to use qualitative-cum-textual research approach because of the following reasons:
- Understanding human systems are best understood when qualitative research is done. Language is a human system. Humanity uses language to communicate. My study focus is on French as foreign language being taught in Kenyan secondary schools. My micro focus is on the acquisition of the French oral skills using role pay and simulation. I would wish to assess the success and the challenges of this technique in the teaching of oral skills in French.
- Qualitative research is always conducted in a natural setting. In my case the school setting or the natural learning space will be my centre of focus and that is where I will derive my research data from.
- Qualitative research involves highly detailed and rich description of human behavior. The statements which will be made largely by the learners will provide a rich repertoire on what exactly is role play in foreign language learning within the Kenyan context.
- Chances of encountering ‘multiple’ or varied realities will be encountered because the population being studied will interpret the questions posed on role play in their varied opinion and another ‘scholarship’ on role play and foreign language learning is likely to emerge to form part of the larger gamut of what role play is about when it comes to the learning of oral skills. I will rely on the grounded theory principles to adduce some pertinent theories on language learning and acquisition in general.
- As I go about gathering data I also become part and parcel of the study and this is what makes the study unique and cannot be replicated. The research findings can be part and parcel of the literature review for a similar or quasi similar study on role play and foreign language acquisition in Kenya, East Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.
- The reason why I opt for the textual approach to collect data is that I shall obtain meaningful facts about role play as a technique in teaching oral skills. I shall also come across fresh information which I did not anticipate in my research design this will definitely enrich the knowledge base on role play. Above all, the approach is rich and exploratory in nature. This will enrich my overall research base on role play and foreign language learning.
The other research methods which I intend to use is the focus group approach where I shall sample questionnaires and make some of the questions open ended. I shall ensure that I document this information to help me when I shall be doing my detailed analysis.
I also intend to do to some direct observation. Observe the actual learning especially when oral skills are being taught to assess how role play is taught in an actual active learning environment.
I shall also conduct some interviews with the ten teachers I will have sampled in my research design to find out their observations and experience on the role play tasks which they have always carried out with the learners.
I shall also do some analysis of written documentation. I shall analyze the recommended textbooks which have been approved for the teaching of French as a foreign language in Kenya. I shall focus on the areas which deal with role play and simulation. The aim is to find out how the tasks have been conceptualized so that they motivate oral discourse amongst the learners. I shall assess the viability of these linguistic tasks.
My conceptual framework is based on Kraschen input hypothesis which deal with language acquisition within a bilingual situation. The theory also applies to language acquisition within a multi-lingual situation like Kenya. I shall also apply the grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, (1967) since role play is a social technique which is used to orientate learners to acquire oral skills.
The research I shall be doing is set out to assess how the learners manipulate the comprehensible input to communicate. For comprehension to be present, acquisition is vital and is important. Kraschen is a linguist who has done numerous studies on bilingualism which befits the reality of the role play and simulation which I would wish to study. The language acquisition device never shuts off unless the learner is declared clinically dead.
I re-emphasize this fact which had already mentioned earlier in the introductory section of this thesis. Acquisition being a sub-conscious process is what motivates the learner to process the linguistic concepts acquired to develop the oral skill and gain fluency with time. My objective is to assess the oral expression via role play and simulation.
The grounded theory corroborates the foreign language acquisition and expression because I shall be studying to some extent the behavior and words uttered by the respondents during the interview and also in the open ended questionnaires which shall attract a variety of answers on role play and simulation and foreign language learning .Grounded theory relies entirely on data collected from ‘social’ research. I would wish to classify my research as a ‘social’ research because language expression is essential to human socialization. Above all, role play is social research on a linguistic perspective.
My extensive readings on grounded theory attest to the fact the data I shall be in the process of collecting data. This data shall be analyzed as the research goes on with other respondents because the theory gives room for data to be analyzed ‘synchronously’ (Glaser&Strauss,1967;Strauss&Corbin,1990,1994; Stern, 1994). With the grounded theory, knowledge and theory (here I refer to the theoretical framework of role play and foreign language learning) are inextricably interlinked to communicate additional information into the body of knowledge.
What is known about role play and French language learning is validated and new or fresh discoveries from the ongoing research are also documented. This actually is the very essence of my research.
To corroborate my choice for the grounded theory, the research I will conduct will include interviews, observations, focus groups, life histories and introspective accounts of experiences. The fairly less stringent format of the interviews which is shall conduct with the ten teachers falls in line with the grounded theory.
The flip side of the qualitative research together with the grounded theory inclusive is that the reduced numbers of the subjects (respondents) being studied involves a laborious and tedious collection and analysis of data. As a researcher I also tend to be biased.
My area of bias is assessing the impact of role play and simulation in the learning of the French oral skill. I know and I am aware that I shall encounter challenges in analyzing the qualitative data vigorously. I shall do open coding, script memos and advance them into ‘axial coding’ as per the classical requirements of grounded theory.
The other challenge is shall encounter will be the reproducibility and generalization of the findings. This will not be replicated easily however it will present the Kenyan reality in as far as role play the foreign language learning is involved.
This will be a unique contribution into the body of learning and knowledge. I am optimistic that is shall adhere to the rigor of my findings because I shall adhere to the main tenets of my research (The research question(s) and the methodology I have outlined to gather (collect and collate) the data up to the ultimate analysis of the research findings and rational recommendation for academia and general readership on those who have developed keen interest on role play and foreign language learning.
I will embark on analyzing the data collected in this thesis to be able to reach some saturation point. In the Grounded theory the actual validity of the theory is ascertained at the saturation point. This is what will help to develop another ‘grain’ of knowledge or ‘theory’ in the area under study. My focus is on role play and foreign language learning in Kenya. The actual focus is on French and how the oral skills are acquired through role play.
In my classification or analysis of the data I shall compile the facts until I get to a point where the facts get similar though they will probably be interpreted in various ways. The ‘unity’ or ‘uniformity’ of the facts will be the saturation point. This saturation point might end up developing into another ‘new’ theory or a factual point which attest to the already established veracity about role play. I have to bear in mind that Strauss and Corbin (1994) say about a theory. They observe that a theory is a set of relationship that offers a plausible explanation of a phenomenon under study.
I shall also engage the process of abstraction which analyzes data in a comprehensive and micro manner since this is one of the tenets of the grounded theory.
I would wish to give a brief preview of French in Africa before zooming into French as a foreign language in Kenya. The recent statistics peg about ninety million Africans speak French and it has certain subtle ‘variations’ in some expressions which differ from the French spoken within the European zone which is the cradle and origin of the French language.
French is the 9th most widely spoken language in the world and the only one, together with English, to be spoken on all five continents. It is the language that is the most taught in the universe.
To corroborate the above fact, French is also the only language, together with English, that is taught in every country of the world, with 100 million students and 2 million teachers – 20 % of whom are outside of francophone countries. Learning French in Kenya is alluded to in the aforementioned fact.
About two-thirds of African countries have incorporated French as an official language. This is the major reason and motivation for learning French in Kenya. Kenya is part and parcel of the African continent and by extension a member of the international community.
The map below depicts the presence of the French language in Africa.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 1 : A map of Africa showing the major francophone blocs
Source: The French Embassy in Kenya
French made its presence in Africa through colonization. Today is a major language within the francophone sphere and it is largely considered an official language. It is now part and parcel of ‘African languages’ and it has largely been promoted in schools. Linguists have studied French as a language and have classified it to be part and parcel of the languages in Africa. Even the illiterate populace (within the francophone sphere) speaks some snippets of French in their daily discourse. The oral discourse is the focus of my study since role play is a pseudo-real discourse which makes one to do the genuine practice of oral skills to acquire good speaking skills.
My study involves the teaching of French as a foreign language in Kenyan secondary schools. Ideally, all the aspects of French as a foreign language are always taught so that the learners are exposed to the ‘entirety’ of the language. The writing, speaking, listening and reading are classical exposition of how languages are taught and learnt. In essence, one is deemed to be competent and well appreciated if one is able to listen and articulate the language within a social milieu or environment.
Oral skill is important in any language learning because it is the most malleable form of communication which does not involve a complex medium to communicate. Unlike writing and reading where one needs a medium or an intermediary which facilitates the development of the latter two skills. For role play the ear and the oral cavity which humanity is naturally endowed with will facilitate the development of oral skills in any language that is being learnt. Role play focuses on the communication using oral cavity.
French as a foreign language in Kenya dates back in the 1950’s when it was taught to the children of the colonial masters. Extremely few schools which enrolled the white students within the areas which were inhabited by the whites before independence offered French to the learners. The objective was to help to learners acquire the French language competence to help them to be able to acquire another European language apart from English.
During the colonial times, the colonial masters were well aware that the geopolitics of the time. That meant , the young white learner would end up being an administrator or a professional of good standing who would be able to communicate effectively with other people from the countries which were colonized by the French within Africa and beyond. This was a policy which was convenient to ease communication amongst the colonialists within the African continent and probably beyond.
As Kenya moved closer to attain its independence, the importance of French as a language had already gained its importance and currency amongst the Kenyans who were literate. These were the budding professionals who had been to school and the exposure they encountered at school made them to be aware that having the knowledge of French was an added value and an asset within the Kenyan context which was now becoming to be well known among the community of the world nations.
At the advent of independence the schools which enrolled the white students maintained the status quo of teaching French as a foreign language. With time, schools within the major urban centres in Kenya started to introduce French within their teaching curriculum.
2.1 ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION
In East Africa just at the advent of independence, the three countries Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania used to have one educational system and one national assessment and evaluation format. This was when the East African countries had one bigger economic bloc known as the East African Community (EAC). The system of education was 7:4:2:3 (Seven years of Primary Education, Four years of ordinary level secondary education, two years of advanced level high school education and a minimum of three years at the university level). The Examination body used to known as East African Examinations Council. (EAEC).
The examinations they used to set at the primary level used to be C.P.E (Certificate of Primary Education), E.A.C.E (East African Certificate of Education) and E.A.A.C.E (East African Advanced Certificate of Education).
At the ordinary secondary level, French used to be examined. What was akin to role play was an oral presentation of a given topic and the general questions posed by the examiner during the examination. The candidate used to be given a topic to prepare well in advance. This was always given out at the fourth year of the secondary schooling as the student prepares for certification in French at the ordinary secondary level.
This assessment was only subjected to students who had opted to study French. The topics were derived from the East African socio-politico-economic set-up. Role play embraces and interprets the reality of what is actually prevalent in the ‘environment’ or the ‘space’ where the linguistic expression is used, practiced or learnt.
At the advanced level the students who opted to study French were subjected to impromptu speaking with the examiner on a variety of topics during the assessment for ‘A’ level certification. At the advanced level the students learnt some snippets of the French political, social and economic set-up as it was in France. The student also studied in depth a French speaking Country in Africa (the social, political, economic set-up and the day to day life in that particular French speaking country).
The country which was always selected by the Examination Council many a times used to be Zaire (Currently the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zaire as a name of a Country is now defunct).The student was also introduced to francophone literature ,two French writers of authentic French origin and two African writers from a francophone country in Africa. The course content was also largely beefed up with the salient aspects of the French language (grammar and syntax).
The oral aspect was a ‘diagnostic ‘assessment of all the literature and aspects of French language taught. The dialogue which used to be conducted by the examiner and the candidate, I would wish to argue that this was some sort of role play. One of the major tenets of role play is improvisation. As the student strives to get the answers from the background of the learning which (s)he has been exposed to or has experienced, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ expression assessed. What is assessed is the ability to communicate orally in French.
Role play as it is known facilitates oral communication within a given and specified context or space. This reality used to be witnessed when the oral aspect of the E.A.C.E and E.A.A.C.E French examination was conducted.
The political strife encountered between Kenya and Uganda in the late 1970’s messed up the greater integration of the E.A.C. This made the East African Examination Body to be defunct. Other trade and economic issues also became decrepit within the three nations.
Kenya as a nation developed its own examination body and maintained the education system up to 1986 when they changed to current the education system. Before the current education system Kenya maintained the 7:4:2:3 system and the examinations body was Kenya National Examinations Council. (K.N.E.C). C.P.E primary assessment was maintained for a while .Kenya Certificate of Education (K.C.E) replaced E.A.C.E. Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (K.A.C.E) replaced E.A.A.C.E. The assessment criteria of the French language was maintained and conducted in the version and fashion of E.A.E.C.
In 1986 when the 8:4:4 (Eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and a minimum four years of university study) system of education was mooted and developed in Kenya , C.P.E was replaced by Kenya Certificate of Primary Education( K.C.P.E), K.C.E and K.A.C.E were replaced by Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education( K.C.S.E). It is during this period that French as a language was popularized by the new education curriculum and strategy.
Formerly, the teaching of French as a foreign language was the fad of the urban centers. Schools in rural settings were encouraged to introduce French as a foreign language. The education policy was also revised to encourage the local universities to train more teachers of French. My study population and sample for this research on role play encompasses both rural and urban schools within the entire country.
To date we have about four hundred schools out of about 4,000 secondary schools within the country which offer French as a subject. The recent census of the students in Kenyan secondary schools learning French as a foreign language has conservatively been pegged at approximately 30,000. This is in the Kenyan Public secondary schools. About 2000 students study French as a foreign language in about 25 major international private schools in Kenya.
The nature of assessment of the French language be it a national examination like the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education or an international examination like International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), General Certificate of Education "A Level" (GCE- A Level) or International Baccalaureate (IB). The oral component is always tested. This is where role play either implicitly or explicitly comes into focus. Languages are best learnt within a simulated context. Role play always encompasses simulation and vice-versa.
2.2 THE KENYA ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF FRENCH(KATF)
The Kenya Association of Teachers of French(KATF) founded in the late 1960’s greatly contributed to the promotion of French in Kenya. They developed the KATF readers, they organized seminars and workshops for teachers on the teaching methodology. They organized quizzes, debates and essay writing competitions to motivate the Kenyan learners to develop some ardent love for French as a language.
The element of role play which is the focus of my study was still conspicuous in these activities. Since debates involve oral presentation of facts in a logical thought and flow to convince the opponent , this to a large extent is role play since the art of good public speaking which nurtures one to be a good public speaker is an aspect of role play though it is never expressly defined to be so. Recently the KATF in collaboration with the French Embassy in Kenya developed a website which contains all the vital information about French language teaching in Kenya.
The website contains all the institutions, the teachers, the lecturers and instructors in public and private institutions. (My name and my current position and my brief curriculum vitae are present in this website). The website is www.frenchinkenya.com
The importance and the genuine significance of French as foreign language have been realized in the recent developments when the greater Eastern African region has integrated into a larger economic bloc which encompass Rwanda and Burundi.
The two countries have a francophone background where French is the language of official and social communication amongst their populace. Kenya being part and parcel of this bigger trading bloc has to embrace certain inevitable aspects of the socio-cultural-politico-economic dynamics in order to assert its authority and relevance. French has now gained some interesting and invigorated impetus.
The current dynamics in the evolution and the development of French teaching in Kenya has taken an interesting dimension with the direct intervention and influence of the French Embassy in Kenya.
Apart from the traditional teaching where the learning experiences are organized by the teacher using the text book, tape recorder and some learning aids to facilitate the realization of the actual learning process, the French embassy has facilitated the learning of French to be in line in the light of the latest developments which have taken place in the communication technology across the universe.
2.3 REGIONAL FRENCH LANGUAGE CENTRES
The French Embassy has facilitated the development of about 20 regional teaching and documentary centers. Each centre has computers which are connected to the Internet. Television Screens with a DVD and VHS player and a satellite antenna with a decoder for the reception of French TV 5 international channel and Radio France International.
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THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE REGIONAL CENTRES ARE AS FOLLOWS
Figure 2: Regional French Language Centers set up by the French Embassy In Kenya Source : The author
The focus of my study goes quite in tandem with the latest investment in the teaching of French in Kenya sponsored by the French Embassy. Ideally when one watches the television images the ‘role play’ displayed on the television screens and the various television channels and signals are actually related to the genuine ‘realia’.
The pedagogical-cum-philosophical intention is to eventually motivate the learner to simulate the situations encountered so that the communication which the learner is expected to produce should be akin to what has been seen, read and heard via the screen or heard from the radio.
2.4 FRENCH LANGUAGE PRESENCE IN KENYA
Currently on local frequency modulation there is a direct feed from Radio France Internationale (RFI) being broadcasted twenty four hours in Nairobi and in Mombasa. Their Frequency Modulations are 88.9 and 105.5 respectively. To some extent the presence of French in our air waves much as it is present even if it is still not extensive in the other major towns and rural set ups , its presence is an attestation that Kenya as a country appreciates French as an international language.
The Kenyans who tune in to listen to communication in French acquire the linguistic skill both implicitly and explicitly. The oral component as an important aspect of language learning is clear and well underscored with the presence of RFI feed.
Other initiatives which have been launched using the mechanisms which are already in place like the National Drama Festival in Kenya, French plays have been encouraged and at times the slogans or themes that have been mooted to motivate the learning of French have always focused on the oral aspect of the French language. At one point the slogan which was developed made a direct reference that one has to speak French to prove that learning of the language is taking place. The slogan was “Oui, je parle français’’ (Oh yes! I speak French).