Do you currently use French Extra in your courses? If not, you may be really missing out! I like to use the show with my second year students and I find that despite being a little bit dated, it does hold their interest.
The basics of the French Extra series
The series has four main characters – Sam, Sacha, Annie and Nico. Sam is American, and he was Sacha’s pen-pal back in the day. In the first episode, Sacha receives a letter from him asking if she remembers him – and if he can sleep at her place on his upcoming trip to France. Oh, and he’s arriving TODAY. We meet Sam and find out that he has a secret – he’s rich. Very, very rich. Nico finds out the secret in the very first episode, but the girls don’t know until much later.
As the episodes progress, Sam improves his French ability. In the first episode, he makes quite a few errors. But as the season moves on, he becomes comfortable enough to get a job and stay permanently in France. Each episode has the group facing a different situation, usually goofy. It’s a cheesy sendoff of Friends, complete with the brightly-decorated apartment.
Why students like French Extra
Even though the show isn’t high-quality acting, my students are generally receptive to it. They enjoy watching a show that is entirely in French, but that they can understand and be entertained by. It’s a challenge for them, but one that is completely doable.
Towards the end of the year – after we’ve watched at least 8 or so episodes – I will share the German and Spanish versions with them. We watch just a couple of minutes in each language, but it blows their minds every time to see that the same actor plays the role of Sam in all three languages! And his English is impeccable, even though the actor himself is Dutch.
Why teachers like French Extra
Well, it’s pretty obvious – it is a beneficial use of time and it doesn’t require any prep on our parts! The videos are easily available on YouTube, both with and without French subtitles. The series is made specifically for language-learners, so we don’t have to search for resources at an appropriate level. And while there are a few risqué references, it’s really not offensive or overtly sexual. Unless you teach in the most conservative area or have immature students, it’s perfectly good for high school students.
If you want to extend your use of French Extra, you can have students do activities to keep them on task. I have a full set of activities that I use with my students – from pre-viewing vocabulary guides to post-viewing comprehension questions, it does keep them watching a little more attentively than they might otherwise. To switch it up, I also have a set of unfair games that I use – we alternate between worksheets for one episode, and games for the next. I do allow them to watch the first episode without a worksheet so they can focus on the video instead of the paper.
The downside of the show
There is only one real downside to the French Extra series – it ends on a cliffhanger and you never find out how it resolves! Sadly, the BBC only did 13 episodes of the French, German and Spanish series. They did an additional 13 episodes of the ESL version, but the actors in that series are completely different. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I won’t mention how the series ends. I’ll just say that my students get VERY upset that the issue never gets resolved.