- Francofone [app], version 1.0.1 (updated Feb. 12, 2016) by André Bougaïeff, Donna Mydlarski, and Dana Paramskas
Francofone is an app for French as a Second/Foreign Language (FSL/ FFL) learners at the advanced-beginners to advanced levels (ages 10 to adult) intended to improve the learners' French and to increase their knowledge of the cultures of La Francophonie. It is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The app contains three main sections: "vocabulaire," "langue," and "culture."
"Vocabulaire" comprises 16 sub-topics on common themes (e.g., animals, food, expressions) for a total of nearly 600 lexical items presented in a flashcard-like format. Every sub-topic contains the "audio → texte" exercise, while most also have "texte → image" and "texte → texte." Exercises typically consists of 15 to 25 questions. "Audio → texte" is a spoken to written form multiple-choice matching activity where users click a button to hear a lexical item and then select the corresponding written form from among six choices. A red X signals a wrong selection, while a green check mark and the English translation is displayed for a correct selection. After a wrong choice, the user can access a picture or French definition hint. The "texte → image" exercise works similarly, except that learners see a written form (audio optional) and choose the corresponding picture. "Texte → texte" has a French definition as the prompt and six lexical items as answer choices.
The second section, "langue," contains six short literary texts and one section on proverbs. All seven subsections feature the "verbes–identifier" and the "verbes–lacunes" exercises; most also have the "lacunes" and the "casse-tête de phrases" exercises. Each exercise contains 3 to 19 individual questions for a total of about 200 questions. In "verbes–identifier," a French written sentence is presented (audio optional) and the learner touches the verb(s) within that sentence. A red X signals an incorrect or incomplete selection, while the green check mark indicates success and the ability to move on. The "verbes–lacunes"/"lacunes" exercises are cloze tasks in which the same text is offered in written form but with the verbs/other items represented as blanks that need to be typed in. Learners can click a button to hear the complete sentence. Letters typed in by the learner appear in red and turn to green once the correct answer is typed out. There are no help options, and the learner can advance to the next question only when (if) they arrive at the correct response. "Casse-tête de phrases" gives the [End Page 256] learner a sentence chopped up into several pieces. Listening to the audio of the sentence, the learner can move the pieces into the correct order.
The third section, "culture," consists of three subsections containing about 300 multiple-choice matching exercises covering isolated tidbits of knowledge of francophone countries and personas.
In terms of learning French, the app provides basic multiple-choice exercises that might help in advancing a learner's French proficiency. However, many improvements grounded in second language acquisition (SLA) research could be made. For example, the "vocabulaire" section lacks a placement test, record-keeping, and spaced repetition of items. Also, learners would benefit from having overview sections alongside the exercises to familiarize themselves with the language or cultural facts to be studied. In addition, in the "langue" section, information on the meaning of the sentences is lacking, so as an advanced-beginner learner I could complete the exercises without (fully) comprehending the meaning of the sentences–and completing the exercises did not improve my comprehension.
Regarding navigational features, Francofone does not exploit today's technological capabilities, satisfy the expectations of paying app users, or meet the bar of free language learning apps like Duolingo (www.duolingo.com) or Quizlet (quizlet.com). In none of the...