How did I get to the top one percentile on online teaching platforms?
As a complement to the local classes I’ve created, I teach French online through one-on-one Skype lessons. Let me show you how I ranked among the best teachers on sites like italki with its 2 million language learners.
Perfect pronunciation thanks to the articulatory approach
There’s a well-known injustice about the way you sound when speaking French: if you make mistakes, but with a great pronunciation, you’ll inevitably hear compliments about the quality of your French. Conversely, perfect grammar and advanced vocabulary with a strong foreign accent always lead to the same “maybe you should study a bit more” hurtful comments.
This might feel quite unfair, since pronunciation is particularly difficult to learn by oneself. Also, many teachers are not equipped to teach it and at best they try some “listen & repeat” with the results we know. Taking an articulatory approach is like taking the time to see which strings to pluck to get the right melody. How to round the lips and curve the tongue, how to use the nose and the throat, and how this all combine to create the correct pronunciation.
I give the students all they need to be able to practice between the courses, because they’ll know how to form the sounds. Working to get a mouth shape or a tongue position right is much easier than trying to reproduce an unfamiliar sound.
Experimenting makes you more confident and creative when you speak French
I never let seemingly small things, like grammar issues, pass unnoticed. In fact, it starts getting really interesting when an error is made! It means that the student still needs to discover something or to practice it some more. I don’t give the answer after signalling a mistake, because I want the student to be able to fix it by himself. If he can’t, I know precisely what we need to work on, and we start working on it right now. In some rare cases, the answer is far from the student’s current reach, and then I’ll just help him rebuild his sentence in an alternative way.
By doing so, it’s made clear that experimenting is not only allowed but also a great way to make progress. This takes out all the usual fear of making mistakes that comes from the classic tests and drills, and gives a lot more self-confidence when speaking.
The discoveries you make by yourself during a class are not rules learned by heart that you have to try to apply later. Once you’ve discovered the way something works, it’s yours forever. You can use it again and you can even extend it to other areas by experimenting again.
Teaching is definitely a science
I majored in cognitive psychology, and I’ve taught French as a Foreign Language in France, United Kingdom, Argentina and Brazil. But when I learned most about pedagogy was during my Silent Way training, both in Paris and London. It’s a year long program with a strong focus on teaching pronunciation, but also a variety of skills usually omitted in teacher training. Silent Way digs very deep into the mechanisms of how we learn, so that we can understand how we should teach. Sometimes, it challenged some notions so hard that I had to re-examine all my beliefs on education under a complete different angle. No wonder it is so efficient!
What students say about Cedric:
This audio message was left by Liat after three months of intensive courses with me. It was first intended as a personal Whatsapp message to give some feedback, but then she gave permission to have it published so other teachers or students could listen to it as well. It might not sound as professional as a testimonial video that would have been recorded on purpose, but it’s genuine:
These external reviews are unedited and they can all be read where the students left them on the italki feedback page:
We worked a lot with prepositions of place and correcting my pronunciation as issues came up. When I make errors, Cedric allows some time for me to try to figure out on my own what I did wrong - which is incredibly helpful for really understanding the material and internalizing the grammar.Source: Friday, Nov 20 10:00 - 11:00 (Session ID: 2317169517)
Cedric is extremely knowledgeable and has a fantastic ear, he won't let me compromise or be lazy on the right pronunciation and it is making me understand the subtle differences in sound - it is extremely valuable! He is very patient and his coaching is excellent. Looking forward to getting better under Cedric's careful guidance.Source: Monday, Jun 06 15:00 - 16:00 (Session ID: 7512198157)
Great lesson! He focused on pronunciation, mostly, which is the hardest part for an independent learner like me. We went over vowel sounds in French, and since it was a trial lesson he explained his teaching style, which is that grammar and vocab can mostly be done independently, while the lessons are reserved for speaking practice.Source: Monday, May 18 14:00 - 14:30 (Session ID: 2148962026)
Continued work on improving my ability to express myself in French and improving my pronunciation. I find it extremely helpful during the lessons when we focus on and go further in depth on specific grammatical structures. I can learn the rules, but if I don't get the chance to incorporate them into conversations and repeat them, they can often be forgotten. Cedric is great at pinpointing and facilitating these little reviews within the greater lesson.Source: Tuesday, May 10 08:00 - 09:00 (Session ID: 7189117347)
We started the lesson a bit late, in my fault and Cedric was nice enough to do it fully 🙂 We practiced pronunciation, and talked future lessons plans - I recommend him greatly, he's very serious and nice as well 🙂Source: Friday, Oct 16 10:00 - 11:00 (Session ID: 5604142807)
Very good session, moreover, we spent some time talking about the goals and methods before the session. As always, Cedric is informative and patient with me, providing me links, videos, pictures, etc. I'd love to study and improve my French skills with him.Source: Friday, Nov 13 12:00 - 13:00 (Session ID: 9176127917)
Today Cedric had me fit French words to the sounds that I've learned, matching them to the chart and breaking them down. I definitely feel like my pronunciation is getting much stronger.Source: Thursday, Oct 29 18:00 - 19:00 (Session ID: 3836167707)
Cedric had me compose more sentences with multiple characters, in both present and past tenses. I'm slowly gaining confidence in understanding the rules and nuances of these forms, and it's pretty neat that I can create these little stories in French! Cedric is patient as always, and explores each variation as it comes up.Source: Wednesday, Dec 09 16:00 - 17:00 (Session ID: 5729197717)
Nous avons discuté le negacion et mes devoirs. J'ai comprends les phrasse "ne...que" et "ni...ni". Après-la nous avons refait quelque exercices sur le prononciation. C'était bien.Source: Thursday, Nov 12 18:00 - 19:00 (Session ID: 9173111717)
Good session! We went over pronoun use in the present and past tense. After general conversation practice, Cedric had me work through some examples and then figure out the rule on my own - which I like because I think I understand the grammar better that way.Source: Monday, Jul 27 14:00 - 15:00 (Session ID: 9589787626)
Source: Thursday, jul 14 13:00 - 14:00 (Session ID: 3605128667)
We are fine-tuning my ear - being able to discern which vowel is being used in the word, and beginning to connect it with spelling. Also we described a previous scene in a slightly different way. I can tell that the verb tense has changed, but being asked to speak it before I read it will probably make it stick better if I look at a conjugation table someday. It's nice to be exposed to these words more organically though, in context - it's not at all how I learned in school (which didn't help me learn Spanish, so I'm hopeful this new method can help me to unlock languages.)Source: Friday, Oct 23 21:00 - 22:00 (Session ID: 5802110207)
Cedric is definitely an unique teacher. He finds interesting and not ordinary ways to teach. This lesson we examined an interesting photo by using new vocabulary and sharpening the existing vocabulary. I absolutely recommend lui 😉Source: Tuesday, Oct 20 15:00 - 16:00 (Session ID: 8753135807)
Very conscientious and encouraging teacher. Cedric spoke with me all in French, at a level/pace that was perfect; and encouraged me to make up sentences even if I was not sure. I was particularly happy that he corrected all my mistakes from the messages, during the lesson, and explained clearly.Source: Friday, May 15 14:00 - 15:00 (Session ID: 4628493516)
Cédric est trés professionnel. Il a beaucoup des exercises (et ressources en ligne) qui on peut utiliser pour apprender le français. En particulier, nous avons discuté sur une question qui j'ai posé et aprés ça, il m'a dit -- et il m'a montré -- comment on doit prononcer certaines voyelles. Ça m'aide, je l'ai trouvé trés bien et interesant.Source: Wednesday, Nov 04 18:00 - 19:00 (Session ID: 9085174917)
We had lots of conversation today, which was what I needed. I find that I'm able to use some complicated constructions correctly without thinking, which makes it a lot more fun to express myself. Cédric was awesome, as usual - almost surgically helping me refine my speaking. He matches his corrections very subtly with my needs, stopping me less and less as I come to need less help.Source: Wednesday, Sep 02 14:00 - 15:30 (Session ID: 1119681636)
Had a great trial session - we are starting with pronunciation so I can become acquainted with the sounds of the French language. I appreciate his kindness and patience. I can also tell that he will not let me get away with inaccurate pronunciation. 🙂 Merci!Source: Friday, Oct 02 20:00 - 20:30 (Session ID: 7436176507)
Today Cédric started teaching me how to use pronouns in French - it's quite tricky and exacting. We learned it using conversation, which made it really fun. His method of teaching - the Silent Way - is so cool. I feel extremely lucky to have found him. What a great teacher!Source: Wednesday, May 27 14:00 - 15:30 (Session ID: 2278394726)
We've almost completed our delightful journey through the vowel sounds. I'm alternately on the verge of despair and full of hope. For the first time I'm appreciating what a physical feat it is to make authentic French sounds, and wondering how I could have sat in French classes for so many years and not had this essential training. Cedric's interactive, color-coded method is, IMHO, creative, fun, and effective, and his ear (alas) is flawless - I get away with nothing!Source: Wednesday, Nov 04 17:00 - 18:00 (Session ID: 2038196717)
Nous continuons nos travaux sur les sons du français. Cédric est très professionnel et souligne l’importance d’acquérir la capacité de les produire soi-même, y compris apprendre utiliser correctement les lèvres, la langue et même la gorge. Donc je suis souvent dehors ma zone de confort et je même ressens une légère douleur musculaire dans le visage! Mais j’absolument en apprends beaucoup.Source: Wednesday, Nov 11 14:30 - 15:30 (Session ID: 6188148717)