Vanier Avery Rueb recognized by OQLF

Vanier Avery Rueb recognized by OQLF
Photo by: Métro Média/Isabelle BergeronAvery Rueb, enseignant de français langue seconde, a reçu un prix de la part de l'Office québécois de la langue française pour avoir développé un jeux vidéo éducatif.

Teacher Avery Rueb knows what it’s like to learn French as a second language as a young adult — he’s been there himself. The American-born French-as-a-second-language teacher at Vanier College received an award from Office québécois de la langue française for his computer game Prêt à négocier that improves students’ oral French skills.

Rueb has taught English and French as a second language in several countries, and over time he noticed one common thread in his students’ struggles. « One of the things I’ve always had a problem with is getting my students to learn how to talk to one and another and talk to native speakers. »

He had an epiphany while taking a business negotiation class. « A negotiation was really a conversation, a complex conversation but one that could be used in a classroom. We have a buyer and a seller, and we have to talk about the item and then agree on a price, » he explains.

Prêt à négocier, the browser-based game that Rueb has developed over the past four years with Verdun-based Affordance Studios, was born. The game is marketed toward high schools and cegeps and also has an English version, Ready to Negotiate.

One more tool
The game is « another tool in the toolbox » for language teachers as Rueb describes, using it in his own classroom to complement more traditional writing and grammar exercises and web-based tools. Students split into pairs and negotiate over a predetermined item, which can be a pizza or a pirate ship. They first have to determine what the other player is offering and then settle on a price.

The goal is to get a better deal and win points based on the prices they’ve negotiated and for teachers to get students talking.

Many of Rueb’s students are taking pre-credit course after past struggles with school French, and some are immigrants learning two languages at once.

« We’ve all had foreign language anxiety before, the feeling that someone’s judging you, that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never be as good as a native speaker. Our students want to meet French [speakers] and use French in daily life, but a lot of them don’t have the confidence for it. If there’s a gamified approach and you’re trying to win, you tend to forget that maybe your pronunciation isn’t perfect. »

Rueb responded to the OQLF’s call for applications with no expectations and was very surprised to win at the Gala des mérites du français. « It was great just to go to the gala and meet other people who are working to promote the French language, a language that I love and that brought me to Montreal, » he says.

The Vanier teacher learned French in his 20s after watching a Brigitte Bardot film in a university film class and becoming fascinated with the language. He later moved to France and lived there for several years before settling in Montreal.

« I remember what it was like knowing what I needed to say and not getting the words out, » Rueb remembers.

Helping these students become functionally bilingual is really important to him as a non-native speaker. Learning a language is hard, but he says it can be fun at the same time.

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