Now that I have your attention, let me give you some tips on how to increase the likelihood that your students will remember the genders of their words.
As language teachers, we know that genders are crucial to speaking and writing in a language, but their importance is mostly lost on language learners who find it weird that things have genders. Face it, genders make no sense at all! Who decided that a piano should be masculine, and a guitar be feminine, anyway?
So instead of wearing out your knees begging your students to memorize their genders or getting discouraged when you see all the mistakes that could have been avoided if only they had listened to you, try one or all of the following methods and witness gender understanding:
1. Weed out the rebels.
Instead of having them memorize the gender for each individual noun, have them first weed out all the rebel words that don’t follow the gender rules of your language.
For example: In French, 80% of noun endings indicate gender. Feminine nouns tend to end in an -e or -ion, except for words ending in -age, -é, or -isme, which are masculine, along with most of the other words that don’t conform to the -e and -ion rule.
If students know these rules, they can easily determine most of the genders. All they have to do is pay attention to those dreaded exceptions. That’s where method #2 comes in.
2. Use mnemonics for the exceptions.
Mnemonics is a technique that associates words with images, sounds or stories to help learners remember either the meaning or in this case, the gender of a word. For more details, take a look at my blog Teach Tricky Words with Mnemonics.
For example, take the French rebel word maison (house). By its ending, you would think it was a masculine word, but it’s not. It’s feminine. To help students remember this exception, you associate the word image of a house with something feminine and pink. Such as…
For masculine rebel words such as fromage (cheese) one only needs to associate it with something manly and blue. I know it’s stereotyping, but it’s for a good cause.
For neuter words or words that can be masculine or feminine, such as the word enfant (child), imagine the color yellow and
something neutral like a happy face.
3. Practice with Tactilingo’s Gender Sort Game.
Methods one and two work well to kick-start the learner’s short-term memory, but for long-lasting effects, students need to internalize the information by practicing and repeating.
Until I developed Tactilingo, I could find nothing on the internet that would…
a. Help my students practice the gender of their words as often as they needed nor
b. Give me a way of verifying whether they had studied their genders.
This is why I created the Gender Sort Game. It allows students to sort their words into three color-coded categories.
Once sorted, they can print off a PDF version of the completed game, which creates a color-coded study list of their vocabulary words.
The idea is that when they think of a particular word, they will come to associate feminine words with pink, neuter/feminine or masculine words with yellow, and masculine words with blue.
By equipping your students with these three language learning tools, you will not only increase student engagement and retention but most of all, you will see a drastic reduction in simple gender mistakes. I call that a win-win for everyone. Sign up today for a free 30-day trial at www.Tactilingoapp.com and create, not only Gender Sort Games but also Matching Games and Sentence Games using YOUR OWN VOCABULARY.
Monique Poirier has taught FSL and ESL for over 30+ wonderful years in classroom and homeschool settings, to elementary, middle, high school and adult students. Check her out on LinkedIn.