The geographical locations of foreign language French learners are as diverse as their needs. Consequently, teaching material in any French foreign language classroom should be revised on a regular basis. In 2012, a newly developed Creative Expression programme, which consists of a combination of African francophone music and creative writing activities, was presented to the second-year students at the French Department of the University of Pretoria, South Africa. The objective was to explore the potential of combining the use of music and creative writing in the hope that the new programme would enrich the current second-year course.
Factors that contributed to the development and organisation of the programme included: the progression in the international context with regard to the French language, accentuating the importance of francophone Africa with regard to the expansion and preservation of French; the widely recognised teaching approach in foreign language French teaching (FLE), being the Approche actionnelle; reevaluating the use of song and creative writing activities in the FLE classroom and lastly, the departmental needs at the University of Pretoria.
In this study, the researcher explains in detail how the Creative Expression programme was designed and also how a group of research participants experienced the classes. The following data sources and artefacts were collected: student interviews, journals and creative pieces of writing, the lecturer’s teaching diary and the teaching material of the programme. Qualitative methodologies were followed to analyse the artefacts and uncover themes that represent students’ experience of the programme. Student suggestions with regard to the programme were also incorporated in the analysis.
The findings of this study demonstrate that students experienced the Creative Expression programme as contributing to the following: social interaction; the imaginative use of the French language; the development of four principal language skills (speaking, reading, listening, writing); a heightened francophone cultural awareness and a better understanding of the content of their Grammar and Cultural Texts classes. The music also lowered the students’ anxiety levels, which made them more receptive to engage in the creative writing activities. This, in turn, developed their creative expressive capacities. It is concluded that it is in fact the combination of music and creative writing in FLE that brings forth and bridges the following two notions: “Creating a non-threatening environment” and “Learning to express affect”, which are two very topical areas in FLE pedagogy.