François Thibaut

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Francois Thibaut is a self-taught language researcher and educator who has developed successful French language teaching methods for children and adults. He has created Cercle Franco Americain, The French Workshop for Children, The Language Workshop For Children, and the French Language Salon.

Thibaut has proved that students of different ages (toddlers, children, adults) require a different approach to language learning. For toddlers and children, language immersion in a structured play group on a regular basis triggers the process of learning. Adults learn best by focusing on conversations that integrate conjugation and grammar into the conversation, as well as the value of French culture, its sociability, and its sense of hospitality.

This led to the creation of language education materials, including original songs, games, books, and the “Professor Toto” video series.

In 2019, the French Ministère de l’Education Nationale honored Thibaut with the Chevalier de l’ Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) for his contribution to French language and culture. The Palmes Académiques is a national order bestowed by the French government to distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education, and to educators who have contributed to the expansion of the French language and culture in the world.


Detailed Bio[edit]

François Thibaut is a researcher and French language teacher for children and adults. Thibaut has always been fascinated by how people speaking different languages interact with one another.

At the age of 6, Francois was enrolled in an international boarding school where most of his classmates had different citizenships. Dozens of citizenships, in fact.

Thibaut noticed that each time a new student arrived at the boarding school, their French language integration process followed a certain pattern. For the first few months, the student listened passively. Then they began to speak French spontaneously. Their spoken French continued to improve as time went on, thanks to formal instruction in the classroom combined with conversational practice with friends at the boarding school.

Thibaut made an additional observation that shaped his later career: The younger the foreign students were when they arrived at the boarding school, the easier it was for them to learn French. Their passive listening phase was shorter, and they began speaking French spontaneously much sooner.

Later, Thibaut enrolled in college at the Sorbonne in Paris with the intention of becoming an English language teacher. Then he was awarded a language teaching internship in the United States. His arrival in New York City was a life-changing experience!

When Thibaut arrived there in 1972, he was 23 years old. He was excited to start teaching French to adults, but no matter how much effort he put into teaching and no matter how involved the students were, they could not lose their native accents.

This was a completely different situation from the one that Thibaut remembered from the French boarding school, where young children quickly began to speak French with a perfect accent.

He decided to create a French teaching method for young children only, which he designed especially for the ones who could not speak their own language yet. He pioneered the first French language immersion program for babies and toddlers in New York (The French Language Workshop). At the time, no other school offered language classes for children under the age of 6, although the ages between 3 and 6 are now acknowledged as the “windows of opportunity” for language learning. A few years later, The French Language Workshop became The Language Workshop For Children.

Thibaut also conducted extensive research in neurolinguistics based on Eric Lenneberg’s work (Biological Foundations of Language – 1967). He determined that it was possible for a child to start learning a foreign language even before beginning to speak their own native language. At the time, this theory was generally viewed as silly.

Thibaut first opened the French Language Workshop, teaching only French. A few years later, it became The Language Workshop For Children, where other languages such as Spanish and Italian were taught by native speakers trained in the “Thibaut Technique".

For more than ten years, Thibaut closely observed his students’ progress.

He noticed that subtle details related to the way he engaged children emotionally had a significant impact on their ability to learn French. In addition to a formal teaching method, he captivated the children’s attention by creating satisfying emotions while immersing them in the language.

Action games, songs, arts and crafts, “mommy and me” interactions and visual aids were used to practice the French grammatical features and perceive the language through music and visual cues. The talents of Illustrators, musicians, dancers were also used to help the children learn French.

Throughout the years, Thibaut proved that language immersion in a structured play group on a regular basis triggered the process that he had first observed at the French boarding school. At first, the student listened passively. Then they listened intently, interacted, and finally began to speak French.

He became convinced that students of different ages (toddlers, children, adults) required a different approach to language learning. He tested his methods in his own school, teaching young students who became fluent in French at a time when public schools did not emphasize language education.

The Language Workshop for Children also produced many language education materials, created its original songs, worked with illustrators and freelance artists for producing games, books, and a video series including the animation program “Professor Toto”.

The Professor Toto animation program has received many awards, including the National Parenting Publications (2004), Parent’s Choice (1998), Family Choice (2005) and iParenting Media.

After finalizing his method of teaching the French language to children, Thibaut decided to resume teaching French to adults. He opened The French Language Salon, focusing on conversational French, the value of French culture, its sociability, and its sense of hospitality.

Again, he created an original teaching method for adults that integrates conjugation and grammar into the conversation, starting at the beginner level.

Today, Thibaut is recognized as a pioneer of modern early language education. Since Thibaut first began to experiment with language learning, research in neurolinguistics has shown that language acquisition starts as early as the beginning of life, and even before birth.

By giving the gift of early language acquisition to thousands of children, Thibaut allowed them to benefit from excellent pronunciation and to master the basics of the language features, which are both a great advantage when continuing their language education.

Whether we are speaking about children or adults, Francois Thibaut aims to sow seeds of love for language in his students’ hearts that will flourish and will be sown again in the future.

An impressive number of children who attended the Language Workshop for Children Summer camps have continued their education at The Lycee Français. But what brings Thibaut the most joy is when a young guy in his 30s shows up at the school out of nowhere, asking “Hi Mr. Thibaut, my name is Tristan. Do you remember me?”

Ordre des Palmes Academiques[edit]

In 2019, the French Ministère de l’Education Nationale honored Thibaut with the Chevalier de l’ Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) for his contribution to French language and culture. The Palmes Académiques is a national order bestowed by the French government to distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education, and to educators who have contributed to the expansion of the French language and culture in the world.


The Language Workshop for Children[edit]

Since 1973, Thibaut's internationally recognized Language Workshop for Children has offered stimulating language lessons for babies, toddlers and elementary grades. Original music, vocabulary-building songs, language immersion, festive visual aids, action games and native-fluent language teachers are why the LWFC is the country's leader in children's language educational play. As Thibaut says, “Children remember the words that make them happy”.

The French Language Salon[edit]

In 2011, Thibaut drew on his successful technique with children by offering friendly, situationally relevant classes through his French Language Salon® classes for adults. Thibaut's new adult method immediately integrates grammar and conversation, rather than teaching them as separate disciplines. Thibaut's former child students often attend his adult classes to practice French for social and professional purposes. Thibaut also designed a test preparation program for students of varying levels who are working to pass exams focused on French as a second language and comply with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Thibaut specializes in different types of test preparation that merge his original French teaching style with patterns that correlate to the specific exam (SAT, AP French, DELF/DALF, and Canadian TEF). He combines his French education experience with an understanding of the exams and their requirements, inspired by the “life-hack” movement and applied to a more academic and professional sphere.

Technology[edit]

Thibaut expanded his outreach platforms beyond the classroom by producing his Professor Toto Language Education Series for children, available in original CD/DVD and downloadable formats through Amazon.com, as well as providing language lessons and test prep services via Skype.

Further reading[edit]

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