A Toolbox for all Language Educators
A Toolbox for all Language Educators

La leçon and the pleasure of reading plays for beginners


While I’ve always loved introducing a few choice poems to my 101 and 102 students, I’ve been relying more and more heavily on video content. Sara Kippur’s recent article in the PMLA journal provided an excellent reminder to incorporate French literature in language classes, even at the beginner level. Kippur’s article primarily analyzes Alain Robbe-Grillet’s contribution to FLE with the French manual, Le Rendez-vous (1981) while also touching on Eugène Ionesco’s contribution to a 1969 French language manual called Mise en train: Première année de français. “Mise en train centers on twenty dialogues all originally penned by Ionesco for the textbook, that self-reflexively parody the experience of language learning and, in recognizable Ionescoian fashion, foster an acute appreciation for the absurd” (496). It is not just this work which is suitable for students, however. Other works by Ionesco, La leçon for example, are also perfect for learners of French. 

With very little help, 101 students can both comprehend the dialogue and grasp the humor in a passage like the following, which starts on page 36. The conversation takes place between an 18 year old student and her private tutor. 

Le professeur: Quatre moins trois font… Combien?… Combien?

L’élève: Quatre?

Le professeur: Non, mademoiselle, ce n’est pas ça.

Here’s a pdf with one particularly funny scene, but there are many more to be found in this short, readily available book. This scene can even be divided into smaller sections and acted out by students. Don’t forget to test students’ comprehension by asking them to describe what takes place. 


Works cited:

Kippur, Sara. “Robbe-Grillet in America: The Nouveau Roman Meets the Language Textbook.”  PMLA, Vol. 135, No. 3, May 2020, pp 492-510.

Ionesco, Eugène. La leçon. Gallimard, 1954. 

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