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Before starting to learn French construction and building vocabulary, it might also be interesting for your students to know a little about the different construction techniques used in France.
Construction techniques in France depend on the region, and also on the age of the building. Houses can be built of stone, brick, wood or even mud bricks.
Modern French houses tend to be built of brick, and covered with a render of either lime or cement. More and more eco houses are also now being built, using wood and glass.
Older houses can be built of stone, or of bricks made from a mixture of chopped straw and mud. Local builders would have made use of whatever materials they could find, including river sand or clay, so buildings styles vary across France.
In the south, for example, many old farm houses are half-timbered on their upper storey, a style called colombage. The more important buildings, such as châteaux, would have been built completely of stone to show off the wealth and taste of the owner. The more modest buildings, such as farmhouses, would be built of stone on the façade, and the other walls might be built of briques de terre, or mud bricks. The whole building would then be covered with lime render to give a unified look.
Roofs are usually made from tiles, either slate or terra cotta.
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Basic Building Terminology
To start with, we will look at some basic words. Students may already have come across some of this vocabulary.
To build – construire
Walls – les murs (m. pl.)
Ceiling – le plafond
Floor – le plancher
Roof tile – la tuile
Floor tile – le carreau
Foundations – les fondations (f. pl.)
Windows – les fenêtres (f. pl.)
Chimney – la cheminée
Activity – Building a House
To reinforce the students’ understanding of the above French construction vocabulary, split the class into two or more teams. Hand out a set of cards to each team, each card having one of the vocabulary words written on it. Students must put the cards in order of building the house, from the ground up.
For example, the FONDATIONS card is first, then MURS etc. The teams may not both come up with the same sequence, but should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary.
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Vehicle And Materials
Now we will look at more specific vocabulary.
Crane – la grue
Crane driver – le grutier/la grutière
Concrete mixer – la bétonneuse
Concrete – le béton
Cement – le ciment
Sand – le sable
Bricks – les briques (f. pl.)
Wood – le bois
Glass – le verre
Activity – Learning the Construction Vocabulary
The teacher chooses a word from the vocabulary list, and writes the appropriate number of spaces on the whiteboard. For example, for bétonneuse, the teacher would write 10 spaces : _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . The class then have to guess letters to fill in the spaces.
Instead of the hangman figure, the teacher draws the outline of a simple house (see example) for incorrect guesses, one feature at a time. If playing in teams, the team who build their house first are the losers.
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The final French construction vocabulary section looks at tools.
Toolbox – la boîte à outils
Wrench – la clé
Sandpaper – le papier de verre
Tape measure – le metre à ruban
Hammer – le marteau
Saw – la scie
Chisel – le ciseau
Screw – la vis
Screwdriver – le tournevis
Trowel – la truelle
Activity – Learning The Tool Vocabulary
Divide the class into two groups. Give each member of the first group a card with one of the vocabulary words written on it.
Then give each member of the second group a card with a description written on, for example Un outil pour frapper des clous, Quelquechose pour mesurer.
The students should then move round the room until they find their "partner," or the person who has the word corresponding to the description. Swap the cards around amongst the group after each round is completed.
For younger age groups, prepare picture cards instead of cards with descriptions.
Future Lesson Ideas
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Houses images - own collection
Concrete Mixer Image Courtesy of: Wikimedia.com / GNU Free Documentation License / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License / by: Indolences
Crane Image Courtesy of: Wikimedia.com / GNU Free Documentation License / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License / by: Thue
Toolbox Image Courtesy of: Wikimedia.com / GNU Free Documentation License / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License / by: Erik Strandberg
Hammer Image Courtesy of: Wikimedia.com / GNU Free Documentation License / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License / by: Hedwig Storch