Started in 1995 and regularly improved over the past years, this website offers an on-line, searchable edition of the complete La Fontaine fables and, for some fables, English translations and audio files. The site includes a biography of the author and a timeline. The original Latin fables by Phedre will be added later.
To develop reading comprehension; improve knowledge of 17th century literature and civilisation; learn about an author who remains a major cultural reference among French-speaking peoples. The audio files provide material for phonetics and listening comprehension practice.
Target Student Population:
High school and college students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Intermediate and advanced levels.
Type of Material:
Reference. Text and audio files.
Intermediate and advanced grammar courses; phonetic, culture, and 17th century literature courses.
Media player for video clip in the Credits section.
Evaluation and Observation
This website is highly commendable for the quality of its text editing. All texts have been carefully proofread, making this edition as reliable for instructional use as a printed edition would be. Readers will enjoy the possibility of leafing through the twelve books of the fables faster and more efficiently than using a printed edition. The search engine will retrieve a specific title in a few seconds. Selected fables contain audio files, accessible by clicking on the illustration to the right of the fable text. The sound files increase the pedagogical value of the site, making it very useful for phonetics courses. The English translation will be useful to some users, while also easy to ignore for those who prefer a target language only approach.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
La Fontaine's fables are traditionnally part of the French curriculum, starting as early as elementary education in French-speaking countries, and as early as the second semester in FSL. Therefore there are plenty of applications already built into the curricula, from grammatical uses to cultural, stylistic and phonetic ones.
The clear focus of this site allow faculty to create effective learning assignments around it. Instructors can create their own comprehension and expansion questions on the individual fables for use by students. In culture or language courses the website will be a major resource for students preparing presentations or recitations. In classrooms equipped with a connection to the Internet instructors can project the website on the screen and assign two or three different tasks that will be performed at the same time by different teams of students.
One of the great lessons provided by this site is the very story of how a family was resourceful enough to collaborate on a web project that not only resulted in their learning,
but in a lasting resource for an international audience.Stereotypical portrayals of computer usage among young people as an isolated, dangerous activity are challenged by this project. Faculty can engage their students in a discussion on how the Internet can be used wisely and for the greater good. Articles and a video clip on the Famille Vidaud can be found in the credits section and can be used profitably in class.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This website is very easy to use. A simple, seamless design provides a table of contents in the left frame of the screen, while the selected fable appears in the center frame. A third frame on the right contains the search box and a series of links to other information or news. At the bottom of the center frame a link to a printable version of what appears on that screen (e.g. a fable) is offered to the reader.
On the Credits page, the ability to enlarge the Express and Liberation articles about La Famille Vidaud is a nice feature.
The search engine is easy to use. For the time being, it retrieves the fables whose titles contain a specific word. For example a search for "grenouille" will retrieve the fables that contain that word in their titles.
One of the video clips (from Canada) on the Credit page does not work due to an outdated link.
Other Issues and Comments:
It is worth noting that this website is the work of the Vidaud family, a father and his four children. The idea came from the children in 1995, and the whole family worked together in the website design under the father's supervision. This is now the third edition of this wonderful collaborative project, which reached an average of 500 hits per day last year. Hence the quotation on the homepage: "Mais le pere fut sage,
de leur montrer avant sa mort, que le travail est un tresor."