samedi 6 novembre 2010

New technology but...

REFLEXARIUM 'French Gender' is an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad application presented as a "personal French tutor" to help learners to memorize the gender of 1300 French nouns. The idea, concept and realization of this app are good but the content is still THE SAME GOOD OLD CRAP about gender. The all issue is again reduced to a mere list of endings!

In this app, words are arranged by endings, the usual (wrong) way to present the problem. One of the examples in the Youtube demo is the group of nouns with ending –a.

The app tells you that “normally, the gender for nouns ending with –A would be male” which is absolutely correct, though it does not tell you why. In the quiz to help you memorize the gender of these -A ending words, you will be ask to guess their gender at random. Every time you run into a feminine noun, you will be told that “this noun is an exception and is female.”

You are supposed to repeat the quizz again and again until you remember the gender of all the nouns from the list without knowing why and how. Why some -A ending nouns are male and some other female? You will never find out. Is it going to help you find the gender of nouns outside the pre-installed list? The answer is no. Just learn stupidement like a parrot !!!!

Here are some of the words from the app:


GHEISHA (the correct spelling is actually GEISHA) and COBRA are repeated twice.

CODA ? I did not know the meaning of that word before I looked into the dictionary. How usefull! Anyway, here is not the issue.

In this application, what are the options?

Choice : masculine VS feminine

Answers : correct VS wrong

Explanations: follows the rule VS exceptions to the rule

This is where all the ENDING PATTERN METHODS fail. They don't provide any reasonable explanation. They are very poor in term of content and feedback given to learners.

Now, see how a CATEGORY BASED METHOD would deal with the same list of words.

Judge for yourself

If we arrange those exact same words into categories following the cause of the gender attribution, we will understand why some are male when some are female. This will help us find the gender of words outside that list.

Category 1.

Unmarked nouns are male (nouns not marked with a final –e), thus nouns ending in –A are male: un EXTRA, le CHOLERA, un SCHEMA, un DELTA, un AGENDA, du MAGMA, un BOA, un COBRA. We can call them regular. Here are included nouns zith suffix –IA used to name flower plants such as un CAMELIA

Category 2.

Loanwords from other romance languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or even Latin) which are still bearing their original feminine marker –A, remain female in French: une SAMBA, une PIZZA, une CAMERA(Latin), une CORRIDA, une SALSA, une ARMADA, une VERANDA, une CODA (One exception though, OPERA, female in Italian, but male in French) Most of these nouns have strong Mediterranean and South-American cultural/political/social connotations.

Category 3.

Natural gender bearing nouns: GEISHA is feminine (une geisha) due to its meaning not to its ending. Referring to a woman, the noun GEISHA is naturally feminine. For the same reason, YAKUSA is male.

Knowing these 3 categories 1) regular (including botanical suff. -ia) 2) romance loanwords 3) natural gender, it is possible to guess the gender of other nouns ending in -a:

Time for practice...

yoga - acacia - Canada - diva - coma - corrida - cinéma - mafia - gardénia - maharaja - salsa - tata - panda - papa - villa - dahlia - fiesta - magnolia - eczéma - cafétéria - pacha - chipolata - guérilla - lama - nana - Panama - favela - karma - pizzéria - pétunia - pasta - zona

Choose a category for each noun and give the corresponding gender:

1. Regular masculine nouns :....................................................

Including suffix -ia (name of plants) :..............................................

2. Natural gender:



3. Romance loanwords:.....................................................................

The answer will be given in the next post.

MAUVAIS GENRE the website

1 commentaire:

  1. Hello,

    I'm the author of this app; I only just found this posting, so forgive me for the delay.

    Regarding the misspelling and two cases of repetition, these have been fixed some time ago,

    There are several approaches I could have taken with this app; I happened to focus on noun endings; you suggest categories - both are valid. My approach is documented fully in the description so I don't have a sense of misleading anyone.

    Here is the benefit of the training: you discover the usual gender of a given word termination - plus all of the exceptions; note *all* of the exceptions; since the app has been published I've received several emails from sharp eyed customers who have suggested additional exceptional words, which I've added. Although the app has continued to be as popular as ever, I haven't had such feedback in awhile, which tells me that the list is fairly complete.

    Determining gender is difficult, especially for those who comes from a language without it; as such, I figure any tool will be useful - that a given tool is not entirely sufficient doesn't detract from this value.

    This app gives you a valuable tool and - if you practice with it - you can develop a very useful reflex.

    If anyone wishes to try it out for themselves, for free, I have several promo codes to give away.

    Best Regards,