When you study languages in school, a popular method is through “thematic units.” With this method, we pick a theme, and then study vocabulary and culture that fit within the theme.

This can be particularly challenging at the intermediate levels, where students have the basic skills, but need to build their vocabulary.

Using the app “7 Jours” can build on existing skills, improve vocabulary skills, and keep students “au courant” while having fun. Both vocabulary and listening skills are emphasized by using short news stories.

Depending on your preference, you can begin by simply watching and listening to the news story. You can read along with it to assist with comprehension. Throughout the news item are vocabulary words that are not commonly taught, or perhaps peculiar to the subject associated with the news item.  These words are highlighted in the script. Sometimes it’s easier to guess the meaning of a new word if you can see it as well as hear it in context.

There is also a complete list of vocabulary associated with the news item. Frequently, new words are taught first, and then presented in context so that students can appreciate their use once they have learned their meanings.

While this is a great method for introducing new vocabulary, it does presume that students are already familiar with a great deal of more general vocabulary, as well as syntax and grammar used in the news items. This is why I suggest that this be used with intermediate (or advanced) language learners.

7 Jours offers 3 new items each week, and each item is divided for your learning into categories and themes.  Every vocabulary word includes authentic pronunciation, the English translation, and an example of its use based on the context it was taken from.

The clips are short, and the narratives are clear. They are well chosen, and should keep almost anyone’s attention. Whether you are looking to improve your own French, or help a student of your own, 7 Jours is a great tool. The “7 jours sur la planète” application is the ideal partner to the interactive exercises that TV5MONDE provides free of charge to all French learners at http://www.tv5monde.com/7jours.

One of the more unique features of this app is the multiplayer mode on the vocabulary game where you are head to head with an opponent to properly spell out the French word when given the English definition. The game even ties into Apple’s Game Center. There are a number of types of games included to assist in making language learning enjoyable.

While this app definitely looks better on the iPad, it is a universal binary and will work on iPhone and iPod Touch as well.

You can find it in iTunes, and purchase for $4.99.