FAQ

Q – How much does BonPatron cost?

R – There are no fees required to use BonPatron. The tool is made available at no cost to the user. Feel free to use it as much as you like, whenever you like. There is also a Pro version available for a minimal charge that has a great many new features (see http://pro.bonpatron.co)

Q – How do I use BonPatron ?

R – Simply cut and paste your text into the editing window and hit the Check text button. Next, place your mouse on a highlighted error to receive instructions (these will appear on the right side of the screen). Read the instructions, make the necessary changes and resubmit your text).

BonPatron is inspired by a process-writing approach to learning. Site users should approach the writing task in stages. As such, we suggest you submit text, correct the errors, and then resubmit your work. This is important since BonPatron requires certain errors to be fixed before it will point out other ones. For example, if you write Il a reste, only the need for a past participle (resté) will be highlighted initially. Once this change is made, the error concerning auxiliary selection will be caught. It is through a series of interactions like this that one makes greatest progress and that BonPatron will be most successful at identifying errors. Recent research shows that learners make better progress when they are not overwhelmed by an excessive number of errors to correct.

Note that BonPatron will not catch 100% of errors (nor will the average teacher!). Our own research (and that of an independent review) suggests that BonPatron will catch approximately 82% of errors. It is a learning tool that is designed to improve texts, not make them flawless.

You can watch a video of how to use the Pro version of BonPatron here.

Q – Why does BonPatron use advertising?

R – BonPatron uses advertising to avoid charging user fees. We incur a good many expenses to make the site available (e.g. server costs, research costs, hardware costs, etc.). By using ads, we hope to keep the site "free for all". Note that there are no ads on the Pro site (http://pro.bonpatron.com).

Q – Why should I use BonPatron rather than MS Word’s grammar checker?

R – BonPatron has the following advantages:

  • It is free;
  • It targets errors made by second language learners of French;
  • It is available on line;
  • It follows a pedagogical approach that encourages learning;
  • It works with both PCs and Macs;
  • It is extremely easy to use.

Q – How are the rules created for error identification?

R – The majority of rules are created using errors found in texts previously submitted to BonPatron. For example, if we discover four occurrences of the same error (e.g.: « Nous avons eu un très bon temps », a literal translation of the English expression ‘We had a very good time’), a rule will be created to flag this English structure so that the appropriate French equivalent can be provided via corrective feedback. However, not all rules are created in this way. Some have been configured based on the creators and/or contributors’ intuitions, all of whom are bilingual, as well as using grammar rules that regularly cause problems (prepositions, pronouns, etc.) for English speakers.

Q – Is it possible to write a text in another program before submitting it in BonPatron?

R – Of course. You may choose to either type your text directly in BonPatron or use a word processor (e.g. Word, WordPerfect). If you type your text outside of BonPatron, simply copy and paste the information directly into the main window. Keep in mind that BonPatron does not save formatting like italics or bold, so these should be added AFTER using BonPatron.

Q – What are the advantages of the Pro site?

R – The main advantageous of the Pro version are:

1)    a large, resizable window for editing texts;
2)    no advertising;
3)    exercises for grammatical errors (related to errors from a student’s text!);
4)    no length restrictions on submissions;
5)    a writing portfolio for students (viewable by the student and the teacher);
6)    use of our English - French vocabulary tool and verb conjugator
7)    a detailed error summary
8)    free access to SpellCheckPlus Pro (a similar tool for English)

Q – What is the maximum number of words that can be submitted?

R – There is no maximum on the Pro site. The free site allows users to submit texts of approximately 500 words.

Q – What kind of pedagogical experiences do the BonPatron creators have?

R – Professors Nadasdi and Sinclair have extensive experience in the teaching of French as a second language, French linguistics and humanities computing. You may obtain information about the creators by visiting their respective Web sites :

Q – Is BonPatron designed for second language speakers of French only?

R – No! BonPatron was created primarily to assist both French as a second language speakers and Francophones living in a minority situation (in Alberta, in Ontario, etc.) with their French. That said, monolingual speakers of French should also find BonPatron useful since many of the errors in our database are also found in the written French of Francophones.

Q – Since BonPatron was created in Canada, does it use Canadian French?

R – When BonPatron scans submitted texts, it identifies forms and structures that diverge from standard written French, i.e., the language found in the dictionary. For example, with respect to verbs, BonPatron will suggest the use of the auxiliaries avoir and être as prescribed by French grammar. Colloquial language will generally be flagged as incorrect (e.g., the use of the pronoun que rather than dont). All corrective feedback is also written in Standard French.

Q – How often is BonPatron updated?

R – BonPatron improves on a daily basis! New errors are found and targeted every day.

Q – In the future, will a subscription to BonPatron be required?

R – No. We do think the modest cost of the Pro site merits a subscription (€1199 a year, or significantly less for a class of students), but the free version will always be availble.

Q – What kinds of errors are identified?

R – The errors identified fall into three categories :

  • misspelled words (e.g. "frommmage");
  • structures to be verified (e.g. "il a eu un bon temps" )
  • structures to be corrected (e.g., quand je vient)

Misspelled words could either be words spelled incorrectly or simply typing errors. In such a case, BonPatron will display a list of valid words from which to choose. Structures to be verified (flagged in yellow) are potential errors; the sequence of letters/words is usually ungrammatical, though acceptable in some contexts, e.g.: il ferra (this structure is possible for the verb ferrer, but not for the more frequent verb faire). With respect to structures requiring correction (flagged in red), they are clearly mistakes that need to be fixed.

Q – What types of errors are NOT identified?

R – It is important to keep in mind that errors are the result of a number of factors. Since BonPatron identifies errors based on pre-determined rules resulting from errors found in previous submissions, it cannot flag a one-time error. For a rule to be created, an error must have been made more than once and by more than one user. Also, BonPatron cannot evaluate the semantic acceptability of submitted texts. If a sentence comes across as bizarre and completely incomprehensible but the syntax (grammar) is fine, BonPatron will not suggest any corrections. Take the following sentence :

Les bananes mangent le gorille

Although very sophisticated, BonPatron is incapable of understanding what is written. As such, it will not flag anything in this sentence. However, if one writes, les bananeor les bananes mange, BonPatron will identify these grammatical errors.

Q – Does BonPatron correct errors automatically?

R – Not at all. The main objective of BonPatron is to assist users in correcting their own errors so that they learn from the process. Unlike other grammar checking software which correct mistakes without user involvement, BonPatron flags errors and suggests how to rectify the problem. In this way the user is responsible for making the necessary correction(s) and will likely learn from this involvement.

Q – Does BonPatron offer automatic translation functionality?

R – No. The primary goal of BonPatron is to assist users with their written French. It was designed for the purpose of learning French grammar.

Q – How can BonPatron be accessed?

R – BonPatron is available online 24/7 at www.bonpatron.com. Provided they have a computer and an Internet connection, any user can use BonPatron no matter if they’re in Japan, France, Argentina, Nova Scotia or Manitoba.

Q – Is there a stand alone version of BonPatron for personal computers?

R – Not at present, though we hope to make this available in the future.

Q – Is an advanced level of French required to be able to use BonPatron?

R – No. BonPatron has been designed for both the novice and the expert.

Q – Can BonPatron also check languages other than French?

R – No. BonPatron can only check texts that have been written in French. However, there are similar tools available for English (SpellCheckPlus.com) and Spanish (SpanishChecker.com).

Q – What if the grammatical explanations are too difficult to understand?

R – First and foremost, we recommend that all users benefit from the French interface in BonPatron. If the explanations are too difficult or if a beginner of French is too intimidated by instructions in French, simply choose English as the interface language from the pull-down menu (bottom right of the text submission box).

Q – Can BonPatron users suggest a new rule?

R – Yes, your comments are always welcome and appreciated! If you (or your students) are in the habit of making an error on a regular basis, we will happily create a new rule if at all possible.

Q – Is it possible to arrange to have BonPatron presented at a pedagogical conference?

R – It is our wish to promote BonPatron in all spheres related to the teaching of French. If you are in the process of organizing a colloquium, conference, meeting, etc., and would like to have BonPatron presented to your colleagues or friends, do not hesitate to contact us. Send us an e-mail at mail@bonpatron.com. We will respond to your request as quickly as possible.

Q – Are submitted texts saved on a server?

R – Yes. A message to this effect is displayed on the BonPatron homepage. Texts are submitted anonymously, provided the user has removed his or her personal information (name, course, university). Even if this information appears in the user’s text, we will not attempt to contact him/her. All texts submitted will be used for the exclusive purpose of academic research and improvement of the site.

Q – Is a text 100 % correct if no corrective feedback is provided?

R – No. It is entirely possible that a comment-free text contains errors. This happens if: a) the error does not occur in our database of texts; b) the grammar is acceptable, though incomprehensible; c) the error is extremely rare; d) the complexity of the error is greater than the sophistication of BonPatron! As a general principle, the greater the distance between elements involved in a rule, the less likely it is that the error will be flagged.

Q – What is the summary of errors at the bottom of the page?

R – The summary of errors is a categorized list of all errors found in the submitted text. Be it spelling mistakes, or agreement and conjugation problems, the errors will be placed into relevant categories so that the user may see what aspects of the French language are the most problematic.

Q – Can a submitted text be saved and corrected at a future time?

R – No. Simply re-submit the text and made those changes that may have previously been omitted.

Q – BonPatron has flagged a word as being misspelled when it is correct.

R – The dictionary used for identifying spelling errors is a database of current French words. If you have typed a word that has been flagged as incorrect but the word is in fact valid in French, please make a request via the contact link to have this word added to our database. We will then perform all the necessary research to determine the legitimacy of the word and, if need be, add it to the dictionary.