French teacher

On Friday, when I locked my classroom door, I completed 26 years of teaching French in Chappaqua, New York. Although Spanish is still more popular (and I teach that as well), we have a large group of French students who begin at age 10. Most of them continue their studies through high school and beyond.I am passionate about all things French. I am American, but was educated at the Lycée Français. I have lived and studied in France and Switzerland.What interests me most on this page is your effort in promoting the study of French. When I hear "Spanish is more useful" I cringe. To tell the truth, the fact that I speak French has opened more doors for me than Spanish ever will.I would like to receive your input on how to convey to parents that if a child wishes to study French, they should not be dissuaded by "pop thinking".
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  • Well there is certainly quite a bit to digest here! But let me address one point: I have been to Board meetings in my town where parents have addressed the Board asking "why is French still taught when Spanish is more useful?" I started this thread with that comment in mind and have heard a great deal of helpful responses. Some, I must agree, are "preaching to the choir" but others have interesting facts to use in pointing out how French positively impacts education without sounding elitist.
    Bonnes Fêtes!
  • Hi RP,

    Just want to briefly reply to your post of September 1st. I frankly do not see the ignorance you claim to see in these posts - I may need to read them more critically to do so. I do, however appreciate your sentiment as well as your own cultural frame of reference.

    I would, however, like to point out that this thread's goal, from the very beginning, has been about brainstorming for the promotion of French language instruction - not foreign language instruction in general, nor the general merits of teaching/learning foreign languages. If this were a thread addressing promotion of Spanish language instruction, then the comments would clearly lean in that direction - however it is also not likely (but not impossible either!) for such a thread to appear on a web site called "New York in French".

    I would also like to qualify my prior post with some background information about myself: I speak Spanish. I studied Spanish intensely during my undergraduate work at NYU to, among other things, facilitate my then growing career as a dancer who specialized in Latin and Afro-Cuban dance forms. As a dancer, I traveled to Cuba 5 times for training purposes, and got to a point where Spanish was much easier for me to handle than any other language I speak besides English. Spanish was also one of the languages I was introduced to as a young child - my father highly valued the language and its related cultures, as do MANY Haitians, and therefore had me learning Spanish before I even got English down.

    So let there be no mistake about my feelings regarding Spanish vs. French - I certainly do not support an elitist approach to language promotion. My post, which I stand behind 100%, is to viewed from the perspective of "What tools can teachers of French use to promote the French language?" It is a valid question to ask - and as you pointed out, it would probably be easier for someone to put together a similar list of reasons to study Spanish.

    But since most students don't have the luxury you - and I - both enjoyed of growing up in a multilingual household, their first exposure to a foreign language is in school, where in most cases they can usually only study ONE foreign language. So naturally, teachers of French will be interested in figuring out how to attract students to their classes - as would any other teacher.

    I just thing your post is a bit off the mark - you are preaching the merits of education to people who have devoted their lives to education, and perhaps you are misinterpreting the creative energy of brainstorming and promotion of French language and culture as prejudice. In any case, I hope you are able to read some of these posts with this in mind. Take Care.
  • Well, today is the day I unlock my classroom door. Year 27! I have spent time in France this summer and have brought back some great realia. This year, our 5th graders will have foreign language daily for the whole school year. We started 5th grade foreign language seven years ago and they only had it for ten weeks. Then, we moved to 20 weeks and now a full forty weeks! It was exciting then and it is exciting now! Bonne rentrée1
  • I love to hear all of these great ideas and motivated people that have spread their love for French to those around them.

    When my students ask me "Why should I take French?", I tell them about all of the wonderful people I have met in my life. I tell them of the different countries and continents that speak it and how you will usually find a francophone not too far from wherever you are. Then I ask them, "would you really put all of your eggs into one basket?" Kids say no of course not. So why would everyone be required to only know a language that is decided for them?

    This year for school, I am sending home something new for parents to fill out and really anticipating what I get back. There is a space for them to include their time, talents, areas of expertise if they would like to volunteer and also the contact information of someone that could come in and be a guest speaker! When we bought our house, we found out our closest neighbors were French. Get outta here! Really? It's great having someone to talk to and she has even offered to babysit our future children and help us with bilingualism.

    All good things! That's why we teach French! :D
    I am looking for a French tutor to come to our home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn once a week. The tutor is for my six year old girl-boy twins who have no French language skills yet. The tutor should be experienced working with children and demonstrate a structured approach towards teaching.
  • Moi, je suis d'accord que le francais est plus utile. J'etais tres decu que le choix de langue au Middle School est l'Espagnol! Quel choix??!!! L'explication est qu'il n'y a pas assez d'instituteur(trices) de francais - ridicule!! Continuez-vous a pousser la langue francaise!!!!1
  • PS - also the babysitters - it`s more affordable and a lot easier to get a Spanish-speaking babysitter than a French-speaking...and if a baby starts speaking Spanish thanks to her/his babysitter, the parents will naturally continue educationg it in`s sad, but part of it is money. Remember, I love French and I will make sure my son speaks it but...also, go to the playgrounds and listen to the`s Spanish, Hindi or Chinese. I heard French there maybe 2 times, bec. the moms were French. So when the mothers see this, how can you convince them that French is better than Spanish? BTW, I do not compare the languages by any principle, my mother tongue is Slovak and there are only 5 millions of Slovaks in Slovakia, is my language less important than others? Sorry, but I don`t think so:)))) Is it more important? I don`t think so, either. It`s a free choice. That`s why I learned other 3 languages so I don`t have this dilemma:)
  • Hi all,
    This is just my little "exposé" on this issue, however, I`m not sure if I have the right answer.
    I used to study French (et toutes les matieres ont ete enseignees en francais) at a Lycee bilingue in Slovakia. I was perefectly fluent in French that time and lots of my classmates now live and work in French-speaking countries (especially France and Belgium). However, those who stayed in Slovakia - the majority of them - do not use the language at all because in Europe, especially in Central Europe, it`s the German business and economy that is dominant and yes, for getting a job it`s more popular to speak German than French. Helas, the French economy is not doing good and many people choose a language depending on the job possibilities. So it is here in the US. When I relocated from Europe to the US, I got a job immediately because I was fluent in German, although I would prefer to get a job where I could use French (I was actively looking for such job and would accept it even for less $$$), but...somehow...and even later, when I was checking the jobs...there was nothing too appealing where I could use my French skills. That was a reality for me. The times are tough now, there is crisis and parents hope that Spanish would help their kids in their lives more than French. I am not surprised, and I know many American parents are now enrolling their little kids - we are talking about kids of age 4-5 - into Chinese classes...It`s all about economy, business, and job opportunities. How should French be promoted? Frankly, I do not know. I am a parent myself and I enrolled my little son of 15 months into a French class:)))) I stick with French because I love it, but that`s me and my subjective feeling because I used to study it. However, I am not sure if in an opposite case someone could convince me that French is more useful than Spanish...especially in the can hear Spanish everywhere and kids can litterally catch it on the playgrounds from the Spanish speaking kids for free...French is also more expensive to learn if you would like to go with the French College in NY or other French daycares...I checked them all. I studied at a French College in Slovakia for free - there have been very very difficult tests to get accepted but everyone got a chance to get there. The textbooks were free, the whole education was free...can you get that here in the US? No. And Spanish is everywhere and it is more affordable. Maybe the French government should be more active in promoting French and invest some money into it here in the US, too. But here I`m getting to another problem which is more complex so I rather finish my thoughts. I`m really not sure, what the right answer should be.
  • I think that French is the most beautiful language in the world. Most of my students love it. In my school, I am the only French teacher there. There are five Spanish teachers, one German teacher, one Latin teacher, and one Italian teacher. Parents usually ask their kids to sign up for Spanish not because they like it, but because there are more opportunities in this country for them. Despite all that, I have more than 150 students every year. I just wish that we could have some French businesses like restaurants, movie theaters, and other things that relate to French. I live in New Jersey. I have to go to Pennsylvania or New York with my French club in other to explore the French cuisine. It should not be that way. If you have any suggestion, please email me at: Thanks! I love French!
  • I agree so far with everything that has been said--schools are not training programs! We are here to provide children with an exposure so that they may pursue their interests based on their knowledge. If they are told from the start that they are only supposed to study what is "easier" or "useful", then I doubt that they will choose to read Beowulf! Knowledge in and of itself is useful. Parents are to be careful in taking into account many factors before they sign their child into a language. A parent outreach is called for. Not elitist. Just informed.
    Allez-y et Bonne rentrée!
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