Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is French Being Left Behind?

Is French Being Left Behind?

Are schools bidding au revoir to French classes for children? The New York Times reported in March 2006 that thousands of public schools are bending to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind by cutting resources for non-mandated subjects like foreign languages. Meanwhile, trendy Chinese has become the language du jour, and Spanish classes are enjoying a new surge in popularity as the nation grapples with immigration issues. Where does this leave French for children?

Most parents considering French for their children need no convincing of the language's merits. High above the inane cries of 'Freedom Fries' and 'English First,' French has retained its allure of sophistication, impeccability and culture. It is also the only other language besides English to be considered an official working language of the United Nations Secretariat. From truffles to François Truffaut, and the Little Prince to Camus - learning French, for children, may be the best thing to happen since they outgrew their terrible twos." (Read more)


Diane said...

Jessica, merci beaucoup! I am so glad that you found this article & are addressing this in your blog. I can tell you as a French teacher that many of us fear for our jobs. German programs are disappearing (some are long gone), and many school districts have cut or reduced French. A few years ago I left a job teaching 1st & 2nd grade French to stay home with my second child. I had the intention of returning. Instead, the program was replaced with Spanish while I was gone.

I was attending the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages last year, and a presenter kept apologizing for doing examples of her teaching methods in French. Finally, a few of us emphatically told her, "Don't apologize!"

There's a fantastic article I always use with my students and parents about the benefits of French. http://www.fll.vt.edu/French/whyfrench.html

Anyway, here's my take on the current situation. Spanish is important. I want my kids to know it. Mandarin Chinese is important. I want my kids to know that, too. But so is French!!! My biggest fear is that schools will prepare students in only one foreign language. How do we compete as a nation in business, science, etc. if we aren't producing speakers of MANY languages?

One theory I heard from someone in the profession is that eventually the US will be a bilingual nation (English-Spanish.) But then we will still find that we have the same needs for other foreign languages, too, in order to compete internationally. At a school I taught at in NC, many of my French students were Mexican. They already spoke English and Spanish, so they studied French as their foreign language requirement.

In NC, I hear much more Spanish than I do here in Metro Detroit. With the automotive industry, I meet native French and German speakers as much as (or more than) Spanish. Furthermore, in under an hour I can be in Canada. Still, people don't hesitate to tell me there's no need for French.

Oui, French is being left behind to some extent. But some of us are fighting hard to keep it as a choice. There are still many excellent programs out there.

Thanks for letting me vent!!! I am really grateful you brought this article to my attention. I'll be directing some people I know to this post.

Diane from foreignlanguagefun.com

We are Little Amigos said...

As a bilingual English/Spanish parent raising bilingual children, I can only hope that when they go to school that a Foreign Language other than Spanish will be available, as Spanish in their case would not be considered a FL.
I try to do my part to introduce them to as many cultures and languages as possible, Deven likes watching "finding Nemo" in French.