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Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Freedom Fries – I don’t think so!

In French, German, Misc on 30 September, 2010 at 20:29

As a French instructor and head of the World Language Department at CHS I often hear student comments such as ‘Why do we have to do this?’ or ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ or ‘What does this have to do with me?’.  I am honored to take this opportunity to let everyone know the answers to these questions.

Since two semesters of the same world language are required not only by the State of Tennessee but nation-wide to get into a university, clearly it’s important.  I also teach German and we offer many sections of Spanish at CHS. But I would like to share with you some reasons why I think French should be your child’s language choice.

Per Richard Shryock of Virginia Tech, French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. In fact, French is spoken by over 300 million people in over 50 countries on every continent making it and English the world’s only truly ‘global’ languages!

Many other noted scholars have done long-term studies that show that studying a foreign language improves high-school exit GPAs, ACT scores and SAT scores by up to 125 points.  Latin made the highest difference, followed by German and French – improvements that are unchanged by gender and racial lines.  How is this possible?  A second language, although not considered a ‘core class’, is literally the hub on the wheel of curriculum.  Our content could touch every other discipline offered from Physics and literature to building trades because our curriclum is so diverse. Second language study reinforces all the learning that happens in other classes.  Mon Dieu!

Ben Franklin penned large parts of the Declaration of Independance in Paris.  France was the United States’ first ally. In fact, the French were instrumental in helping the American colonists win their revolution against England.  Had the French not come to our assistance, our daily English might well have a bit of a British ring to it.

Speaking of British, although the term “French kiss” is used through out the world, in France it is called an “English Kiss”.

France gave the US the Statue of Liberty, the world’s supreme symbol of freedom,  in celebration of the centennial of our independance.  Its pieces were cast at the same foundry as the Eiffel Tower.

Although it is still illegal to name a pig Napoleon in France, French thought played a dominant role among the founders of the United States in the 18th century, and it continues to shape America today.  French is the international language of diplomacy; every document the UN publishes is written in English and French; the Napoleonic legal code is still the basis of law in Louisiana and Virginia.  Every announcement made at the Olympics is in English, French and the language of the host country.

In the country that invented the bikini and from which Levi Strauss ordered his fabric for his jeans Nimes [thus denim], French speakers have a long history of achievement and innovations in sciences and technology.  In fact, there have been 9 French-speaking Nobel laureates in Physics and 8 in Chemistry and 20 in Literature.

France and French-speaking countries are leaders in fields such as telecommunications, medicine, genetics, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, transportation, energy, aviation, and aerospace technologies.  Amtrak’s new Acela Express is based on French bullet train technology. These prize winners do NOT include, however, Jean Nicot who introduced tobacco into France, coining the term ‘nicotine’.

France is the first producer of nuclear electricity in Europe and second producer in the world after the United States. France produces as much nuclear electricity as Germany, the UK, Spain and Russia combined ! They then recycle 85% of their spent fuel into yet more nuclear energy.  I wonder if what is left over gets sent to Oak Ridge?

French was the official language of England for over 300 years thanks to William the Conqueror (not his original name – ask your child).

The US exports more to countries having French as a national language than to countries having any other foreign language.  France is one of the four largest industrial economies in the world and is the world’s second largest agricultural producer after the US.

In fact, and you may want to sit down for this part, many popular US brands are actually French-owned: Michelin, UniRoyal and BFGoodrich tires, Bic pens and lighters, Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies, AirBus, NBC, Universal Pictures and Universal Studios, RCA Records, Motel6 and RedRoof Inns, Nissan, Dannon, Mikasa, Khalua, T-Fal, Polydor Records, Wite-Out and WildTurkey .. and those are just the ones that came to me off the top of my head.

In France it is bad manners to put your bread on the plate; its proper place is at two o’clock on the table. Your hands, elbows included, should always remain on the table.

You should also know that French students study about the Clinton 12, the TVA system and the development of Oak Ridge.  Amongst other things they love Harley-Davidsons and all forms American music including bluegrass.

Although I  can not speak to the many successes of our former Spanish students, many of our former French and German students have gone on to persue more language study as part of their university program.  Ben Cannon, French & German, spent two years in Mongolia as part of the Peace Corps.  Travis Hardy and Kelly Coffman both taught English in France.  Amanda Seals and Sarah Fohl spent time in Senegal as part of their studies.  Savannah Norrod is at Centre College studing German and has spent several sessions in Germany.  Nikki Vann studied at Georgetown and now resides in South Africa.

Why have I spent this whole article discussing the French and my students?  Because I am passionate about them both and I try to spread that passion to your children every day like little boys spread cooties!  Your child’s study study of another language and culture reinforces ALL their learning in ALL their other classes and it better prepares them for success in college and in life.  It teaches them tolerance, respect and that ‘different’ is not bad – just different.

Your kids and I get to discuss and experience all this and more together in our classroom.  ‘All this’ that is the good (the food), the bad (the Maginot Line), and of course…the French!  If as I hypothesized earlier, world language study is at the center of the curricular wheel, that passion and enthusiasm will spread into all the other facets of their education.

So, a world language is not just a random graduation or college entrance requirement, rather it is a priceless opportunity for individuals to experience growth in many ways that extend far beyond the classroom walls of C HS.

P.S. I have to set the record straight about “French fries” – the process of cooking potatoes by submersing them in hot oil was first done in Belgium when they couldn’t get any fish to fry because the river froze solid.  So, if your political leanings are toward ‘freedom fries’ you’ll have to try again my friend for they are not French.