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5 Questions for an LCF Student Ambassador and Future Teacher

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We’re asking students, recent grads, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…

Meet Jasmine—a LCF Student Ambassador and Teacher Scholar studying French and Linguistics at Stony Brook University.

1. Tell us about learning French in high school. What was your favorite part? What most surprised you?

When I started high school, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do in the future, so I tried a little bit of everything. I thought that learning another language would be a useful skill at some point, so I signed up for French class—which may have been the best decision of my life up to that point. The first few weeks of class were all part of a steep learning curve as we learned the very basics of the language: Bonjour ! Comment allez-vous ? Je m’appelle…

When Covid-19 put a pause on in-person learning and all my classes became remote, French class continued to be engaging and interesting. Instead of drifting apart because of the physical distance between us, my classmates and I grew closer as we navigated learning French, figured out how to make Google Classroom suit our needs, and found new solutions to our problems. By French III, we were able to have full conversations in French. That camaraderie and social aspect were things I didn’t find in other classes, even after the pandemic and the return to in-person learning. The people I met in French class are people I am still in contact with, even today, five years later and several states away from each other.

2. What makes a great language teacher? What inspires you to join the profession?

I had an incredible French teacher. With her, class was always highly entertaining and memorable. One of my favorite activities was the cumulative project in French III for our French History unit. Every student was assigned a role as a historical figure from the French Revolution (I was Maximilien Robespierre, instigator of the Reign of Terror). We drew our character on a yellow sticky note and taped it up on the whiteboard at the top of a grid drawn in smudged dry erase marker. Our teacher gave us historical questions, and each time someone got a question wrong, their sticky note character fell lower on the grid. If they reached the bottom, their sticky note character was guillotined, and they were 'out.'

It was activities like this that made my language-learning experience so fun and what made me want to become a teacher.

My French teacher always seemed to be having as much fun as the students were. I want to spend the rest of my life sharing that kind of fun with future students.

3. We'd love to hear more about your experience attending a French conversation group during the pandemic!

About halfway through that first semester of French, our teacher invited us to an online conversation group called Prêt-à-Parler (ready to speak). The group had previously been in-person, meeting in various restaurants near Concord, New Hampshire, which is a couple of hours away. But when the group was online, we could easily join on Zoom and (attempt to) join the conversations.

My best friend Kaleb and I joined from my computer, with all of five weeks' study of French. We understood very little and spoke less than a dozen words between the two of us, but we were intrigued by that group and laughed so much and smiled even more. Kaleb and I joined again the next week, this time with a script of what to say when we were called on during introductions. We continued to attend the meetings, understanding more and more each time. We kept going over the summer, and continued into the Fall when we took French II. By French III, we connected with many different conversation groups, some in-person by that point, others online. By then we were able to understand most of the conversations, and even explain some parts to the younger students that joined us.

By my final year in French, our teacher brought students of varying levels to a myriad of conversation groups each month. The experience of being able to practice speaking in a real-world environment undoubtedly boosted my fluency, and it showed me just how much fun language-learning could be. I always enjoyed French in class, but it was another thing entirely to tell a joke and share a story with someone new in another language.

4. Could you share about your current role as an intern at the Franco-American Centre (FAC)—including your work on the FAC blog? Why should other learners seek language and culture related opportunities like this?

Jasmine with murals in Sherbrooke, Quebec

The Prêt-à-Parler conversation group was hosted by the FAC. After being involved in the conversation group meetings, Kaleb and I were invited to intern at the FAC and work on the blog project. We devised a publishing schedule, thought up different topics and mini-series we wanted to focus on, and began tracking readership so we knew what sort of articles people enjoyed reading.

Both of us are still here, three years later, hard at work continuing the blog for the FAC. The best part of this internship is the people that I get to work with and the real-world experience I've gained. Thanks to the FAC, I know how to edit something for publication and how to use a couple of different website platforms. I've also had opportunities to volunteer at FAC events and connect with incredible people. I've learned so much about the history and continued presence of French in my area.

I would recommend anyone to search for opportunities to become involved in their local community. You never know where it will lead and who you will get to meet.

5. Have you got a favorite word or expression in another language—what is it?

I’ve never been much of a math person, but I love numbers in French. Counting starts logically to an English-speaking mind: un (one), deux (two), trois (three), and so on, with a system that changes by base 10. Until you get to sixty-nine: soixante-neuf...

Then comes soixante-dix (literally: sixty ten), followed by soixante-onze (sixty eleven, or seventy-one). That is interesting enough, but eighty is entirely unexpected: quatre-vingts (four twenties). Then there’s quatre-vingt-un (four twenties one), and that bizarre pattern continues to accumulate to my personal favorite number: quatre-vingt dix-neuf—which literally translates to ‘four twenties ten nine’ because 4x20=80 and 10+9=19, then 80+19=99.

Check out our Connect with French page—or select a language of your own—to explore language scholarships, university programs, testimonials, and more! And, as always, visit @LangConnectsFdn on social media to share your story with us.