Friday, November 23, 2012

On Purposeful Advocacy

How many French teachers have you heard talking about 55 countries worldwide where French is an important language? With all of the efforts to build French programs in the US, I bet quite a few.We French teachers talk a big talk about the importance of French in business and how much of a 'global' language it is--but we rarely include any culture outside of French culture.  Are we teaching it as a global language, or are we just saying it is and serving crêpes and wearing berets to fit the culture bill? 

I'm among the biggest culprits of over-France-ifying my curriculum, mainly because I'm such a huge francophile. Who couldn't fall in love with the quaint little villages in Alsace? The impressionist art in Provence? Or Paris, the city of love?

Here's the point where I have to question my teaching motives: With such little time for instruction, am I here to expose students just to all of the things that I like a whole lot, or to a more holistic, general view of the worldwide opportunities that await my French-speaking students?

I choose the latter, and here's why:

1) It worries me that students will leave French classrooms with a myopic view of what the Francophone world is--France and Canada, the big hitters in French classrooms in the U.S. (where Canada is the 'out-of-the-box' option).  What our Spanish counterparts have done well is exploit the number of Spanish-speaking countries to where they all seem to matter equally, while us French teachers may mention Western Africa or Haïti, but let's be real, France is the one that really matters. The Francophone world spans 5 continents and 55 countries, why focus solely on 2/55ths? That kind of teaching perpetuates the misconception that Spanish is more relevant than French because more countries speak it. How many times have you heard that, French teachers?

2) I get to learn along with my students.  We travel to a different Francophone country each year and explore the food, dance, customs, art, traditions, politics, religion, etc. This year's focus is Morocco because of recent trip there last summer, but next year we will venture to Cambodia, Vietnâm, and Laos--countries that I know little about, but will discover with my students.

3) It's fun! Chances are that students have some idea about France, the Eiffel Tower, and Paris if they've chosen to take your course.  Surprise them with something unique--Belly dancing, Henna, and Mint Tea were some of the surprises for students from Morocco.

So here's my challenge: pack away the crêpes and berets, and boldly go where few French teachers have gone before: the other 53/55ths of the Francophone world...