We were running late to a wedding in Paris several years ago. Thanks to the magic of ride share we didn’t need to know how to tell the driver where we were going, but my Anglophone friends and I did need to make sure he knew that we needed him to step on it. “Nous sommes en retard” I eeked out, barely remembering some high school French. “Got it,” I assume he responded in French, because moments later we were clinging to the doors of his BMW as we raced through the streets of Paris. We arrived just in time to a charming stone church overlooking the Seine.
I bring up this story because it shows that even a small amount of French speaking ability can be tremendously helpful. In my case, it quite literally got me to the church on time and made a trip to Paris quite a bit smoother. The French language is more than just a useful tool for a jaunt to Paris, however. French is a member of the club of world languages. Like English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, it is spoken internationally and is widely taught as a second language. Speaking French is an advantage on five continents and widely spoken in 55 countries. A small amount of French ability is helpful, and French proficiency is a passport to the world.
Many of our students and families consider themselves Francophiles and it is not hard to see why. Art museums are bursting with French art, from paintings by Monet and Matisse to Rodin’s sculptures and Marcel Duchamp’s surrealism. Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Mary Cassatt may not have been French, but their time in France figures so prominently in their work, could they not also somehow not be considered French artists as well? Once we leave the museum, who could resist the pull of a French café?
French is not just a weekend language for gazing at art and nibbling on pastries. It is part of the weekday world of business. It is the language of the luxury industry. French is also an official language of our Canadian neighbors to the north, who also happen to be one of our largest trading partners. When I worked in Shanghai, French was certainly the most commonly used language in business, after Chinese and English. Reaching the level of fluency necessary to use French in day to day life, requires a great deal of input. One approach to giving students enough input is language immersion.
At ISSA, our French classes all use the immersion approach. Students in our Saturday class learn language through activities connected to art and culture. In our culinary camp, our petits chefs make French classics such as crêpes and quiches, all while in the language immersion environment! Our preschool students learn a comprehensive curriculum also all in the language immersion environment.
This content was originally published here.