The French department at Parkland is teaching a worldwide language

Photo by Lindsay Cox | Students of Christina Haveland’s (back, center) French course pose for a photo during class.

Photo by Lindsay Cox |
Students of Christina Haveland’s (back, center) French course pose for a photo during class.

Peter Floess

Staff Writer

France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that French is the “sixth most widely spoken language” on Earth.

“What I tell students who are undecided about taking French is to think of the opportunity to open up to a whole new world of French speaking countries in Africa, Asia, and even North America, with Quebec. This chance is made even more appealing in terms of job prospects around the world”, says Ibrahima Ndoye, a French instructor at Parkland.

“In addition to being a lingua franca throughout Africa, French has been the second language of choice for educated Europeans for generations. French art, literature, food, and even political ideas are renowned throughout the world,” says Christina Havenland, another Parkland French instructor who also teaches English-as-a-second-language. “In addition, francophone cultures are endlessly fascinating because they are a blend of French culture with the native cultures of a place. For example, the culture of Quebec is a unique blend of North American culture and French culture. It’s the same in many African countries which have a French colonial history.”

Parkland French student Thomas Easton found his knowledge of French helped him in his travels in Europe. He found he could travel “to most places in Europe and still be understood.”

“French is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world whether it be in business, government, or academic. Learning another language sets you apart from others when it comes to searching for a job. If you can speak a foreign language, that will look more attractive to people who are hiring,” Easton says.

Easton decided to take French at Parkland after a period of travel, during which he learned to speak the language. When he went back to school in the United States, he decided to continue studying it.

In addition to stan-dard classes, Parkland offers an opportunity for Parkland students to study abroad in France every July for four weeks. Students get to study in the historic city of Dijon for seven credit hours. The trip is both for students who study French and those who do not. The trip also briefly travels to Paris and southern France.

Havenland, who organizes the trip along with communication instructor and Parkland Study Abroad Coordinator Jody Littleton, says, “It’s at a great price.”

The trip “is so much fun! Climb the Eiffel Tower, explore picturesque villages, sunbathe on a Mediterranean beach, eat amazing food and more,” says Littleton.

Havenland’s personal experience studying abroad in France began when she was in high school, and helped her gain empathy for her current ESL students, the “key to my success as an ESL teacher.”

Before she went to France, she thought she was good at French. When she got there, she realized any “language includes so much slang and so many cultural references we are not even aware of.

“I picked the necessities up quickly in France, but there is always so much more to learn,” Havenland says. “It’s such a humbling journey. You feel like a child, or you feel stupid a lot of the time simply because you don’t have the skill to express your ideas the way you are used to. Many of my students were professionals in their countries. One of my former students was a professor of medicine. Imagine being a medical school professor and then having to flee your country because of war. Then imagine sitting in a community college classroom struggling to learn a new language at 50 years old. My own journey learning French gives me some insight into the emotional impact of that experience.”

Ndoye also enjoys helping students learn a new language.

“What I find most exciting about teaching French is the sight of the students’ growth and excitement in the language acquisition process. I would like to see students overcome the phobia and jitters of a new language learning. I like to see students build their self-confidence in expressing themselves in a foreign language,” says Ndoye.

Easton enjoys the small size of the French classes at Parkland.

“We have about eight [students] in our class so we all know each other well. It’s fun going to class every day and catching up with everyone,” he says.

For students who are interested in the study abroad trip to France, Havenland says to contact her, in room C129, or Littleton, in room C126. Students interested in studying France are encouraged to sign up for FRE-101 this coming fall for beginners or FRE-103 for students who already have a slight grasp of the language.