Supporting Both Heritage and Non-Heritage Learners in Your French Classroom

by Elizabeth Zwanziger
@ElizabethZwanz1


The demographics of French learners in the United States continue to evolve as we welcome newcomers from around the globe and our population grows more diverse. According to Statista, in 2019 there were over 1.2 million people in the U.S. who speak French at home,1 and francophone families must make important decisions regarding balancing language use at home and at school. Francophone families speak French at home to maintain cultural ties to their place of origin or to ensure children can communicate with family members here or abroad.

Children in these families are likely to be considered heritage speakers of French, a subset of multilingual people who have varying experience in the language. They may or may not have lived part of their lives in a francophone country or attended school in that language. They may understand the language, but not speak it. They may speak the language, but not write it. They may not have used the language themselves, but feel a familial or cultural connection to it. Each individual heritage speaker’s cultural and linguistic biography is unique.

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French: From Classroom to Community and Back Again

by Elizabeth Zwanziger
@ezwanziger

A few years ago, I ordered a stationary bicycle for my home. When the two delivery people brought it in and started putting it together, they began to chat in very technical terms – in French! It turns out, they were from Togo and had relocated to the Upper Midwest a couple of years prior. As a French teacher, I was thrilled to hear them speak a language I also speak and to join in when they explained to me how to use my new equipment.

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3 basic principles about authentic language

By Elizabeth Zwanziger

I went to the airport to pick up a student from France who will attend my institution as an international student this year. It thrilled me to have been chosen to do this task because this year marks 30 years (!) since I ventured off to France for my semester abroad in Nantes. I remember what that was like—knowing no one at all, navigating an unknown public transport system, eating foods I had never seen or tasted before, and, oh, THE LANGUAGE!!!

Oui, I had studied French for 6 ½ years by then. Like a typical student in the midwestern United States, I started in ninth grade and took four years of French in secondary school. When I went to college I continued on in French and decided to become a French major as a sophomore. I was a mean conjugating and memorizing machine! When I packed my giant suitcase for Nantes that snowy January day, I had no idea what I was about to hear 20 hours later when I disembarked in France.

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