Schools need to attract good students, and keep them. Enhanced programs can help. Consider French, Maine’s second language.

Telstar offers French online. It’s a good course; there’s interaction, but it’s limited by the medium. Knowing a language should mean the ability to read a book or newspaper, navigate a website, enjoy a movie, write an email, begin to understand a culture, have a conversation. Online alone won’t overcome most students’ reluctance to use their new language in the real world.

So what can a school do?

Find a francophone (French-speaking) tutor, volunteer or paid. Bethelites may be available; Lewiston has both Franco-American and African francophones; nearby colleges have advanced students. A tutor can coach, encourage conversation, model pronunciation, answer questions (preferably in French). Perhaps guide a language lunch table.

Library resources can help. Subscribe to a French Canadian newspaper. Get Quebec TV on cable; get some DVDs; headphones, please! Acquire some of those thoughtful, easily read books for young people that the French do so well. (Editions du Seuil has a wonderful series of subjects “explained to my children”.)

Immersion is a great learning tool: speak, read, write, think in French for a while. Immersion is available nearby, in Quebec: Sherbrooke, 2&1/2 hours, Quebec, 5&1/2. Travel by road is a great vocabulary builder. The language of commerce: goods and services, discounts and bargains, credit… The Universite de Sherbrooke and Laval offer dormitory accommodation in holiday periods. University students who speak and are learning to teach French are available.

There’ll be desk time. But more learning will be out and about. Everything you do in a francophone town will help: window shopping, ordering coffee, reading a map, asking directions… Sherbrooke is decked with murals: follow the trail with a bilingual guide on phone or tablet. In Quebec the Musee de la Civilisation covers peoples, places, eras, sciences; all explained through bilingual signage. The Ursulines’ museum offers an intimate sense of schooling in another time and place. Battlefields and fortresses, fine arts, parliament, the underground archaeology of the Place Dufferin overlooking the river; French comes in many forms.

Voila! Enhanced French. In future columns we’ll look at some other subjects.

David R Jones never worked hard enough at French.

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