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Ask Away: 5 Questions for an Online Student of French

 

We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…

Meet Claire—a Montana high school freshman learning French through an online portal. 

"Ask Away: 5 Questions" banner with portrait of Claire

1. You’re currently learning French through Montana Digital Academy (MTDA)—an online portal providing Montana students with supplemental courses taught by Montana public school teachers…  What prompted you to learn a language: Why French and why in this format?

A few years ago, my parents and I decided it would be a good time for me to start learning a foreign language. My parents told me I could choose whichever language I wanted (within reason) and let me browse the MTDA course catalog. As it happens, both of my parents studied French for years, as did my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt (who became a French professor), and around 5 of my aunts and uncles. So, although my parents left it up to me, and although I thought about other languages, it wasn’t really my choice.

I go to a rural school, so MTDA allows me to get French credits even though my school doesn’t offer it.

2. What is it like to learn a language as an online student? What is your favorite part?

There are definitely some challenging aspects to taking an online class, and I think those things often scare off people who might have been interested. You are given lots of freedom with your time-management and progress in the course. That can be difficult, because it means it’s easy to get behind, but it also allows you to learn at your own pace. I really like that this platform connects me to people from across the state who are interested in French, too.

3. In addition to your online studies, have you tried any other immersion experiences—summer camps, community activities, travel?

Yes! Actually, that was how I started with French. I went to a French immersion summer camp in Vermont run by Middlebury, and it was a pretty life-changing experience for me. It was a total immersion camp, which meant that after two days we had to swear on the dictionary to speak nothing but French. When I was making this pledge, I didn’t know much French at all: I knew the occasional food word, but that was about it. It was hard to make friends and understand what the activities they were explaining were. After a month of straining to comprehend and flipping through dictionaries, I had about a year’s worth of French under my belt.

I’ve also gone to Montréal with my parents, grandparents, and French teacher aunt. This past fall, I got to spend a week in La Gonâve, Haiti, where I got to use my French a few times.

The summer camp I went to last year, and am going to again this year, is Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota. It was a great place to soak up language and was a whole lot of fun!

4. Why do you believe it is important for young people to learn another language?

Learning another language is hard work. Plus, it takes the patience to work on it for years. At the same time, though, every little success is really exciting, because you get to watch your efforts pay off. Knowing a foreign language also opens the door to other cultures, and, oddly enough, it can teach you about your own language!

5. What advice would you have for other students who are looking for ways to use and practice their language(s)—any tips?

I realize not everyone is as lucky as I am in getting to travel to camps and such, but if you have the opportunity to, go!

Some of my closest friends are from French camp.

I’ve already mentioned Concordia Language Villages, and I really recommend them. They have a camp for almost any language you can think of, and you will have so much fun!

Also, watching movies, reading books, listening to music, and playing games in your language is great practice.

What’s next for Claire?

Claire is still considering future career directions, including interests in journalism, architecture, and graphic design. As for her journey as a language learner:

“I’ll be going to French camp this summer (yay!), and I’m still working out what to do next year. Since MTDA doesn’t currently offer French 4, I have to find a way to continue my studies.”

Check out our Lead with French page for resources on college programs, scholarship opportunities, student testimonials. And, as always, don’t forget to share your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media!