Immigration & Changing Demographics Strengthen French Programs
June 11, 2018
Five Weeks to AATF!
AATF in La Pointe-du-Bout, Martinique is only five weeks away! Here is the convention website. This will be my first time there, and I’m excited to celebrate Francophone language and culture in a new venue.
The French language has traveled from its birthplace in France and settled in many places around the world. We all know about Francophone Africa, Polynesia, and the Caribbean, but do you know that more and more French is being spoken in the U.S. thanks to immigration to many states across the country? Quebec is not the only place in North America where you’ll find French. In this post, I’ll be sharing a bit about the French language situation in what may seem an unexpected location: Iowa.
The Iowa flag resembles the French flag and reflects Iowa’s history as part of the French Louisiana Territory.
Iowa and French language and culture
Iowa has a significant French and French Canadian heritage. French has been the second most commonly studied world language in Iowan schools for many years. However, approximately 20 years ago, many French programs found themselves in danger and were even discontinued due to budget cuts for non-core courses considered as low hanging fruit. Many French teachers who still had positions advocated, promoted, and recruited to fill French classes. Little did we know that things were about to change.
In recent years, there has been an influx of French speakers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo, and Angola immigrating to many of the larger metro areas in Iowa. They have come to start a new life, and are enriching ours. A local school has begun a French-English dual immersion program. Banks, hospitals, and grocery stores want to better serve their customers by offering French language translations for their services. Thus, people are seeking ways to study French in order to communicate with our new neighbors, and French programs are holding steady or even seeing growth.
What an exciting time to be a French teacher!
Let me tell you more at my presentation at AATF on Saturday, July 21 from 8:20 to 8:50 in the Fort Desaix room au Carayou.
Participants will take away knowledge of newcomer Francophone populations around the U.S. and ideas for partnering with members of their own communities to promote linguistic and cultural diversity as well as to bolster French language programs that mutually benefit both existing and newcomer populations.
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