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10th Grade French Students Share Their Language-Learning Journey at Léman

April 23, 2021


The World Languages Department at Léman believes in teaching students to develop their global awareness and to communicate in a variety of languages. World Language courses provide opportunities for students to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of other cultures through learning language. Beginning in PreK, every student at Léman is exposed to another language, and then in Lower School, they are asked to choose to study Mandarin, Spanish or French. In High School, students may select to take a second language as an elective and continue to study one of those languages when they enter the IB Diploma Program in 11th grade. 

We sat down with three exceptional 10th grade students who have studied French at Léman throughout Lower, Middle, and High School and will be entering the highest-level language class at Léman, a college-level course, Higher Level IB French next year. Lauren Corbie, Layla Khitin, and Olivia Jules give us a look into their language journey at Léman and describe how their dedication to reaching language fluency has enhanced their lives.

You have all studied French since you were in Lower School at Léman. What has your French journey been like? 

Lauren Corbie: I came to Léman in Kindergarten and studied both Spanish and French. When it came time to choose between the two in first grade, I chose French, which I’m thankful for every day. I’ve always loved my French teachers and love the sound of the language. I’m also interested in the culture of the vast number of French-speaking countries around the world. In 2016, I went to France and I vividly remember the way that I thought about French before and after. When you have foundational language skills and then you go into real world situations, it really shows you how much more you could expand your knowledge and also lets you apply that small foundation to a greater world, which encourages you to learn more.

Olivia Jules: I also began at Léman in Kindergarten and always gravitated towards French. My dad was born in Haiti and spoke French as a young child, but he hasn’t spoken it in many years so studying French was a way for me to get back to my roots.  I love speaking French and listening to it. I’m glad I stuck with it over the years because it’s been a gradual journey towards feeling more comfortable and developing my skill level year by year. 

Layla Khitin: My mom helped me make the decision to take French because she took it in high school and loved it. I remember being frustrated by my level in Lower School but then in 6th and 7th grade something clicked, and I became more confident. When that happened, I started to love learning and felt a lot more encouraged. The more I learned and the more I spoke, the more enthusiastic I’ve become about reaching fluency because it feels closer and closer. 

What has worked well for you in terms of learning in your classes and your approaches to your language study, from Lower School to Middle School to High School, and how have those learning approaches helped you be successful in reaching language fluency?

Lauren: When I entered middle school, I had been reading French and translating it into English in my mind, but about halfway through middle school, I tried to consciously make the switch to reading in French and understanding the French as opposed to just switching it directly to English. I think that kind of got me familiar with hearing French inside of my mind, as well as thinking in French, like as its own language, and not just French to English. Now I unintentionally often think in French, which has helped my proficiency a lot. 

Olivia: I noticed the same thing. Towards the end of middle school, I made the switch from reading something in French then translating it in my mind into English in order to understand, to just understanding it in French. I sometimes try and think to myself, “How would I say this sentence in French?” as a way to practice in my everyday life, even when I'm not in a French class. I think that what really helped me shift my mindset was making sure that I had the basics down. But in middle school, learning how to differentiate between using past tense versus imparfait for example, knowing when to use a certain tense and how to use that tense has really helped me to just comprehend French more easily and in real-world situations, too. And I think having the basics down first has made the rest of my French journey a lot easier and come together more naturally.

Layla: For me, reading comes easier now, I think it's because the basics in the foundation of speaking French was built starting in Lower School and then Middle School. Now in High School, we focus more on speaking on a variety of different topics, almost like in English class. I’ve become a lot more comfortable while speaking and writing. Sometimes, at home, my parents and my brother quiz me on random words, just for fun. Also, over the years, my accent has improved a lot, which is a good feeling to finally feel fluent with your accent instead of struggling to pronounce the words. Even if you know the grammar and the sentence structure, it's easier to speak when you feel more comfortable with your accent. 

How has your path to language fluency influenced your life, or how do you predict language/French could influence your life after high school? What do you like/love most about learning language?

Lauren: I think it could impact my decision for college, or even if I were to get a second degree, where I would be able to go and what experiences I'd be able to have out of the country. And what I love most about learning French or other languages are just the opportunities that it opens and also the people that I wouldn't otherwise be able to connect with or stay in contact with, who just speak French, people who aren't necessarily from France but who speak French. I think is really interesting, because then you have an opportunity to learn about cultures outside of France that speak French because you have that common language.

Olivia: I have been thinking about college a lot recently and I’ve been thinking of maybe going to Sorbonne Université or someplace in the South of France. I don't think I would have this opportunity if not for having such a comprehensive French journey. I feel secure enough in my French ability that I could potentially go to college in a Francophone country. I also feel that just having the opportunity to go to French-speaking countries and not worry about not understanding the language, because I feel like I have a strong enough grasp that I'm able to function properly in those countries. And I get satisfaction out of knowing that I can connect to this entirely different group of people and I don't have to worry about a language barrier. It has a lot of practical uses, whether it's travel or just communicating with other people that I wouldn't have been able to communicate with otherwise. That’s why I continue to learn and try and improve my proficiency.

Layla: I would love to travel in the future or find jobs or do college abroad. And then, like Olivia and Lauren said, being able to connect and communicate with other French speakers builds a special bond among people through traveling or simply having the opportunity to connect with other people through French. I think what I really like about French now is also that I love the way it sounds. It sounds so elegant, and I'm really drawn to it. The more I understand, the more I become more motivated to learn French and then the more I love French. I'm drawn to speaking it or just learning more of it.

What advice would give to a student who is still deciding between what languages they want to study in school? 

Layla: If they have already started studying French but don’t feel drawn to it yet, I would say to just stick with it, because in the long run, it will all add up and it will feel really rewarding at the end of when you're reaching fluency. It's all about consistency and practice.

Lauren: I also think it's important if you're deciding between two or more languages to look at the cultures and the histories of the countries that speak those languages because a lot of the time the curriculum goes into those areas. Be aware of what the curriculum has in store for you, because if you're making the choice based on speaking in language alone, you may not actually get what you think you might be bargaining for. Consider the entire language learning experience, not just parts of it.


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