I was honored – and delighted — to present twice at the MaFLA 2019 conference in Springfield, Massachusetts – French Language and Francophone Culture in the US – A Global Language with a Local Touch/ Le Français – langue mondiale, langue locale, a presentation on the French language and Francophone culture in the US, followed later in the day by Que fait l’AATF pour la promotion du français?,a brief presentation on AATF advocacy during the annual meeting of AATF Eastern Massachusetts.
In discussing the role of French language and Francophone culture in the US, I remain convinced that French can — and should — be considered an American language, part of our US history, heritage, and cultural identity. From the earliest French explorers through the most recent arrivals from France and the Francophone world, the French language and Francophone culture have always been a part of our heritage and experience. In addition, reflecting the location of the conference, in New England as well as in parts of New York State, the role of both Québécois and Acadiens throughout our history is significant.
I also had the opportunity to attend a wonderful session presented by Regina Symonds on ways to encourage staying in the target language in high school French classes. I was especially impressed to learn about the ongoing relationship that exists between her high school and a sister institution in France.
My second, brief, presentation – on AATF advocacy – gave me the opportunity to interact with dedicated French language educators and discuss not only the work of the AATF Commission on Advocacy, but also other AATF initiatives in both advocacy and promotion. In addition, we were able to discuss the importance of collaboration and teamwork among state chapters, regions, national commissions, the national headquarters, and our collective role within national and international language advocacy initiatives.
Congratulations to all those who played a leadership role in the conference and to those who were honored and featured. Congratulations and best wishes to AATF’s Janel Lafond-Paquin on receiving the Distinguished Service Award and to Fabrice Jaumont on his keynote address. Special thanks and best wishes to Brian Thompson, who is stepping down after 20 years as President of AATF Eastern Mass and to Joyce Beckwith, who is Treasurer of AATF Eastern Mass. Félicitations et meilleurs voeux, mes amis!
I especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet and interact with Noah Ouellette, the K-12 Education Officer at the Consulate General of France in Boston, and to chat with Margarita Dempsey, AATF region 1 representative.
Reflecting on the conference, I am especially appreciative of the fact that the sessions in the French strand, including my own, were presented en français, leading by example in re-affirming the importance of language use beyond the classroom. I was impressed by this well-planned and well-attended conference, and very appreciative of the warm welcome I received.
Most importantly, it was an opportunity to talk with dedicated foreign language education professionals from Massachusetts and beyond and to hear their thoughts, ideas, and concerns about French language learning and advocacy in the US.
Languages do matter!