Madame Lori Karwandy

As a French teacher, I am often asked, ‘Why learn a second language when we can get along just fine with only English?’  I too grew up in a very English area of Canada, just 100km to the east of here in Maple Creek.  I started French in Grade 7 and every year we had a new French teacher.  Yet I continued, and took it as a minor in university.  After I convocated,  my spoken language still needed more work, so I took an extra year of university in Trois-Rivières and earned a ‘certificat de français pour non-francophones’.  Even now, I take every opportunity I can get to refine my French language skills. A weekly coffee group whose sole purpose is to get together to converse in French has brought such enrichment to my life. 

So here are a few reasons why it is important to learn a second language:

  1.  As mentioned above, enrichment.  The experiences, the new friendships, the culture that it brings are incredible!
  2. Did you know that learning a second language strengthens brain connections?  It gives us enhanced mental flexibility, divergent thinking, and increases memory and attention span.
  3. Comparing and contrasting two languages increases skills in both.
  4. Learning a second language increases our ability to pick up a third language!
  5. Learning a second language helps to develop tolerance for not being able to understand every word, but still grasp meaning.  Students learn to ‘filter’ extraneous information and pick out the important points.  An important life skill.
  6. It helps to develop tolerance of other cultures, and gives students a sense of empathy toward other second language learners
  7. For the language of French in particular, we can develop an understanding of our bilingual country. 
  8. It gives us a ‘younger’ brain – using two languages throughout life seems to reduce the effects of aging on the brain and is even said to delay symptoms of dementia.
  9. It may lead to job opportunities that we might not have had otherwise. 
  10. We already know a lot of French words if we know English:  “According to different sources 45% of all English words have a French origin”.  That’s a lot of words!
  11. “In an increasingly multicultural society, language competencies and intercultural understanding are an essential part of being a world citizen.  Learning another language not only exercises the brain to perform more effectively, it provides a mental consciousness and flexibility that builds intellectual character.  It is a gift from which we can all benefit and that we can offer to our children as they learn to live and work successfully as linguistically and culturally aware citizens.”  (Excerpt taken from the CPF Alberta News, Winter 2013, Issue 110)
  12. And of course last, but not least, because it is FUN!

The method I use to teach French is the AIM program:  “Authentic learning is achieved through scaffolding techniques which use story-telling, gestures, active collaboration and repetition. The use of high-frequency vocabulary, introduced with gestures and contextualized in stories, drama, songs and dance, allows students to rapidly achieve levels of oral and written proficiency rarely seen with conventional methods.”  (AIM resource)

If ever there are questions about the program, I am at school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and would welcome your queries.

PS It is never too late to learn a second language.  Adults may be older and not as quick to pick it up as younger children, but our brains still benefit!  I am just beginning to learn Spanish!