The French Connection

Bon joor les eleves!”

“Comment aller voos?”

My typical morning greeting in my best Franglais. I usually conclude my welcome address with, “That’s French for those of you that aren’t bilingual.” This is always met with a hail of criticism, correction and, sometimes, laughter…that’s the point. I have fun with my poorly developed linguist skills and students enjoy pointing out that my pronunciation is deplorable and my usage is worse. I never could understand why things with absolutely no gender attachment should be regarded as masculine or feminine.

The lesson typically moves quickly to the language of chemistry. Finally, something that makes sense!

Just the Minimum please

There have been occasions when my butchered attempts at various languages have led to class conversations that had some depth and perhaps more importantly, some relevance. If you read my last blog post, you will know that I wasn’t exactly setting the academic world on fire when I was in high school. Truth be told, I could have been described as an academic minimalist. That is, minimum effort, minimum learning and minimum success. It is something that has, upon reflection, caused me some remorse.

This has sparked some of the discussions that I’ve had with students. Many teens are burdened with two afflictions; they lack experience (in everything) and they often have boundless confidence. You may have heard people older than me say, “They know everything and you can’t tell ‘em nuthin’!”

Insert français here

Learning French was not encouraged when I was given the opportunity to learn it. My parents were immigrants and for some reason learning languages didn’t rate as highly as science or math…and certainly not Bible! It was difficult for me to pick up a new language, so this seemed like an “out” for me. French sank very far down on my list of things to invest in. I knew what was important and French definitely wasn’t!

As a result of the “tidal wave of wisdom” that comes with maturity (age), I’ve had time to realize that:

  1.  I was stupid to pass up on my chance to learn French,
  2.  It is difficult to learn a language on your own,
  3.  Knowing a different language (especially French) pays huge dividends and
  4.  I had allowed a great opportunity pass me by.

When students seem to be in the mood for a little advice, I now tell them (in truth, I exhort them) to dig into every learning opportunity that comes their way. I explain that there will always be people that try to convince them (wrongly) that learning isn’t important, it isn’t for them, or its value is limited. Nonsense!

Unique package

I tell them to consider who they are; children of God, created in his image to serve and to love.  I ask them how they will do this (the service thing)? Usually they aren’t sure…uh, like give money to missions…or something? 

I tell them what I think is a great truth. Each of them is a unique creation with a unique package of gifts. They were created to discover the gifts, develop them and then to use them in the Lord’s service. The way to discover the gifts is to experience as many things that can be learned as possible. Some of them will resonate with you in a way that others don’t. This is who you are! So dig into your French! It is an opportunity that may not come again. If it is difficult then it is probably worth investing some brainpower to learn it. Use your gifts!

Despite my caricature efforts at French, the kids don’t realize that one of my secret goals is to set right the mistake I made so long ago. I’m (slowly) working through a French learning program. It’s tough but worth it! 

Je pons wi!

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2 Comments on "The French Connection"

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Well done Rob. We won’t be giving you French 9 on your schedule quite yet… but keep learning. I’m always amazed at how many languages Europeans can generally speak and how poor we are at this in North America. Great advice to make the most of every opportunity, that’s for sure. GG

Stephanie Botwright

Mersee buckets, Monsyerr Bakker. J’em bow coo that tu think nous should all apprendre le fransay. Parse kuh je swee da cord.

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