Learning French in a Surprising Place
Thousands of young Americans are speaking French daily, in a place you wouldn’t expect: Utah.
In a state better known for its vast open spaces and beautiful national parks, kids are chattering
away in a multitude of foreign languages. It is part of Utah’s “dual language immersion” program, offered in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Russian.
The program was launched in 2009 to help students integrate into the international economy. As Utah Governor Gary Herbert says, “Dual Language Immersion gives students a tremendous and early advantage in learning to navigate the national, cultural, and linguistic complexities inherent in our increasingly global marketplace.”
Today, over 65,000 students are enrolled in the language program —nearly 10% of all students in the state!
How Does it Work?
Beginning at age six, students spend half their school day in English and the other half in the target language. Utah uses an immersive program because research has shown immersion’s power to help students learn language proficiency. No other type of instruction, short of living in a second-language environment, is as successful.
Teachers speak only in the target language and communicate using “a range of engaging strategies including pictures, songs, games, body language, expressions, drama, and pantomime.”
Young children thrive in this environment and begin speaking the second language in a surprisingly short amount of time.
You might think that Chinese and Spanish are the best languages for success in the global marketplace, but French has advantages of its own.
Utah’s program highlights many great reasons for learning the language of Molière, including the following.
- French is one of the few languages spoken all over the world. Today, over 270 million people on five continents speak French, and by 2050 the number will rise to over 700 million.
- French is the third most widely used language on the Internet and the third language for international business.
- French is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the Olympic Games, the Red Cross, the European Union, and NATO.
- French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theater, the visual arts, dance, and architecture.
- Speaking French opens up study opportunities at renowned French universities.
- France is the world’s top tourist destination.
- French is a beautiful, rich, melodious language. It is an analytical language that structures thought and develops critical thinking.
Utah’s French immersion program began with just five schools in 2009 and has since grown to 39 across the state. At the same time, the number of French learners has exploded from a few hundred to over 8,000.
What does the future hold for this impressive program? Qui sait !
Have you ever experienced learning French in Utah USA or other surprising locations? Please share your experiences with us all in the comments section below.
1. Bryce Canyon National Park: Wikipedia, Creative Commons license, attribution Mjones3137
2. Zion National Park: Wikipedia, Creative Commons license, attribution Diliff
3. Classroom: Pixabay royalty-free image
4. Paul Bocuse: Wikipedia, Creative Commons license, attribution Jarvin