The Louvre Museum in Paris, one of the spots that French students tour on the spring break trip. Photo by Scarlett Judson.

Disclaimer: Author is a member of the French program at Franklin High School. 

The French program at Franklin has two teachers and offers dual credit, but its most exciting activity offered is a spring break trip to Paris. Lots of people take the required language credits and feel content with their current level, but for those going the extra mile and continuing with a language, just how practical is the program for speaking in a country with the native tongue?

Franklin’s French language program offers a unique and advantageous option to students taking higher-level French, allowing them to sign up for dual credit at Clackamas Community College and earn up to 16 national college credits that are transferable to most public universities in the United States. There is no additional work required, but students must pay a small registration fee—which can be waived for those in the free and reduced lunch program—and maintain a B or above average to gain the college credits. Dana Miller, the one of the French teachers at Franklin, highly encourages French students to take dual credit courses. “[Upon completion of the course,] you would be done with your college language requirements in high school, which is more than you can say for an AP test,” she says. 

Franklin’s French program offers another, more immersive option in the birthplace of the French language. Every two years, Dana Miller takes a handful of French students on a spring break trip to Paris. The group travels around to various tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre Museum, and many other iconic spots in Paris. The trip cost comes out to roughly $3,000 per student. 

Traveling to any foreign-language speaking country can be intimidating but also extremely rewarding if the traveler immerses themselves in the culture. Miller moved to France in 1984 to finish her undergrad program and ended up staying for a job offer at Université d’Avignon as a lecturer for a comprehension class. She had been studying French for two years before moving. “Everything seems so new and quaint and exciting,” Miller says. “You’re discovering so much. I mean, your brain is on overload all the time.” 

Grace Wilde, a fourth-year French student, said she thought it was hard to replicate a similar environment in a classroom. Miller pointed out that in the classroom, most students just revert back to English as a default, no matter how hard she tries to keep her students speaking French.

Many students said that one of the problems that arose in France was the difficulty of mastering an authentic French accent. Fourth-year French student Elena Matthieu says they didn’t get to use French  much on the trip last year because most French residents could immediately tell that they were an American tourist and would start speaking English, if they knew it. They also said if a person didn’t jump immediately into English, they were able to communicate effectively with each other, at least to a certain extent. “It was a little intimidating, I’m gonna be honest,” Matthieu recalls.

Of course, trying to learn any language online for half a year can be difficult, especially regarding topics that require intense focus. Wilde says that she also found difficulty in trying to speak fluently on the trip. She thinks trying to learn a language in a classroom is much harder compared to speaking it where it’s native. “There’s a huge difference between the two and I think one of the things that really made it difficult was accents,” Wilde says. She explains further that she got the impression that most people understood that she was not a native French speaker. She also expresses that she couldn’t always understand what other people were saying, even if it was a simple clarification, because the French people’s accents were so thick.

Miller says the number one thing she focuses on in beginning French is establishing a strong foundation that students can easily build off of, hopefully making learning French a little easier. In the required two years of a consecutive language course that all Oregon students must complete to graduate, students will learn lots of basic structural information pertaining to things like numbers, formal and informal greetings, days of the week, and the weather. As the class progresses, Miller will continue to stack new information onto what students already know while adding new nouns, verbs, and adjectives. She says one of her biggest goals is for students to love the language and want to continue to learn, while having a better appreciation for French.

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