Immersion in French Language and Culture in Upper School

MARCH 4, 2022

One of the many strengths of the modern language department at Nightingale includes the fact that all French, Spanish, and Mandarin classes are taught completely in the native language of study. As a result, students are able to immerse themselves in all aspects of the language—speaking, reading, and writing—leading to a comprehensive understanding of the language itself and, in more advanced classes, the history and culture of the countries where the language is spoken. It also encourages students to embrace the inevitable discomfort that comes with achieving fluency and to take the challenges that present themselves when learning a forgein language in stride.

To assist in these language acquisition skills, modern language students are given the opportunity to speak with fellow language students outside of Nightingale or to engage in “real world settings” with native speakers when possible. Upper School French language students were given two such opportunities earlier this winter.

Alicia G. ’24, Phoebe M. ’23, Willa G. ’23, and Emma L. ’24 recently joined an online conversation and cultural exchange with students from fellow Round Square schools in a French language lab Zoom. All of the participants were ages 14-16 and hailed from Calgary, Boston, India, Paris, and the Bahamas.

During the 60-minute Zoom, the hosting schools led conversations completely conducted in French for participants who were keen to practice and develop their language skills.

“It was extremely intimidating at first,” Emma L. ’24 reflected. “I was nervous I would make a mistake or be judged by the way I spoke French. However, once I was submerged in the challenge, I realized that we were all in the same boat. Everyone was there to learn and to simply practice speaking and understanding one another to their own best ability.”

She continued: “Seeing everyone from so many different areas united with a single language and sharing their stories, showed me just how important it is to continue French throughout my high school years and beyond because, without it, I would miss out on the numerous connections, experiences, and opportunities that a new language could bring to me on a daily basis.”

Junior Willa G. ’23 shared, “I learned all about the customary foods of people from countless countries. We also discussed the climate change and food waste policies in our respective communities, leading me to better understand other nation's approaches to these pressing issues, and take note of what I should incorporate in my own life.”

Alicia G. ’24 remarked, “It was also super cool to be able to understand what the native French speakers were saying in the meeting.”

In early March, Nightingale seniors journeyed to Lincoln Center for a special screening of the French film, The Horizon. The film follows 18-year-old Adja who is disconnected from her community but when she grows closer to classmate Arthur—an earnest activist and fellow intern at a nursing home—Adja begins to find a sense of purpose in political engagement. The film was director Emilie Carpentier’s debut feature film, and following the screening, students had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with Emilie. She discussed why she was inspired to become a filmmaker, what it was like to write and direct a film connected to climate change, and her experience working with young adults.

Liesl B. ’22 shared, “The film was really beautiful. The experience of watching a French film is very similar to that of watching movies in English— in French you still get a lot of meaning from the nonverbal elements where the individual vocabulary may be unfamiliar. There is less lost in translation than one might think!”