The Pathfinder School: Traverse City Community School

Foreign Language

There's more than one way to say that!

Bonjour Les Amis!

Students benefit from early introduction to foreign language. Our French teachers understand that our youngest students, while developing pre-literacy skills in their native English, are in the perfect stage developmentally to also embark on the joyful adventure of a second language.

Madame McCarthy teaches pre-kindergarten through fourth grade and Madame Petzold, a native of France, teaches fifth grade through eighth grade.

Younger students develop a natural ear and vocabulary skills through play. French Culture, History, Literature and Art are interwoven through the curriculum. Cross-curricular explorations that focus on the role of the French and French Canadians in our regional and national history add relevance to the process of language learning. We sing, play games, dance, laugh a lot and role-play. In the process, the students learn while having fun and develop a friendliness with the French language which is the basis for more in-depth study in the older grades.

As our students progress and develop awareness of language structure through their language arts core curriculum, issues of grammar and structure are also addressed in French. By seventh grade and eighth grade, our students have had enough exposure to "la belle langue française" to participate meaningfully in our biennial school trip to France.

Research shows that early introduction to foreign language has many benefits. Young brains are still growing and are more receptive to the acquisition of new language. With shared Latin roots, the study of French expands vocabulary in English. Studies have also shown that students who are exposed to foreign language at an early age have higher scores on the SSAT and ACT.

Young children are more willing to play with language and are less self-conscious about speaking new words. This willingness to take risks pays off with increased fluency.

Ultimately, learning multiple languages expands global understanding and opens up whole worlds of art, music, science, literature, politics, history and philosophy. Once someone "learns how to learn" one foreign language, they are well positioned to continue learning additional languages.