The Pathfinder School: Traverse City Community School

Why do we teach French?


  • It’s been a tradition at Pathfinder since 1979.
  • There is important French history in this region (this area was settled by French voyageurs... and “Grand Traverse” is French).
  • Our closest neighbors are Francophones (there are 7 million French-speaking Canadians).
  • French is spoken by millions of people in more than 40 countries (it is a common second language for many Europeans, and is spoken in 31 countries in Africa).


  • The “No Child Left Behind Act” includes foreign language in its list of “core academic subjects.”

  • French is our chosen vehicle for achieving the national foreign language goals as described by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages:

  1. Communication – listen, speak, read, and write at developmentally appropriate levels;
  2. Culture – gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures;
  3. Connections – connect with other disciplines and acquire information;
  4. Comparisons – gain insight into the nature of language and culture by comparing another language and culture to their own;
  5. Communities – use language within and beyond the school setting.
  6. At the level of instruction that we offer, with the amount of time allotted and the children’s neurological development, our program is intended to provide an exposure, an introduction, to the language and culture.

(Gladys Lipton is a leading expert in K-12 foreign language instruction.)

  • Foreign language study helps students to understand and use their own language.
  • Having been exposed to some foreign language, a student’s neural pathways will be primed to more easily learn any foreign language later in life.


  • The goal is to expose students to language and culture that is different from their own, to teach some basic communication skills in the target language, and build connections and understanding worldwide.
  • Students who have studied foreign language are more appreciative of diversity, more open to new ideas, and more positively curious about other people, other cultures, and other subjects than students who do not study foreign language.
  •  The ultimate goal of teaching foreign language is world peace: if we understand each other, we’ll be less likely to go to war with each other.