Louisiana Preserves French Language Roots with New International Hires

Louisiana is once again investing heavily in the preservation of the French Language, according to The Advocate.

The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) recently partnered with the Louisiana Department of Education to attract and hire 80 international teachers to teach both French and Spanish immersion programs in public school systems this upcoming school year.

Operating in the third decade since its installation, CODOFIL is a collaborative partnership between the Consulate General of France in New Orleans and the Ministry of Education in Spain. CODOFIL’s mission is to not only preserve the state’s French-language origins but to also prepare Louisiana students for an increasingly globalized economy through the learning from international faculty.

Matt Mick, a spokesman for CODOFIL, had told reporters at the orientation event at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center about the difficulty in teaching traditional languages. Mick had said, “traditional language education is really hard to do well. A lot of it ends up being conjugating verbs and learning grammar rules, stuff that’s not necessarily practical in a real-world setting. The research is starting to (show) that neuropsychologically, (immersion) is how humans learn languages — by being dropped into them and letting them learn that way.”

The 80 new hires came from ten total nations, including Canada, France, Spain, West Africa, Mexico, and Guatemala. The selected teachers who had agreed to their dedicated involvement in the three-year program are certified teachers in each of their home countries. The educators had also taken part in extensive background checks prior to their hiring.

After the international faculty’s orientation sessions that took place in Baton Rouge over a four-day period, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Bill Nungesser arrived to formally welcome and support or exhort the participating teachers. Lt. Governor Nungesser had said in his speech, “these immersion teachers coming from all over the world to teach our kids is so important, especially today. When children learn a second language, it opens up the doors to the world for them. Everything is international now, so I just wanted to be here to say ‘thank you’ to (these teachers) and let them know we’re going to continue to do everything we can to encourage young students to take foreign languages that will give them opportunities beyond the borders of America.”

Despite Louisiana having deep ties to Creole traditions, only 198,784 or 3.5% of Louisianians over the age of 5 reported that they speak French or Creole French as their primary language at home. This statistic comes from 2000 census data, which is the most recent available at the time of The Advocate article.

Since 2000 there have been many strides to increase the preservation of the French language in the state with the installation of new French Immersion programs in public and private school districts across Louisiana. Additionally, Louisiana was formally accepted into the International Organization of La Francophonie in 2018. This is an international organization that represents French-speaking sections of the globe. Also, as of February 2021, renewed accords had been signed by Lt. Gov. Nungesser with France and Belgium, allowing the enlisting of more teachers from those countries.

The latest efforts by the LADOE and CODOFIL to preserve the French Language through immersion education is a wonderful stride for the conservation of our multilingual roots. As of 2021, over 5,500 students are enrolled in 26 French immersion schools across eight parishes. According to CODOFIL, over 100,000 students across the state in schools of all types are studying the French Language.

Mick expressed the importance of CODOFIL’s efforts saying, “it’s not just something that’s beautiful and unique in our history — it’s something we can carry into the future that’s practical and that presents really significant, concrete opportunities for Louisiana’s young people. We like to say it’s not a question of revival or even renaissance, but a question of maintenance, because that stuff never fully disappeared. It’s always been here.”

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