Conversational French class begins in Avoyelles
Thu, 09/29/2016 - 05:00
Will be held Saturday mornings at Marksville library branch
Raymond L. Daye
They had to contend with a police barricade and a throng of color-splashed runners that Saturday morning, but 29 individuals came out to the Avoyelles Library main branch in Marksville to try to capture a bit of their heritage.
The conversational French class, sponsored by the parish chapter of CODOFIL and taught by retired teacher Gail Descant Lemoine, was deemed a success by all parties involved.
Lemoine ruled the class with a stern hand, imposing a non anglais policy except in emergencies and insisting that any comments be en francais.
“If someone just had to speak in English or have something explained in English, we used the international sign,” Lemoine said, making a “T” for “time out.”
There were only a few instances where a “time out” was needed.
Lemoine’s method for teaching conversational French is based on how a child learns their native language.
Replacing the “cat” - “chat,” “dog” - “chien” style of instruction, Lemoine would speak totally in French, but “send clues” to the students by pointing to what she was talking about or otherwise making it known what the gist of the statement was.
“Most of those who came had a background in French,” Lemoine said. “Most said they could understand French, some said they could speak some French and a few said they could read French.”
She said when she asked students to relate what they hoped to achieve in the class, the most common answer was “to retain or to return to their heritage, to be able to have a conversation in French” like they heard their parents or grandparents do when they were children.
Every student left knowing at least a few phrases used in every day life in a French-speaking household, Lemoine said. As they attend more classes, they will learn even more.
Lemoine used some words that look and sound the same in English as French, using those words in sentences that would help the students understand what was being said even if they did not know the French words being spoken.
The first class started at 10 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m. on Sept. 17 -- the day of the STEPScenla Color Run in downtown Marksville.
Lemoine said the class will meet at 10 a.m. every Saturday at the library for as long as there is an interest.
Thinking optimistically, she said, “If it gets too big, I will have to try to find someone else to pinch hit for me and help out.”
Lemoine said she expects the class to grow as word-of-mouth spreads and people hear how much fun even those with no background in French are having.
“I have made a commitment that the class will last as long as it needs to,” Lemoine said. “I won’t be saying, ‘Your hour’s up.’”
While it is a bit of a cliche to say, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” that seemed to be the case for Lemoine and her attentive students on that Saturday.