Celebrating the GDS Francophone Journey

Unless you are immersed in a foreign language for the greater part of your day, becoming proficient in that language requires regular practice and hard work. As a French teacher, I have the privilege of working with some of the youngest students through the after-school program and following those language learners as they become proficient in French throughout their time at GDS.

At GDS 360, pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade students enrolled in the French program are first exposed to the language through songs and games. We like to start our sessions with our “Bonjour” song, get some exercise on the rug reviewing our colors, and practice our numbers through clapping choreography, among many other activities. Once the spark is lit, students go on to explore the language in more formal ways, developing a large vocabulary, learning about complex grammar rules and strategies for remembering all those pesky verb conjugations. They also develop a familiarity with—and appreciation for—Francophone culture through readings and projects.

By the time students of the French program graduate from GDS, they have spent many hours working closely as a tight-knit cohort. They collaborate on projects, read novels together, and nurture the kind of camaraderie you might see in a thriving college study group.

Every year since 2016, students enrolled in the UL-Francophonie course—the highest level of French offered at GDS—are invited to take the ACTFL OPI (American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language Oral Proficiency Interview), an internationally recognized, and independent assessment of speaking proficiency for which they can earn up to 12 college credits. The exam measures students’ ability to speak in the target language. During the unscripted 30-minute conversation, students are asked to answer a series of questions of increasing difficulty and length. The conversation is then evaluated by a certified ACTFL tester. 

At a time when work submitted by or in the name of students has come under scrutiny whether because it was edited or produced by another party, the OPI provides a unique opportunity for students to assess objectively their ability to express themselves spontaneously in a foreign language.

This year, seven seniors and one junior participated in the OPI and seven of them scored at the Advanced level, a testimony to the excellence of the French program offered at GDS and the hard work and dedication of the students enrolled in it. Special recognition goes to Ethan Wolin ’23 and Georgia Maur-Batsaki ’24 who distinguished themselves at the Advanced-High level. 

To celebrate their success and the beginning of a well-deserved Spring Break, the UL-Francophonie class decided to make crêpes. In the High School kitchen, the air was filled with the delicious aroma of buttery crêpes. Students chatted away in French as they flipped and filled their creations with a variety of toppings. The atmosphere was lively and convivial, with lots of laughter and good-natured teasing as everyone enjoyed the delicious results of their efforts. Special thanks to Pierson Cooper ’23 who delighted us with his extraordinary agility while flipping the last crêpe. The French program is very proud of this talented group, and the many skills they truly have.

As the year comes to an end, we are happy to celebrate the accomplishments of all our seniors in the French program and thank all their teachers and families for their support across the years.

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