French Heritage Language Program Conference:
“Heritage Languages and Social Cohesion”
Dr. Marcello Suarez Orozco
Professor of Globalization and Education, New York University Steinhardt
As a Professor of Globalization and Education and the Co-Director of Immigration Studies at New York University, my research focuses on conceptual and empirical problems in the areas of cultural psychology and psychological anthropology. I am particularly interested in mass migration, and co-directed the largest study ever funded in the history of the National Science Foundation's Cultural Anthropology division – a study of Asian, Afro-Caribbean, and Latino immigrant youth in American society.
I am currently working on a book, Learning in Troubled Times, which is a collection of commissioned essays by scholars of multiple disciplines from around the globe. Ours is an increasingly interconnected world, where the flow of culture, information and media is ever more central. Given that, the book seeks to answer the question, “How do we think about learning in a way that engages children in many different parts of the world?”
Finally, I believe that heritage language preservation programs reveal the importance and potential power of orchestrated local-level efforts to positively impact the educational trajectories, development, and civic engagement of immigrant youth and families.
Panel 1: Heritage Language Research and Social Cohesion
“A central question for research today: how does heritage languages teaching and learning help us to understand and answer issues of social cohesion?”
Doctoral Candidate, The City University of New York
I am a certified bilingual speech-language pathologist. After obtaining my undergraduate diploma from Adelphi University, I pursued a master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Howard University. After receiving my professional license, I began providing speech, language, and swallowing remediation, predominately to the pediatric population. On various occasions the knowledge of my heritage language, Haitian, permitted me to convey information to Haitian parents with limited English proficiency with respect to their children’s delayed or disordered language development as a result of premature birth or congenital disorders, thus allowing first generation Haitian parents to have access to knowledge that enabled their children to receive the appropriate early intervention remedial services. I have always advised parents who have limited English proficiency to encourage their children to maintain their heritage language. Parents are reassured that their children will acquire English in the school setting, therefore it is important for parents to serve as strong language models in their native language to their children to assure appropriate language development for children who are at risk for arrested language development. In addition, the maintenance of heritage languages also encourages and fosters harmonious relationships within the family.
In my dissertation I will be examining the psycholinguistic state of minds of U.S. born second-generation heritage speakers of Haitian in the domain of the definite article system. Pilot data has revealed a divergence in the production and representation of the definite article system between native islanders, those who arrived to the U.S. after the age of 18, and U.S. born heritage speakers. These preliminary results are consistent with the review of the literature on the characteristics of cognitive reanalysis performed by heritage speakers for various reasons.
In addition to pursuing research at the developmental neurolinguistic lab, and working as a certified clinician, I have recently co-authored a chapter on the Haitian Diaspora in New York with Dr. Barriere in an upcoming book edited by Ofelia García entitled, Bilingual Community Education for American Children: Beyond Heritage Languages in a Global City.
Dr. Olga Kagan
Professor and Director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center, UCLA
I am a professor in the UCLA Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and I have directed the Title VI National Heritage Language Resource Center (NHLRC) since 2006. The Center’s mission is research into heritage language acquisition, instituting innovative teaching practices, fostering professional development, and designing instructional materials and assessment instruments. The Center convenes an annual heritage language research institute each June, and a heritage language teacher workshop, co-sponsored by STARTALK, each July. To join us next summer, please watch our website (http://nhlrc.ucla.edu/) for announcements and plan to join us next summer.
I have taught Russian at UCLA for many years, and I have been in charge of the Russian Language Program as well as the Russian Flagship. I have co-authored five textbooks of Russian as a foreign language, and three textbooks for heritage speakers of Russian. One of the textbooks, Russian for Russians, received a book award from the American Association of Teachers of Russian and Eastern European Languages (AATSEEL).
Researching productive ways to teach heritage languages has been my main interest for the past ten years. It is a wonderful and rewarding intellectual pursuit because it is such a new and under-researched field. I am very fortunate that I am able to do what I truly love!
Dr. Joy Kreeft Peyton
Vice President, Center for Applied Linguistics
I am a Vice President for Programs at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, DC. One of my major interests is heritage language use and development, and I am the facilitator at CAL for the work of the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages. In this role, I am very interested in how all of the languages in the United States are used and developed by the communities that care about them and how national organizations can help to promote this use and development.
Language is critical to the field of applied linguistics and to our understanding of the ways we work together as individuals, communities, and organizations. Questions of who speaks what language(s), to whom, for what purposes, with what intensity, in what social and political positions, with what sense of identity, and with what outcomes are central to our functioning as a successful society. I have been interested in heritage language use and development since the 1990s, when I conducted a summer institute for teachers of Spanish for Spanish Speakers at UCLA, as well as when a group of colleagues and I launched the first national conference on Heritage Languages in the United States, in Long Beach, California, and were able to bring together heritage language researchers and educators from across the country to talk together about our visions and challenges.
One defining moment in this journey was when I visited the German School of Connecticut, a 34-year-old private German community school, one of 50 such schools that are connected in the umbrella of the German Language School Conference. While I was there I interviewed one of the students, Henry, a 10th grader, who was considering pursuing higher education in Germany because he qualified to enroll in university classes with native German speakers. At that point I realized that many students in the United States actually have at least two education profiles, one in a public or private school and one in a heritage language school. I also realized that in many cases, the public/private schools that they attend don’t know about their other educational experience. To me, this is fascinating. The understanding of students’ complex lives in terms of linguistic and cultural interests and experiences could lead to greater understanding, more effective instruction, and greater respect for the students we work with, as well as for their families and their communities.
Dr. Christine Helot
Professeur des Universités, Université de Strasbourg
I am a French University professor and have been researching the field of bi- and plurilingual education for the past thirty years. I’ve worked both in Ireland and in France and have taken part in many research projects in different European countries. I’m particularly interested in the linguistic education of young migrant learners at home and at school and in encouraging teachers to become agents of change in our education systems.
Although I am a professor of English and this language has served me extremely well throughout my life and career, I believe students should be given the opportunity to learn many more languages than just English. I also believe in the wonderful opportunities that bilingual education offers to students and that such education should be made available in many different languages to all students because we need many more bi- and plurilingual people for the 21st century.
As a researcher I always like going into classrooms and observing children using languages and learning languages. Researching the language awareness project in the small primary school of Didenheim in Alsace for four years and then being involved in a documentary film about the project has been an extraordinary adventure: Mariette Feltin’s film Raconte-moi ta langue has been shown in many countries all over the world and to see the work of two very committed teachers in France inspiring other teachers in Europe and beyond gives me hope.
Dr. Ana Roca
Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, Florida International University
Cuban-born, I am a Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of Modern Languages at Florida International University in Miami. My publications and teaching focus on sociolinguistic, pedagogical, and policy issues related to bilingualism and Spanish in the United States.
I have been teaching and publishing in the areas of Spanish as a heritage language, film and women’s studies, and have a strong interest in the teaching of Hispanic cultures, including teaching a course about Spanish civilizations and cultures. As a consultant, I was the principal and co-translator from the original French into Spanish for the supertitles projected for the opera “Carmen,” as performed in Miami by the Florida Grand Opera. My academic interest continues to be pedagogical and policy issues related to minority languages in the United States. I have taught at the UCLA/CAL summer teacher institute, worked with the National Foreign Language Center in relation to the REACH project, and worked with the AATSP in the area of Spanish for Native Speakers, giving workshops and co-authoring materials for training teachers, published by the AATSP.
I see myself as a professor who remains engaged in her community because I am passionate about my two cultures, and I want others to see the value in knowing more than one language. I have taught courses for language teachers at elementary and community schools and have asked my students, as part of their class assignments, to interview one of their grandparents or an elder from their community in order to create a collection of heritage voices to be cherished for future generations. I see myself as an advocate for bilingualism and language rights as well as a language and culture instructor. This role helps me stay up-to-date on research in the fields of applied linguistics and bilingualism, but also connects me to contemporary society and culture, the arts, and creative publications.
I live in Miami with my son and two dogs. I stay connected to my Cuban roots and my multilingual community in Miami, but I also live in Spain at least one or two months out of the year, during the summer.
Jane F. Ross
Philanthropist and Educational Consultant, The Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation
I have been involved in international education for over thirty-five years as an educator, administrator, program development officer and consultant. I serve as Vice President and Principal Program Officer of The Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation that focuses on international education and music education. I am the President of the French Heritage Language Program, which works in collaboration with the French American Cultural Exchange. A graduate of Swarthmore college, I have had an extensive career as an educator and educational consultant and am and currently pursuing a PhD in International Education at New York University. My research focuses on the role of French schools abroad, particularly in the United States.
Panel 2: Communities, Heritage Cultures, and Integration
“Actors on the ground representing diverse francophone communities speak about the realities of their heritage in an American context.”
French Program Coordinator for Haitian Americans In Action Association
My name is Asnath Bertin-Fleuriot. I was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I migrated to United States in 1990 to reunite with my parents. Two years later, I graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and attended Binghamton SUNY where I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French Literature. I completed my post graduate studies at Brooklyn College and Touro College of Education. I currently hold a Master of Science Degree in General/Special Education, and a Master of Arts Degree in Community Health. I am a New York State Certified French Teacher. I currently teach French at I.S 229 in the Bronx, and I am also the French Program Coordinator for the Haitian Americans In Action Association. I enjoy teaching French because it creates in me the desire to explore the culture of various francophone countries, and in many ways allows me to stay connected with my heritage.
Director, Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL)
I am native of Greensburg, Louisiana (St. Helena Parish). A CODOFIL teacher from Switzerland provided me with my first classroom exposure to the French language at Greensburg Elementary School in 1980. I went on to pursue the study of French at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, Northwestern State University and the University of New Orleans. My understanding of Louisiana’s unique French culture, language and heritage has afforded me the opportunity to work at the highest levels of the state’s tourism and cultural industries in both the private and public sectors. My professional experience includes positions at Laura Plantation, the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association, the Office of Cultural Development and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Before assuming my role as executive director of CODOFIL, I was most recently employed by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy at the Consulate General of France in New Orleans.
Co-Founder, Penobscot School of Language Learning and Cultural Exchange, Maine
I started learning French at age 11, started teaching it in 1985, and have been studying French culture in Maine for over 30 years. My ethnographic fieldwork brought me into both French-heritage populations of Maine: the Acadians of the St. John River Valley and the French-Canadians of the mill towns. I have lived and taught in France and Québec and traveled widely in the Francophone world. Now my language consulting work includes new program development and assisting individuals and community groups to reinvigorate French culture and re-acquire “lost” French language. I am an outsider who can sometimes help others see the whole forest - not just the trees.
Language is central to personal identity and community connectivity. Many New Englanders of French heritage were made to feel ashamed because of their “bad” French or their accent, or else they felt guilty for not having learned French. I work on concepts like “inclusive French” to try to move beyond the elitism, the shame, and the guilt.
With the help of a Québécois film festival, a documentary called Réveil - Waking Up French, and a series of informal “French re-acquisition” gatherings, we brought French back in a Maine town where its importance had been repressed for 75 years.
Founder, Malian Cultural Center, New York
My name is Assetou Traore, or Mrs. Sy. I am the founder of the first Malian Cultural Center in America. I was inspired to open this Center because both my children and grandchild were born and raised in this wonderful country. I taught them the value of the American Dream but also to appreciate their heritage. Mali is a beautiful country, a hidden gem in West Africa. I also wanted to educate non-Malians to better understand the rich and strong history of our humble country. The Center has been aided by the French Heritage Language Program through their generous act of providing French teachers to teach our over 15 students every Saturday. I find fascinating the doors that the French, English and Malian languages open for children of our generation. They are better ranked in schools, faster selected for jobs and more easily assimilate to the world at large.
Council Member, Houma Tribal Council, Louisiana
I am a citizen of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana. I grew up in the Houma Indian community of Bayou DuLarge, Louisiana and still live there today. My family and I speak the Houma-French language passed on to us from our parents and ancestors.
As a well-known Houma artist and basket weaver, I reintroduced the Houma Half-Hitch method of basketry, taught to me by the late Richard Conn, the former chief Curator of Native Arts at the Denver Museum of Art. The Houma tribe is the only tribe in the nation that practices this technique. In keeping with tradition, I passed on my basketry knowledge to my three daughters and currently teach others in my tribal community.
A survey was recently done and we found out that over 40% of the Houma people still speak French. You have to realize that this is the old French that we learned from some of the first explorers. It's not the French that is spoken by the Cajuns. You have to remember also that our people were not allowed in the public
schoolshere in this area of Louisiana. I had never heard anything but French until I went to school. French for me is part of my daily life...everyone in my neighborhood speaks French. La Langue Houmas is who we are today, it is part of our culture...just like we are known for our baskets that are made with Palmetto...it's part of identity. It is a very important part of our culture today as it was 300 years ago. Our friendship with the people of France is very strong today because of our language.
I am also a tribal and community advocate and a recipient of the United Houma Nation Cultural Preservation award, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folk Life Fellowship award, and the Master Artist of Louisiana award. I have served on the Houma Tribal Council since 2008 representing lower Dulac, Louisiana and Lower Bayou DuLarge, Louisiana.
Consultant, Haitian Ministry of Education
I was born in Belgium and raised in France. I graduated from Université de Lille 3 (France) and Arizona State University (U.S.), specializing in Francophone literature, the teaching of the French language, and cultural development. I taught French as a foreign language in France and the U.S. for several years, before promoting the collaboration between public schools and several cultural organizations of the French Ministry of Education.
Working hand in hand with community organizations , teachers, donors and the American public school system, I coordinated and developed the French Heritage Language Program for 5 years and a have been a regular presenter at regional and national language conferences. I am convinced of the need for immigrant students to keep strong ties with their cultural heritage and language. Not only does it give them a great opportunity for success, it is also a chance to carry valuable skills and unique outlooks. Building on this personal and professional heritage, I am today proud t work as a consultant for the Haitian Ministry of Education.
Panel 3: Educational Initiatives involving Heritage Languages and Cultures
“Discussing some local Heritage initiatives currently in place in France and the United States.”
Benoît Le Dévédec
Coordinator, French Heritage Language Program
As my name suggests, I was born in Brittany, France, where we also have a strong heritage language and culture, Breton. I am a teacher of French and English and I coordinate the French Heritage Language Program. Studying foreign languages and literature gave me a thirst for discovering and understanding other people and cultures and that is also what made me choose to teach languages in France and abroad. Today I am very proud to work for the French Heritage Language Program and to share my passion with a very dedicated team. For most of our students, French is but one heritage language among many, and it is also a language shaped and influenced by the other languages they live with. As such we do not teach and conceive of French as a norm but rather as a constantly evolving place of creation. Our curricula are specifically designed to meet the needs of our diverse students and we make sure students themselves are an integral part of the projects we create with them. Whether we speak of Franco-Americans in Maine or Haitians in Florida, French becomes a tool of cultural identity building, strengthening bilingual skills and offering new opportunities for our students both at school and in their future professional lives. I hope this conference will help people better understand the importance of heritage languages teaching and learning and the value it represents for our students, children and adults, not only here in North America but also in France and beyond.
Co-President, Education Française à New York
I am Co-President of Education Française à New York (EFNY). EFNY was founded in 2005 by Francophone and Francophile parents who wanted to promote a bilingual education in the public school system.
We started with after school programs and then approached principals of New York schools to discuss the possibility of opening dual language classes, which was done for the first time in 2007. There are now nine schools that offer dual language classes and eight sites that offer after schools programs for both Francophone and Anglophone children. We are now pursuing our efforts and working on the opening of a dual language class at the middle school level for September 2013. Our aim is to represent the Francophone and Francophile families who want their children to continue with their heritage language or want them to be bilingual.
Besides being active at EFNY, I teach French Language and Literature at Wesleyan University. I believe learning another language and another culture is key to understanding the world we live in. It obliges you to question your ways and to think differently.
Giving a child or an adolescent the opportunity to learn another language is a true gift. One of my colleagues has this motto on her door: "Monolinguism can be cured". It certainly summarizes EFNY's position as well as mine.
Dr. Carole Bergin
Preceptor of French, Harvard University
I am a Preceptor of French in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, where I teach intermediate and advanced undergraduate language courses in French. My service-learning course, “French and the Community” focuses on Haiti and Haitian culture. I am interested in the use of technology in the second language classroom and have integrated audio and video recording, blogs and wiki pages into my classes.
French Teacher and Program Officer, Academic Center for the Education of Newly Arrived Immigrants and Students with Interrupted Formal Education, Paris
I am in charge of a French education program at the Centre Académique pour la Scolarisation des Nouveaux Arrivants et Enfants du Voyage in Paris. This center deals with the evaluation and placement in French public schools of newly arrived immigrants and children with interrupted formal education. The academic center makes sure students are taught what corresponds to their needs in order to better help their education in France. Our programs depend on migration flows, often defined by political events in the world. Our students come from all around the world, including other francophone countries like Haiti. I also deal with the training of the teachers who desire to teach in theses different classes.
I teach French as a second language in a middle school in Paris and my work also includes the teaching of French as a native language, or as you call it here as a “Heritage language”. The students I have very often do not master the language, the codes and how the school system works. They have an urgent need to understand the language. For them, language is the tool of social integration. To be in a class of 24 students, with around 15 different nationalities, allows me to better understand how languages work. Not to treat them on a hierarchical basis but to understand how words form themselves, how statements and utterances construct themselves in these different languages. Among other things, I have learnt that it is thanks to their native languages that students become proficient in their new language.
Coordinator of Special Programs, International Network of Public Schools
I serve as the Coordinator of Special Programs at the International High School at Prospect Heights (IHSPH), one of the schools in the Internationals Network for Public schools. I have worked in public schools in New York City for the past ten years and specifically with English Language Learners (ELLs) for the past five years at the IHSPH. As an immigrant to the United States from the Dominican Republic, I learned English as a second language at the age of ten and am very passionate about my work with ELLs to help them succeed and go to college. My work involves the creation of meaningful partnerships for the IHSPH that provide additional resources to this small school in Brooklyn. I also spearhead an internship program where all students are given the opportunity to gain work readiness skills through a structured program that helps students add a meaningful experience to their resumes. I have been a key partner at the school for the implementation of the French Language Program - I believe that native language support provides students with the confidence and skills they need to become proficient in their second language. I also believe that student success depends on the ability to feel proud of where one comes and feeling empowered by our personal stories.
Education Attaché, Cultural Services of the French Embassy
I am an education attaché at the French Embassy’s New York headquarters. I oversee bilateral cooperation and secondary education partnerships. Additionally, I administer the French American Cultural Exchange Council's French Heritage Language and Dual Language initiatives. Trained as a linguist, I was an instructor for the United Nations Language Program, a university lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and the National College of Ireland, and an assistant principal at the International School of Boston. A PhD candidate at New York University, my research focuses on the role of philanthropy in education and international development.