AATF Convention in Austin
The American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) held the 89th annual convention July 3-6, 2016 in Austin, Texas. This year’s theme was, « En avant vers les nouvelles frontières du français, » exploring the future of French language teaching.
Two members of the French Embassy’s Cultural Services Department had the opportunity to present a session on new tools for French teachers; Karl Cogard, Head of the Educational Affairs Department, and Jessica Fertinel, Deputy Cultural Attaché in Houston. They express their thanks to all the conference participants who visited the Embassy Cultural Services stand throughout the conference.
The conference sessions were rich in content, covering topics such as cinema, culture and history, professional development, Francophonie, literature, music and song, promotion, committees, teaching techniques, and technology. Particularly of interest were the sessions on advocacy and teaching French in K-12 and higher education. For more information on these specific session topics, continue reading.
The Embassy of France in the U.S. Cultural Services Department would also like to extend their thanks to the all of the following, for their invaluable anlayses and conference submissions : Catherine Daniélou University of Alabama and President of AATF, Alain-Philippe Durand, University of Arizona, Randa Duvick,Valparaiso University, Bill Rivers, Secretary General of Joint National Committee for Languages/ National Council for Languages and International Studies, Scott Sheridan Illinois Wesleyan University, Kathleen Stein-Smith, President of the AATF Committee for the Defence of French, Margot Steinhart, Alliance Française du North Shore (IL), honorary President of AATF Eileen Walvoord, Regional Delegate for the Mid-West (IL).
To read more about their sessions, please visit: http://www.frenchteachers.org/default.htm.
What was learned?
The same observation is unfortunately shared by all. French language teaching in universities has reached a crisis—one that is affecting foreign language teaching across the board. Likewise, the number of students who wish to enter the teaching profession is the lowest it has been in forty-five years. (In 2016, the percentage of students declaring an Education major has dropped to 4.2 % from 11 % in 2000, a percentage that had been stable since the 1970s.)
The challenge is twofold:
The lack of French language teachers is becoming more and more of a problem. The number of states affected by the shortage of foreign langage teachers in 2013-2014 was 36 for grades K-6, and 39 for grades 7-12. Humanities education demands partial reorganization of course offerings so French will always be present as a major or a minor.
- Developing an essential K-16 vision.
- Utilizing opportunities to lead advocacy and promotional campaigns for the teaching/learning of French.
- The teaching of French in higher education (in French departments or the French section within the modern languages departments) is dominated by literature, with few exceptions. A survey of roughly 200 American universities conducted in spring 2013 showed that 60 % of students with a French major, chose to combine it with a second major. Therefore to attract university students, it is important to offer French language courses for professional purposes (business, engineering, health, etc.). French curriculum needs to show its job market value.