By Janice Elizabeth Berte
Bonjour! Hola! Thirty-year Framingham State University (FSU) adjunct faculty member, Lauren Taylor-Fernandes, greets her 25 person classroom with an upbeat “hello” to inspire her students to speak Spanish and French as she does.
Lauren’s fascination with foreign languages started when she was in the fourth grade at the Saxonville Elementary School. Her bubbly and dynamic fourth-grade teacher, Mademoiselle LaFollette, taught a select group of advanced students who had the propensity to learn foreign languages. Ms. LaFollette’s teaching style included jumping and singing to the students, and that in turn provided a fun and engaging way to teach young children. Her teaching approach resonated so much with Lauren that it allowed her to remember all the words quicker, and created such a positive environment for all the children involved.
Once Lauren reached college age, her mentor was French professor, Marise Thompson. According to Lauren, “Marise had this beautiful smile, was statuesque, and her delivery of the French language was perfection.”
Thompson was such a great role model for Lauren in so many ways that she advanced her degree, and eventually would then become a foreign language teacher at FSU and Stonehill College.
As the years went on as a French and Spanish teacher, Lauren noticed a few things along the way about her students. One of which was the fact that no technology entered into the picture 30 years ago. Computers were around back then, but no laptops or tablets, and it was mainly notepad and pen if you desired to remember any special points of interest.
To get the students attention in 2017, one needs to be very creative because of their iPhones. The students are told to not text, email or go on Facebook in the classrooms, but it is a struggle to prohibit them from using them.
Another concern as a foreign language teacher is the fact that some students are required to take at least the introductory foreign language class to graduate. If the student has no interest in pursuing further education in the languages, then the desire is not there from the beginning.
In regard to the surge of online classes, Lauren said, “students need in-person pairing and group activities to learn a language or be able to interpret or translate in an impromptu setting.”
The allure of online classes for students is the fact that they don’t have to dress up, deal with parking issues or have in-person conversations with their professors. However, the most important issue is the student will need to be self-motivated.
This is a huge issue because most young students are inundated with other course loads and may carry a part-time job among all the other side interests that go with being a full-time student.
There is also the point of how each and every student is different in terms of their socio-economic status, their cultural upbringing, what schools they attended prior to entering college, and how that affects the classroom. Some students will require special accommodations or tutoring to pass the class, and some students will find the class to be easier depending on their past educational level. This brings a host of challenges for any teacher, but foreign language teachers find it particularly difficult since there needs to be a basic understanding of the English language first to ever move into another language.
Lauren said, “The world is changing and is becoming more international on many levels, so it would behoove any student to pick up another language.”
Au revoir! Adios!