Heather A. Young and Dr. Michael Bush, French and Italian
This creative project constitutes one component of an initiative undertaken by Dr. Michael Bush to obtain and use culturally authentic images of everyday life in Francophone countries to illustrate lexical and grammatical concepts in the French language classroom. Receiving the ORCA Scholarship enabled me to take over 830 photographs illustrating a broad range of concepts, which will be used in classroom instruction at BYU and will eventually be made available to French language teachers across the United States. These photos are in addition to well over 3000 images which have already been obtained by other students.
To accomplish this project I took a photography class and purchased the necessary camera equipment. I also spent time researching the French Canadian culture and history, including famous monuments and regions, as well as everyday life. I was in contact with the government tourist information associations and learned a great deal about what would be important from people who are currently residents of Quebec, as well as others who have lived there and studied the culture. I also utilized the existing framework established by Dr. Bush and created a subject by subject shot-list in which I recorded and catalogued the photographs. The purpose of this was to enable my photographs to be incorporated as easily as possible with those already obtained. My four weeks in Quebec were spent driving to different sites, observing and photographing many elements of French Canadian culture. The photography class which I had taken enabled me to open my eyes and see much about Quebec that was both beautiful and unique.
The work that has begun with this project is far from finished. The photographs are now ready to be developed, put on photo CD, and placed within the existing organizational structure along with the other images which have been taken in France and Africa. This integrated tool will undoubtedly take more years of research, until all the images can be brought together, put on CD-ROM and marketed as an educational tool. I will assist in the organization of the photographs and helping to make them accessible for educators to access.
The main reason for this project is that the value of these images is greater than just their usefulness in teaching vocabulary, because through these images cultural education is woven throughout grammar instruction. Thus, when the student learns a French word or concept, it is reinforced in their mind with an image from a Francophone culture.
To illustrate this concept, let me share my experience. I have studied the French language for 9 years. In all these years I have never spent even one day in a culture where French is the native language spoken. Thus, my grammar and pronunciation were fairly good, and I was getting better at communication B but my understanding of subtle connotations of French words was fairly limited. Also, there were many words that I simply knew because I had memorized them for a vocabulary test, but that weren’t permanent parts of my French knowledge. Francophone culture for me implied a baguette, a beret, and the Eiffel Tower. However, after my trip to Canada, words that I had previously known just as an exercise in vocabulary took on new meaning. As I used them, and heard them used in context of the French Canadian culture, I found myself acquiring language at a new and wonderful rate. Linge, the French word for laundry, will forever be tied in my mind to the image of clothes blowing dry on the line-from the crowded apartments of Montreal to the seaside homes of Gaspésie. My trip to Canada permanently changed my ideas and enhanced this part of my education, replacing old ideas and mental images with renewed understanding and excitement. This is an experience that I would love to share with my students.
A crucial part of foreign language education is understanding and accepting the culture which shapes the language and the people who speak it. The reason for this is that the main purpose behind learning a foreign language is communication. True communication with people in their native language requires an understanding of their traditions and customs, as well as the sociolinguistic aspects of the language. The images I was able to obtain in Quebec as a result of this project will help students who have never experienced the foreign culture to understand and comprehend their subject matter in a new light, to leave their foreign language classes more prepared to enter the target culture, and communicate effectively in the language. In effect, the education our students receive will be infused with meaning.
As a French language educator, I have seen many benefits of this project, both currently, and in the future. Firstly, I have received the opportunity to experience French Canadian culture for myself, and will be able to pass along my love for it to my students. Secondly, I received daily practice in the French language, and improved my language skills. This will have great value for my students.
Thirdly, I am thrilled at the possibility that this project will represent to foreign language educators at BYU and throughout the United States. I look forward to the time when this educational tool will provide me with instant access by computer to culturally authentic images from Francophone countries around the world. I am assured that one large benefit of technological advances in this day and age is the assistance they can give to those working in the field of education. French is a real language; real people speak it. These real people have customs and traditions, both similar and different from ours. Students of today deserve the chance to understand these foreign cultures. We do them a disservice if we treat language education as a sterile subject with black and white answers, denying the humanity behind it.
I feel privileged to have been involved with this project, which is one way in which the faculty of Brigham Young University is seeking to address the needs of students at this institution, and to ameliorate the condition of learning across the United States. As educational tools progress in the 21st Century, we will see progress in cultural information being presented, and tools which communicate to students with diverse learning styles. This visual image collection will be important and helpful to many students, giving them an advantage in language acquisition and global awareness.