Monday October 14, 2013 | 11:15 AM

 “When parents and grandparents heard their children speaking the French as I taught them, they told me I was giving them back their heritage,” she says.

            Louise Tanguay-Ricker is a native of Quebec who teaches the French language and traditions like she learned them, growing up in Canada in a family of artists and musicians.

French is her primary language. She teaches school children in grades pre-kindergarten thru junior high in the French she’s accustomed to speaking and she’s proud to do so. 

            During the past five years, she has taught French at St. Michael’s parochial school in Augusta. Her passion for the French language and traditions are blended in her classroom.

“I have a passion for teaching French because the language also communicates pride in our culture,” she says. 

 

French teacher Louise Tanguay Ricker

Louise Tanguay-Ricker teaches French at St. Michael's in Augusta ME

            Tanguay-Ricker knows how Franco-Americans often feel like the French they learned as a child is somehow not “the real French”. This is wrong. Obviously, as an international language, there are differences in regional accents and dialects between cultures. For example, French Creole, as it’s spoken in Haiti, is different than the language spoken in Provence, France. Nonetheless, it’s still French.  

            As a native French speaker from Quebec, Tanguay-Ricker is determined to teach pride in the Franco-American culture. She teaches the children in the language she’s accustomed to speaking while, at the same time, integrating international French into the curriculum. Although some language purists have challenged her Quebec accent, Tanguay-Ricker says the French she learned as a native speaker is part of who she is as a naturalized American citizen and a Franco-American.

            When she began teaching at St. Michael’s school, she quickly realized that at least half of her students had Franco-American surnames. Moreover, the French spoken by these children’s grand-parents and some of their parents matched the dialect she spoke in her native Quebec.  “I have a lot in common with the Franc-Americans in Augusta. I feel like I’m really at home,” she says       

            She searched for a particular French curriculum to bring the language and culture together. Over time, she adapted a whole new method for teaching French. It’s called “Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling” or TPRS.  “I love it and the students enjoy participating in the creative stories while they’re learning French,” she says.

            She’s created her own website to explain this method.  “It’s ideal for integrating and personalizing stories from the Franco culture into my French curriculum,” she says.

            “I want all of my students to know how important it is to keep their heritage, whether or not they are Franco-Americans,” she says. 

Use of familiar French words is encouraged. For example, students say “memere” and “pepere” (grandmother and grandfather) even though the French language translation is officially “grand-mere” and “grand-pere).

            Tanguay-Ricker says she found validation for teaching culture and language at a conference in Boston sponsored by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), in a seminar called “Heritage Language”. As a result, she searched for experts in the US, England and Canada to find a heritage curriculum.  Eventually, she adopted the TPRS method.

            In addition to classroom instruction, her program is enriched with French artists who are invited to perform at the school, such as the vocal group Faits Divers, Franco-American Fiddler Erica Brown and storyteller Michael Parent. She invites the children to sing with French Canadian choirs.

She also encourages her students to invite family members to speak about growing up in Maine as Franco-Americans. Occasionally, she brings community members together to sing traditional Franco-American songs.

“When parents and grandparents heard their children speaking the French as I taught them, they told me I was giving them back their heritage,” she says.

            Tanguay-Ricker also taught French to students in grades 1-8 at the Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport ME.  She regularly participates in Franco-American “salons” where she shares her experiences with Franco-American artists and musicians.  Prior to moving to Maine with her family, she lived in California where she was the Financial Manager for the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University

            Information about her TPRS program is available at this website:

            http://teacherweb.com/ME/StMichaelSchool/French/

 

 

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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