My name is Nicole Horne. I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. I attended Ursuline Academy High School, and I am a recent honors graduate of Louisiana State University with a bachelor of the arts degree in French. Today, I am headed to Rennes, France, as a member of the first class of Escadrille Louisiane.
Escadrille Louisiane is a brand new scholarship program sponsored by the Center for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) in cooperation with the French government. Targeting students from Louisiana who are interested in being English language assistants in France, this program offers them the unique opportunity to receive training in pedagogy while in France so that upon their return they qualify to teach in in the state of Louisiana, either in a French immersion program or French as a second language program. The program was named for Escadrille Lafayette, a group of 200 Louisiana men who trained as pilots to fly for the French during World War I. The idea behind Escadrille Louisiane: to train Louisiana teachers to become teachers of French back home.
I knew that after graduation I wanted to go to France, so I submitted my application for the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) to be an English language assistant. A few weeks later, I received an email asking me if I was interested in participating in the new scholarship program. The details included airfare for a round-trip ticket to France, a teaching assistant position in the French academy of Rennes and training in pedagogy while in France.
In return, I would commit to coming back to Louisiana to teach for three years. I told them that I was interested, went to an interview and in about two weeks received a second email congratulating me for being one of the first 10 students to participate. I must confess, however, the decision was a lot harder than it sounded.
Throughout all of my schooling, I never considered teaching as my future profession – interesting if you consider the fact that first question a French major get is, “What are you going to do? Do you want to teach?” “No way!” I’d insist, and not because there was something fundamentally wrong with being a teacher. The real reason was that I was never sure that I had what it takes. I just knew in my gut that this was going to be a rewarding opportunity and that I would be unwise to pass it up, so I started to envision myself as a teacher, more specifically a language teacher.
My passion in life has always revolved around language. It started in the family. My mother was born in Iran and lived there until she was 18, when she came to the United States for college. Here, she met and married my father, an American and Anglophone. I grew up speaking English but was constantly surrounded by Farsi, what I still consider a beautiful and rare language. Even though I was never able to speak it, I always felt closer and more connected to that side of my family.
I adored all things Iranian. Growing up, I wanted more than anything to be truly accepted by those members of both my immediate and extended family. I tried to imitate the certain small differences in behavior and attitude that I noticed in my mother and grandmother; I was flattered when strangers noticed the Persian side of my look; and when I finally learned to make tea, I was ecstatic. Still, I know now, and always did, that true identification with that community could only come when I learned the language.
I am still disappointed that I don’t speak Farsi (don’t worry, I am working on it!). It is something that sometimes caused me to feel like an outsider in my own family. I realize now, however, that the experience of being somewhat marginalized is what motivated me to pursue language so intensely and aggressively in school.
I was drawn to my foreign language classes from very early on. I started with Spanish in first grade. I remember being so painfully aware of my pronunciation and bursting with joy when my teacher told me how impressed with me she was. After fifth grade, I changed schools and was then introduced to my one true love – French. It sounds silly, but by the eighth grade I was so utterly enamored by its beauty, not only the aesthetic beauty of the language – the sounds and the gestures – but the beauty of the people and culture that those classes opened my eyes to. Something moved in me, and I still remember the very moment in French class that year where I turned to the girl sitting next to me and said, definitively might I add, that I was going to speak French and live in France someday.
And off I go!
Knowing another language has always been something magical to me, like possessing the key to a secret world no one knows about. I am a firm believer in the strong correlation between language and world view. My awareness of their influence on one another has not only pushed me to progress in language learning but has also had a profound effect on me as a person. This is the reason that I must specify envisioning myself as a language teacher. Being able to participate in the process that was so important to me growing up is what motivated me to participate in this program and to take on the challenge of this blog.
The idea behind the blog is to facilitate cultural exchange between students in France and those in French immersion schools in Louisiana. My dream is that it will become a tool in the classroom to pass on knowledge as well as to excite and encourage the students. The blog will have three major components. Throughout my seven month stay in Rennes, I will update the blog with observations of the every day things that distinguish French life from life at home. I will also include weekly reflections on my experiences in the French classroom, both as a teaching assistant and a university student. Finally, there will be an interactive component, where I offer young students the opportunity to ask me their own questions about life in France and send me on adventures in search for the answers.
Here is a quote I came across in an email a few years ago: “The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all degrees of human comprehension. This is a very unpalatable and bitter doctrine, but I cannot omit it” (Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading 34, 1934). There is so much learning that comes from the study of language. Aside from its practical advantages, knowing more than one language has a deep and lasting effect on the individual. This is why, no matter how fearful I am of being a teacher, I decided to move forward and accept my place in the first class of Escadrille Louisiane. If just one young student will feel inspired to continue learning languages, I will have succeeded and it will all be worth it.