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I teach Continental French

Written By: Billette on October 15, 2010 2 Comments

…so said the English-L1 instructor of French. This woman teaches in Canada to Anglophone Canadian students. My mind flashed to questions of language and power. Canada is an officially bilingual country, thanks to the political (linguistic?) activity of Québec. Why “Continental French” when one’s fellow countrypeople speak a different variety? I fear that the answers are all too obvious and that they relate essentially to power and prestige, linguistic capital and such.

Why am I surprised? She followed her statement by saying that her textbook was “American,” meaning published in the U.S. This begs the same question, but maybe with a different frame: why do we U.S. teachers of French teach (only? primarily? restrictedly?) “Continental French.” And, really, it is not “Continental French”: it’s a Parisian variety of French that is solidly educated, aisé middle class French. How is it that textbooks are so restricted to teach just this variety while paying (little) lip service to other varieties of French?

What do others see in the languages which they teach? Are there odd choices, especially where geographical logic may be at odds with the textbook’s agenda?

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2 Responses to “I teach Continental French”

  1. Martin on: 17 October 2010 at 2:39 am

    Very good questions indeed. It would make much more sense to teach Canadian French in Canada, unless it’s for students who are planning to work or study in France.

    Thoroughly puzzled why they would call it Continental French. My guess is that there’s indeed prestige and status behind it.

  2. daveski on: 14 November 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I saw this site referred to in my morning Twitter feed (digital cattle we are indeed!), and it looks interesting for how many different varieties of French it points its visitors to: http://ielanguages.com/blog/index.php/learning-french/listen-to-the-languages-of-france-french-around-the-world/

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