French Embassy organizes national seminar on French dual language and immersion education: convenes experts and educators from 22 states

From October 29 to 31, 2018, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States welcomed 85 participants for the Second National Seminar on French Dual Language & Immersion Education.  

The 3-day seminar presented a unique and rare opportunity for key actors in the field of dual language education to share experiences, expertise, and different models for French dual language and immersion programs from all over the United States.  Participants hailed from 22 different states and included French immersion teachers, State- and District-level administrators, dual language researchers from 4 universities, and representatives from major national associations including ACTFL (American Association on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), JNCL (Joint National Committee for Languages), and the American Councils for International Education.  Participants from the French government included the organizers from the Educational Affairs Department of the French Embassy, as well as a representative from the French National Ministry of Education. 

The seminar served as a follow-up to the First Seminar on French Dual Language & Immersion Education, which took place at the French Embassy in 2015.  The 2018 seminar presented an opportunity to measure progress in nationwide French dual language and immersion education following the first seminar in 2015.  The number of 2018 seminar participants was double the number in 2015 (45), an increase which in and of itself shows the significant growth and momentum behind the French dual language movement in the United States. What’s more, 2018 participants included those from states and regions that are entirely new to French dual language education, including new programs in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Alaska. 

During the 3 days, participants worked on 7 workshops including: teacher recruitment, professional development for teachers and administrators, access to teaching resources, creating a francophone environment in and outside of school, the Label FrancEducation (seal of recognition for excellent French dual language programs), a mentorship program for new French dual language and immersion schools, and the creation of a French Dual Language Toolkit, a platform for French dual language teachers and administrators to share resources, advocacy materials and best practices. 

The 2018 seminar also presented the chance to build on the program that came out of the 2015 seminar: the French Dual Language Fund, a grant initiative of the French Embassy in partnership with the FACE Foundation. The Fund’s aim is to support public French dual language and immersion education across the U.S., thereby providing American students with quality intellectual and multicultural education.  Following the First Seminar on French Dual Language & Immersion Education in 2015, the French Dual Language Fund was launched in 2016 as pilot initiative, and distributed a total of $100,000 in small grants for pedagogic projects in 27 schools. In September 2017, the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron officially inaugurated the French Dual Language Fund at an event hosted at the City University of New York in front of over 400 members of the dual language education community. Now in its third grant cycle, the French Dual Language Fund funds three major initiatives:

  1. An Annual Grants Program to support pedagogic projects in public French dual language programs;
  2. A scholarship program for graduate students who will become French dual language teachers;
  3. A program to support dual language schools in hosting native French teaching interns.   

The French Dual Language Fund received overwhelmingly positive feedback from 2018 seminar participants.  Such feedback also included ideas and initiatives for increasing the impact of the Fund. Following the fruitful discussions of last week’s Second Seminar on French Dual Language & Immersion Education, two new initiatives will be incorporated into the French Dual Language Fund:

  1. A summer professional development institute dedicated to specialized training for French dual language and immersion teachers at all levels. The Cultural Services of the French Embassy has raised $50,000 to apply toward such a project, with the goal of opening the first institute during the summer of 2019. Seminar discussions allowed us to construct a preliminary budget for the institute, and the French Embassy will be moving forward by opening a call for proposals to universities who might serve as potential hosts for the annual institute. 
  2. A mentorship program for new French dual language programs to connect with and learn from the experience and successes of established dual language programs.  Eight new programs were represented at the seminar, giving them the opportunity to put forth actionable ideas for creating a mentorship program supported by the French Dual Language Fund, in which the new program will receive financial support in addition to being “paired” with one mentor from an established program. 

This seminar presented a unique and rare opportunity for the catalysts of French Dual language and immersion education across the United States to meet and share their expertise. Opportunities for French dual language educators to meet are very scarce, due to geographic dispersity but also to the wide range of program models (Two-Way, One-Way, 50/50 or full immersion). New York and Utah for example, the states (with Louisiana) with the most French dual language programs, never have the opportunity to meet and exchange on best practices. The French Embassy in DC, through the organization of biennial seminars, truly acts as a convening body for the expanding network of French dual language and immersion programs across the United States. 

*More information on the French Dual Language Fund can be found on our partner’s website, the FACE Foundationhttp://face-foundation.org/french-dual-language-fund/index.html  

*A Facebook group for French Dual Language and Immersion education in the United States was created during the seminar: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1736247033164035/

*For testimonials from Seminar participants, we are happy to provide the contact information for the below participants, upon request:

Jon Valentine
Director of Foreign Languages, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Georgia 

Gregg Roberts
Director, Dual Language Studies, American Councils for International Education
Former DLI Specialist in Utah 

Brandon Locke
Curriculum & Instruction Director, World Languages
Anchorage School District, Alaska

Toni Theisen
World Language Specialist/TOSA, Thomson School District, Colorado

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