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FRE 4503 La Francophonie, Florida International University

02 February 2019


With expanding interest in global learning at US universities, inquisitive students of French often ask: what is the difference between French spoken in France and other countries around the world? Can the French understand Québécois French? How different is Haitian Creole from French? Or why is French, and not Wolof, the official language of Senegal? The Francophonie course for advanced students in French focuses on questions such as these, and introduces them to two local Francophone populations. Next semester, the course will be offered as a hybrid course, with less face-to-face time, and with the help of a TalkAbroad Curriculum Development Grant, students would be able to have at least three conversations with French-speaking Europeans, Canadians, and Africans, thus expanding their appreciation of the cultural significance of language varieties other than standard metropolitan French. Through direct contact with native speakers from around the globe, students would be more culturally aware of the cultural importance of these varieties, and furthermore, through post conversation written assignments, be able to demonstrate an openness to these varieties. If implementation is successful, and student feedback is positive, this would be a first step in creating a totally online version of this course, which could be offered to students around the US.

Course Information

This course, taught in French, examines the concept of la francophonie, or French as spoken outside of France, exploring the diversity of these socio-linguistic situations. The main course objective is to give students an understanding of the complexity of these situations, as well as an appreciation of the major linguistic theories that attempt to explain how these situations arose (language expansion, colonization, language change, creolization, fallacy of Creole exceptionalism).

One of the paradoxes of globalization, however, is that France appears to be losing some of its hegemonic power in a world increasingly dominated by other colonial languages, such as English and Spanish. We will thus also examine La Francophonie with a capital F, the loose alliance of Francophone countries that have biannual summits and promote international cooperation along with the use of French, a situation that arose after decolonization. This seminar in linguistics is designed for French majors who have already studied French Phonetics or General Linguistics. It can fulfill the French Linguistics or one of the Breadth course requirements for majors, or can count as a French elective for majors or minors. It also satisfies the upper division global learning requirement.

The Francophonie course revolves around three learning outcomes:

  1. Global Perspective: Students will be able to analyze a complicated multilingual situation where French is spoken alongside other languages in terms of multiple cultural perspectives.
  2. Global Awareness: Students will be able to analyze the interconnections between historical events, political regimes, and linguistic changes that have led to the creation of different varieties of French around the world.
  3. Global Engagement: Students will be able to demonstrate an openness (and an ability to convince others to be open) to the cultural significance of language varieties other than standard metropolitan French (e.g., Quebecois French, Haitian Creole) The course presently involves two off-campus components where (1) students interview elderly (mostly retired) Québécois during CanadaFest, a festival that takes place every January in Hollywood, Florida, (2) as well as talk with Haitians while exploring the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami. However, students do not get to interact with students their own age in the target language. TalkAbroad would give students the chance to truly interact with Francophones around the globe. In particular, they would have three discussions: one with a French speaker from Europe, another with a Québécois, and a third with a Francophone from Africa (either North Africa or West Africa). This personal interaction would greatly help with all three global learning outcomes. But in particular, it would expand the Global Engagement outcome, which is the most difficult to achieve and measure in this course.

TalkAbroad Implementation

The course will be taught for the first time in hybrid mode next semester. In a hybrid class, the face-to-face meeting time is reduced by 50%. The other 50% of the class takes place outside of the classroom (online, in the field, in the community, or some other place). The individualized TalkAbroad discussions with native speakers would thus replace some face-to-face class time with more authentic conversations and interviews. The post assignments where students would have to analyze their interaction with native speakers would also be used in place of written homework that previously focused on written articles and chapters. These modifications could also help to reduce answer sharing for written homework, since every student’s TalkAbroad experience would be different and demand personal reflection on their part. In particular, students would be required to have three conversations (one towards the beginning of the course, another in the middle, and a third one towards the end of the semester) as follows:

TalkAbroad Assignment (1)

Set up an appointment to talk with someone from Europe (France, Belgium, or Switzerland) for 30 min. via the TalkAbroad website.

Pre assignment: Read Introduction à la Francophonie, in particular the section dealing with Fishman’s paradox (i.e., “English is less loved but more used; French is more loved but less used”), and the two articles on Swiss and Belgium French (Aperçu de la situation linguistique en Belgique et en Suisse and La Langue de l’autre : Le Contact linguistique en Suisse et en Belgique).

During the conversation:

  1. Strike up a conversation about their language abilities:
    • Do they speak other languages than French?
    • Do they know anyone who speaks “patois”?
  2. Investigate their attitudes toward French
    • Do they think French in Europe is endangered by the presence of English?
    • What do they think about Quebec, Belgium, and/or Swiss French?
  3. Investigate their attitudes about bilingualism
    • Try to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of bilingualism
    • Share with them an example of how you use more than one language on a daily basis (e.g. code switching in Miami)
    • Are they familiar with any current language issues in Belgium?

Post assignment:

TalkAbroad Assignment (2)

Set up an appointment to talk with someone from Canada for 30 min. via the TalkAbroad website.

Pre assignment: Read the two articles on Québécois prononciation and vocabulary (Le français québécois : Description linguistique and Le lexique québécois : son évolution, ses composantes).

During the conversation:

  1. Ascertain their beliefs about how well they speak French and how well French is spoken in Canada.
    • Do they think that they have a noticeable accent?
    • Do they think that Quebec French is less prestigious than French as spoken in France?
  2. Ascertain their command of English (but DO NOT speak to then in English)
    • How well do they speak English?
    • Do they use English every day? With whom?
    • Is English important to them?
  3. Find out about language use in Quebec:
    • Do they use French every day? With whom?
    • What laws are in place to promote the use of French in Quebec?
    • Do they listen to popular music/television programs in French or in English?
    • Do they prefer to fill out forms/do surveys in French or English?
  4. Show them three objects (corresponding to words on the survey we used in the Hollywood City as Text excursion – e.g., tennis shoes, pencil sharpener, teaspoon, etc.), ask them what they call these, and jot down the words that they use.

Post assignment:

TalkAbroad Assignment (3)

Set up an appointment to talk with someone from Northern Africa (e.g., Tunisia) or a sub-Saharan Francophone African (e.g., Senegal, Ivory Coast) for 30 min. via the TalkAbroad website.

Pre assignment: Read the two chapters on French in Africa (Le français en Afrique and Le français en Afrique du Nord) and the articles and short excerpts about from French in Senegal (Sénégal, Inventaire des particularités lexicales du français en Afrique noire, and Plurilinguisme et conflit de langues dans « Xala »)

During the conversation…

  1. Discuss the role of French in their country
    • Is French an official language?
    • Are there other official languages?
    • Are there any national languages that are not official?
    • How/where did they learn French? (school, home, work, etc.)
  2. Find out about their daily language use
    • How many languages they speak?
    • What is their first language?
    • What languages do they use in various places (home, market, school, administration)?
  3. How is French in the country influenced by other languages
    • How do any native languages influence French as spoken in their country? (e.g., for Tunisia speakers, ask if there are any Arabic words in the French they use daily; for Ivory Coast participants, ask about le nouchi ivoirien; for Senegalese, ask about le wolof urbain. etc.)
  4. Ask your speaker about any global issues that might concern their country (e.g., illiteracy, place of women in society, etc.).

Post assignment:


Coming in 2019

Project Lead

Peter A. Machonis, Florida International University