If you’re anything like me, most of my French language learning was centered around the Hexagone. You know, the traditional stuff: Camus, Voltaire, Flaubert …. Oh, and the occasional woman, like Françoise Sagan or Simone de Beauvoir. It wasn’t until I began my graduate studies at Middlebury College that I finally stepped outside of Europe, getting a taste for North Africa and the Mediterranean. This is to say that before that time, my French language learning left a sizable gap in my understanding of West and Central Francophone identities.
I don’t think this is uncommon, nor do I feel I need to go into too much detail about why colonial countries like France have more cultural capital in our language learning. You’re here. You’re reading this. You get it.
Fast forward to now. The great awakening of anti-racist and social justice pedagogy is everywhere. There is a genuine excitement about making our language learning content more diverse, but we seem to be stuck on just how to accomplish that.
To help tackle this, my 2022 ACTFL conference presentation highlighted resources and ways to easily implement contemporary West and Central Francophone identities into our instructional repertoire, including using social media content from the renowned Congolese author Alain Mabanckou.
In my presentation, I shared a Twitter post where Mabanckou discussed whether a white author should translate a Black author’s work. This was in response to criticism after a white Dutch author was selected to translate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”. In this Twitter post, students can scroll through the online debate on this complex and multidimensional issue.
Did someone say authentic texts? Cross-cultural connections? Connections to our students’ lives? (Sorry for the extra layer of corniness—clearly, I am a teacher.)
The content is there, people, but it requires us to be intentional about what we choose to share with our students (see my previous blog post on Social Justice: Moving Beyond a Single Story).
By: Christen Campbell
Also read: Social Justice: Moving Beyond a Single Story