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The identities and classroom instruction of non-native FSL teachers in Ontario secondary schools

As a multicultural and multilingual Canadian citizen who aspires to become a French teacher, I can relate to many of the cultural and linguistic barriers that non-native French language teachers confront. I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, identifying with Western culture and values, while maintaining an affiliation with Asian culture and values as well. I am proud to be part of a rich Chinese community as part of my racial identity, which gives me many opportunities to partake in Chinese cultural practices. I am fluent in English, French, and Cantonese, as I communicate using those languages in specific contexts with different people in my life: Cantonese with family members, English and French with friends and colleagues. As a result of adopting multiple cultures and languages, I understand the plethora of challenges that a non-native FSL educator may meet while teaching in a multicultural and multilingual environment. By observing teachers in their language classrooms and engaging colleagues in reflective discussions about facilitating French language learning, I recognized the need for continual professional development and support to ensure that non-native FSL teachers feel competent and fluent in cultivating a stimulating classroom environment for their students. The motivation for this qualitative research study was to determine the self-identified weaknesses and challenges of the in-service teacher participants and to derive implications for these language learning facilitators as professional, cultural, and linguistic role models to the students.

Abstract: French language teachers are cognizant of the relationship between their identity and their instruction, as self-perceptions of their competency influence their pedagogy and practice. In this qualitative study with in-service French-as-a-second-language (FSL) teachers in Ontario secondary schools who are not native French speakers, their testimonies reveal the experiences and challenges of negotiating their "non-native" French language teacher identity in the classroom. Their personal narratives describe their process of acquiring and mastering French as an additional language, which influences their teaching and communicative practices with students of diverse needs in the FSL classroom, including Francophone students and families. French language teachers' confidence and professional expertise is a result of their motivation and commitment to interact using the target language of French in the classroom, in addition to the prevalence of French in their personal lives. These teachers communicated the importance of preparedness, their struggles to implement updated Ministry curriculum guidelines, and the use of English in the French learning environment that they seek to cultivate. From the teacher participants’ reported experiences and challenges, they offer insight and strategies for non-native French speakers to teach FSL, by developing their linguistic skills, cultural fluency, and confidence, so that their colleagues may learn from their best practices.

Key Words: non-native French language teachers, French language learning, French culture, secondary education

Rebecca Chui, B. A. (Hons.), MT, OCT OISE | University of Toronto

Farewell to Anger painting by Leonid Afermov. Buy his artwork here.

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