Tag Archives: ALM language instruction

“Bonjour, Jean. Comment Vas-Tu?”

Right now, there’s a proposal on the table — la table — to eliminate middle school French within 3 years.

Mon dieu!

While that’s not the extent of my French ability, it’s close.

It’s all ALM’s fault.

If you didn’t go to school in the 1960s, you missed out didn’t miss anything. ALM was a language instruction method rooted in rote repetition. Wikipedia says it was “discredited as a teaching methodology in 1970,” but those of us who suffered through it then (and after) in Westport have it seared in our brains.

“Où est Sylvie? A la piscine.”

“La neige est belle aujourd-hui.”

And something about mounting a balcony. Plus, of course, Monsieur et Madame Thibault.

Other victims students from that era have similar ridiculous and basically useless sentences embedded in our memories, crowding out anything remotely resembling vocabulary, grammar or the rest of the French language.

Which is not to say that learning French at Long Lots Junior High School was not memorable.

My 8th grade teacher was Carmen Delgado. A large, imposing and very loud woman, she was — as her name implies — not French, French-Canadian or even Cajun, but rather Puerto Rican.

Louis Pasteur, a French scientist who gained fame for inventing a cure for rabbis.

English was probably her 3rd language, which is why she said such things as “Louis Pasteur invented a cure for rabbis.”

At least that is understandable. What were 13-year-olds to make of “Daniel, what is it you are staring at? The moon of Valencia?”

I have obviously remembered at least as much English from Mademoiselle Delgado as I have French.

Also cemented into my cerebrum is a play we produced, “Astérix et Cléopâtre.” Based on what Mademoiselle assured us were very popular French cartoon figures, it probably broke every licensing law in the books. How she had the cojones to charge admission — it was only $1, but back then that was real francs — to watch us mangle the French language is beyond me. Yet that was part of Mademoiselle’s charm.

As it turns out, I have not had many opportunities to show off my lack of French. I have traveled to 5 continents, and over 3 dozen countries, but only one of them was French-speaking. (It was France, of all places). It did not snow there, and I did not need to know that Sylvie was at the pool, but I managed to eat, drink and find the bathroom (salle de bain).

I even was able — thanks to Monsieur et Madame Thibault — to know which door to use.

The snow is beautiful today. Is that Monsieur Thibault on his bicyclette?