Letter to my High School French teacher

Dear Dr. Schacht,

Barbara K (with whom I have maintained a lifelong friendship) has encouraged me to write to you about our time at Hall High and your role in our education. I am happy to do so!

Marian G remembers our culinary adventures (did you eat periwinkles?). I remember our singing! You rendered La Marseillaise with great conviction. I can still sing at least one drinking song. I remember the realization that French is pronounced a little bit differently when sung.

Studying French always seemed somewhat peripheral to me in high school. I knew from early on that I was headed for training in the sciences. The value of language training became evident to me gradually, as I traveled and struggled to understand the world around me.

I regret that I never had the opportunity to become fluent in spoken French. Did you know I dropped out of our French class in senior year because of a health problem? Infected tonsils! But we had already covered lots of ground, and I value what I learned.

My next language was German, required for Chemistry majors at Michigan State University, where I earned my undergraduate degree. Despite studying German for only just over a year, I became more proficient than I was with French, because I spent a long summer holiday in Germany in 1971. I traveled with IAESTE, the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, a United Nations program. IAESTE arranged jobs for students. I worked at the Institut fur Kernforschung in Berlin, in the company of a dozen or so other foreign students. German was our first common language, English second, then French, then handwaving… It was a wonderful summer, and came at a time when my American campus (located not so far from Kent State in Ohio) was riven with political stress.

I also count Dutch in my linguistic toolbox. I learned it word-for-word from German. I also spent an IAESTE summer in the Netherlands, at the Technical University of Eindhoven.

Berlin and Eindhoven will always be special to me.

I’ve spent most of my career at a small public college in southern New Jersey, now (grandiosely?) titled Stockton University. I taught Environmental Chemistry and Pollution Management. Applied chemistry and engineering are my strengths. Recently, I’ve worked in Facilities Management, specializing in “green” design and energy management.

Stockton University lists “global awareness” as a pillar of its education, but does not require students to study a language. Harrumph!

I have two sons, now ages 26 and 32. My older son got excellent training in Spanish during high school, completing an Advanced Placement class. His college of choice was St. John’s in Maryland, the “Great Books” college, where everyone studies two years each of Greek and French. After college, he traveled to Argentina.

I regret to say that my younger son learned only rudimentary French and Spanish. But he aspires to travel.

I have not yet read your books of which Barbara gave me copies. I plan to do so. Almost everything I read is “reviewed” in my blog (AMG Reading Journal at http://www.amgreader.wordpress.com) which I invite you to visit.

I want to thank you for being part of the good educational experience I had at Hall High. I wish you good health.

Sincerely, Alice G

Hall High School, class of 1967

 

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