Heritage Language Programs - French

French Heritage Language Program

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Address: French Heritage Language Program
972 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10075

Contact: David Lasserre

Email: heritageprogram@facecouncil.org

Telephone: 212-439-1438

Fax: 212-439-1455

Web address: www.facecouncil.org/fhlp

Languages: French

Grades: 9-12

Program description

Purposes and goals of the program: This program is a joint initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US, and the Alfred & Jane Ross Foundation. It is currently open in 6 international public high schools in the Internationals Network for Public Schools in New York (elective classes meet 2 to 3 hours a week, serving approximately 110 students).

The French Heritage Language Program is designed to support and enrich the teaching and learning of the French language and the French-speaking cultures for newly immigrated students of Francophone background enrolled in U.S. public schools. The primary objectives of the program are to help students develop proficiency in French and maintain a connection to their respective cultures and identities, while also increasing their opportunities for success in their new environment. Specifically, preparation for official language tests such as SAT II French (and, from Fall 2008, AP French) is a key component of this program. More generally, as immigrants living in the United States with familial and cultural networks in Africa, the Caribbean and Europe, the ability to master both high-level English and French will equip our students to better negotiate themselves to the realities of the contemporary world.   

The French Heritage Language Program also offers yearly intensive summer camps that are becoming more and more popular within the communities of French Heritage.

Program goals:Through university partnerships, the program hopes to contribute to scholarly research in the field of heritage language learning in the United States and France, as well as other countries. As a pilot program, it is a good place for pedagogical and methodological exploration, and a way to build new partnerships. We also aim at providing teachers with the adapted teaching resources they need and training workshops.

Type of program: After-school or daytime elective program; intensive summer camps.

Program origins: The program was funded in 2005 with the help of foundation support and fund-raising events.

Parents' expectations for the program: The parents expect the program to enable their children to develop their French skills while integrating in the American environment through their enrollment at an international high school.

Staff's expectations for the program: We are striving to establish the presence of the Francophone in New York City. Additionally, the staff seeks to improve the francophone student population’s mastery of French, maintain links between the students and their cultures, involve the heritage communities, and contribute to research on heritage languages and the creation of adapted teaching resources.


First generation immigrants:100%

Countries of origin: Haiti, Algeria, Congo, Gabon, Guinee, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo and France

Total student enrollment: 110

Students are received from: We are present in six international high schools in New York City. We work closely with the Internationals Network for Public Schools, which is currently developing models for global education and includes nine high schools for new immigrants. We are also on our way to open new programs in Miami and New Orleans (Fall 2008).

Identification of a heritage speaker: The program considers a heritage speaker any student who originates from a country that is primarily French-speaking, a country where French is an official language, or French is the language that is used in the education system. Populations with a French-speaking background who settled long ago in the United States (French-Americans in Maine, Cajuns in Louisiana) are also considered potential heritage learners. In many cases, the heritage speaker already has some mastery of or exposure to the heritage language. Last year, the program’s faculty evaluated individual proficiency levels through oral communication in class and written productions.

Percentage of students who complete the program: About 50 percent of the students completed the program in the first year, 80% in the second year.

Percentage of students who continue to study the heritage language after completing the program: 100 percent of the remaining students expressed a desire to continue studying French.

Possible reasons for withdrawal from the program: Overlap with other programs (usually sports, or tutoring).

Students' attitudes toward the language varieties they speak: The African students are very enthusiastic about learning French, and their native dialects never interfere. However, the Haitian students show similar enthusiasm but are often more prone to switching from French to Creole in the classroom.


Number of staff in program: 6

The staff members are proficient in French, English, and Spanish. They are fluent in French and English, and they have achieved intermediate level in Spanish.




Professional development opportunities teachers have: Professional seminars, workshops, shadowing other teachers, and sharing experiences with colleagues

Professional development opportunities teachers need: Teachers need better strategies on relating the heritage class to other academic study.


Hours per week students receive instruction: The students receive two to three hours of instruction per week.

Student grouping: The students are grouped in multi-level classes.

Language skills

English Skills: The learning of French is positively influencing the students’ acquisition of English.

Heritage Skills

Skills and levels of language proficiency students reach by the end of the program: The students have developed more confidence at the end of the year and improved in all four language skills. However, since there are no examinations, the precise level of improvement hasn't been measured.


Kind of student identity the program fosters: The program fosters a positive and confident student identity. We also stress the importance of respect and responsibility.

Methodologies and instructional strategies


Textbook: We do not use textbooks. All resources are created by the teachers.

Other materials used for instruction:

Technology used in the program:



Local connections: We work with the Internationals Network for Public Schools, the French Institute-Alliance Française, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and New York University and City University of New York. We also partnered with Medgar Evers College Preparatory High School during the 2007 summer camp. In 2008, 150 participants in the summer camp are expected in 8 different partner schools.

Development of home-school connections or promotion of parent involvement: The program tries to promote parent involvement through a newsletter sent from the schools three times a year. A few parents also participated as chaperones in the summer camps.

Opportunities students have for using the language and developing cultural knowledge outside the program: The students often speak French at home or when they go back to their countries of origin. However, it is obvious that they tend to use English as their new primary language.

What the program has in place

Financial support

Solicitation of funding: The staff members directly solicit funding for the program. The program receives useful contacts and expertise from foundations and the French Cultural Network.

Assistance or collaboration your program would you like to receive from other entities: We need more teachers to expand to other public schools. We would like to develop a collaborative effort with the Department of Education. Also, we seek ways to give yearly scholarships to our students.

System for graduating students and granting credit: The students receive certificates for attending the program. Furthermore, the French after-school program became an elective class and the students get elective credits from their school.

Student academic achievement:The program does not monitor overall academic achievement in school, but the teachers still get useful information through conversations with other teachers in the schools.

Research: We collaborate with universities, the Center for Applied Linguistics, the National Foreign Language Center and the National Heritage Language Resource Center. Since French heritage programs are not very numerous in the US, we like to utilize the resources from these major research centers. We hope to keep working with them to better identify the needs of French heritage populations in the US, and produce the resources the language teachers need. We also collaborate with these centers on conference presentations (NECTFL, ACTFL).

Special Challenges and Comments

Challenges that your program has experienced: Funding; integration of the French program into the schools’ regular schedule.

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