French is also spoken by Americans from New England and Louisiana. Yet for many of them, especially new immigrants and lower socio-economic status families, having the possibility to continue learning or keeping up their French is often a challenge.
The French Heritage Language Program is a program of the non-profit foundation FACE, in partnership with the French Embassy in the United States. Created in 2005, it is the first program of its kind to directly address the needs of underserved new immigrants of French-speaking background in the United States, by providing them with free French classes in public schools and community centers across the country.
Most of our students hail from West Africa and Haiti and live in areas where no other French language programs, whether dual language or private, are available or affordable to them. In other words, without our classes, these students would simply not have the possibility to continue learning French in the United States.
Maintaining French is essential to our students. Through our classes, they can keep strong bonds with their cultures and identity, improve their literacy in the home language so as to accelerate their learning of English, get academic support in French to better understand other subjects at school, and even take examinations awarding credits to facilitate their access to college. We also help them find internship and job opportunities that will make the most of their bilingual and multicultural skills. In a nutshell, we are making French an asset to them.
By promoting the teaching and learning of French among these schools and communities, the program spurs the interest for bilingual education in the United States and can pioneer the opening of new bilingual programs where is needed. In doing so, French becomes a strong asset not only for our students but also for educators, schools, families and communities.
Our program offers its own signature project-based pedagogy, with teaching resources designed and regularly updated by professionals, and made freely available on our website for teachers, schools and other similar initiatives in the United States. Our French courses are directly inspired by the method successfully used in the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a network comprising 18 schools for new immigrants and dedicated to facilitating their integration in the United States. The FHLP regularly collaborates with major research centers and has been recognized by the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA as one of the most advanced heritage language programs in the United States.
The French Heritage Language Program has already served more than 2,500 children K-12 as well as expanded and inspired the creation of similar programs in Florida, Maine and Massachusetts. More than 750 students benefit from our classes today.
There is high demand for French Heritage classes across the country and we are looking for new partners to help us set up new programs where there is need.