Back to school: Allez! Students can get ahead early with French

Last year, elementary French students made crepes, or French pancakes, during one of their before-school French lessons. (Submitted photo)

Last year, elementary French students made crepes, or French pancakes, during one of their before-school French lessons. (Submitted photo)

By Devynn Barnes

Aspiring French speakers can get an early start thanks to L’École Française, or The French School, a before-school French program for elementary-aged Zionsville schoolchildren.

This school year, students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade can start soaking in the skills they need to become successful French speakers all before their normal school day even starts.

Gretchen Carlson, public relations liaison for L’École Française, has seen first-hand the benefits of learning a language early, and she knows the effectiveness of the program. She said that the earlier children learn French, the better.

“[It’s] a Canadian curriculum – it’s meant for English speakers learning to speak French,” Carlson said.

Aimed at an elementary audience, the program includes lots of games, singing, and interactive activities as opposed to repeated memorization. The teachers keep the learning fun, and the kids reap huge benefits in return.

“By learning a language before you’re 12, you’re able to hold onto the language in a different way,” Carlson said, and recent research agrees with her.

In a study conducted by Duke University, president of the National Network for Early Language Learning Therese Sullivan Caccavale noted the advantages of l earning a second language as a child.

“Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children. Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language learning peers in the verbal and, surprisingly to some, the math sections of standardized tests,” Caccavale said.

Caccavale said there is no time like the present for a child to begin the journey of learning a foreign language, and L’École Française can help lead the way.

Classes begin the second week of school, on Aug. 19, and registration can be completed through Eagle Rec on each ZCS elementary school’s homepage. For more information, contact Gretchen Carlson at or visit

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