Get to know French Instructor
in this Speak! Spotlight interview!
Find our more about Speak! French teacher, Pascale Hapgood. Pascale joined our French faculty over four years ago and has continued to infuse our school with her intelligence, professionalism, kindness and warmth. Find out why she is treasured by students and colleagues alike!
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, what brought you to Charlottesville etc.?
I was born in Nantes, former capital of Brittany, in the northwestern part of France. I met my husband Chris in Nantes while he was studying at the engineering school of ENSM (Ecole Normale Supérieure) and at the American Institute where I was interning. We got married in Nantes, but returned here where, after his graduation, he began working for Sperry Marine in town.
What do you love most about teaching French?
I love that I discover details about my language, or about English, that I didn’t know and that happens almost every day I teach. I also love being able to compare languages and sometimes discover the link between words in different languages.
What do you like most about teaching at Speak!?
Speak! Is a warm place where everyone feels they can learn and try to speak a foreign language. I enjoy meeting the other instructors and exchanging ideas. I also really like Liz who keeps us all organized. Most of all, I love all the students I have met here. They come from very different horizons, but we always come together when we speak about foreign cultures and when we try to speak new languages.
You teach a variety of group and individual courses at Speak! -from intensive training for the Department of Defense and community members to group conversation classes. How do you prepare such varied lessons and what do you enjoy about the variety?
My approach is always the same: I try to make learning fun and effective. The effective part consists in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. The fun part comes from culture and history, but it will also come from my own rapport with the student(s). So I like to incorporate items that the student(s) like(s) and that I enjoy too. Cooking might be a component, or a particular book, or a joke, or an article that is relevant to what the student(s) enjoy(s).
Tell us a bit about your teaching style and some of the activities or exercises that you find most effective, fun and/or successful with both beginning and more advanced students.
Beginner students are more likely to enjoy games. It’s easier to learn when the mood is light and when the level of seriousness isn’t too high. Advanced students like to be more serious and enjoy topics that are relevant to modern day France. I find that board games really make tongues more flexible: who doesn’t like to buy or sell houses and hotels on the Boulevard Saint-Honoré?
What lesson/s have you learned from your students?
Patience! I wasn’t a very patient person but I have become a lot more patient thanks to all the wonderful students that have crossed my path and showed me that everything can happen with a little of patience every day!
If you could learn another foreign language that we teach at Speak!, which would it be and why?
My grand-father was part Italian but never wanted to show it because he wanted to assimilate 100%. He succeeded in doing that most of the time. And that always made me sad. I knew there was so much more to him than who he showed to most of us. I prodded often and asked him to teach me Italian. He would always refuse at first. Then he relented and began teaching me a little. But then I started my studies at the university and then I lived in the US for a year. Then I got married and moved to this country and never found more time to learn. Time ran out and my “nonno” died before I could return to France 2 years after our wedding. So, I have been working on my own and I took some classes with an Italian friend who teaches here at Speak! Some day when I return to Italy, I hope to be able to have conversations in Italian.
You are the mother of two – do you have any advice for bilingual families living in the U.S.? How did you teach French to your children and how have you balanced French and American cultures in their lives?
My advice to bilingual families: BOTH parents need to speak the foreign language to the children if they want truly bilingual kids. My husband and I chose to only speak French together. That was the lucky element. As a result, our kids, when they reached the age of rejection of a foreign language, weren’t able to get rid of the “foreign” language. They knew that French was the “not normal” language, because it was only spoken in our home, but they had to go speaking it because that was the only family language we used. I am convinced that if my husband had spoken English to our children, neither of them would be bilingual right now. Our family’s culture is a hodge-podge of both French and American cultures but frequent trips back home and close relationships with cousins helped teach our children a “sense” of being French while also being American.
What are some French customs you wish more Americans would adopt, if any?
If at all possible, a less intense work life. Work is essential, it is wonderful but I don’t think it should be all encompassing as it is for some people in this country.
In French, we like to say: “We must work to live and not live to work”. That sums it all for me.
If you could spend one month living anywhere in the world, which city or country would you pick and why?
Roma. I have been lucky to visit Rome several times and I never tire of the eternal city! I love every corner, every greasy joint, every suffocatingly hot Summer day and every stone….. more than anything I love the stones. The antique stones that are still standing and can evoke the glorious past of ancient Rome or the glorious artists of the Renaissance. But the most bewilderingly amazing aspect of Rome for me is the color of its air. I am a photographer (amateur at best) and nowhere in the world that I have visited have I ever seen an air that can bring forth such vibrant colors.
Find out more about French courses at Speak! – with Pascale and our other wonderful instructors – on our French page.