“You Can Never Go Wrong With Learning a Second Language”: An Interview with Felix Fandoh

BY ISCA IRANGWE / STAFF WRITER

Felix Fandoh, assistant lecturer, Fine Arts & Humanities. Photo submitted.

“If you ever want to learn a second language, consider yourself lucky! Augustana offers quite a few related courses and you are welcome to pick one you’re interested in! I highly encourage students to enroll in French courses, as it is Canada’s second official language and would come in handy not only for utilitarian purposes, but also for your own personal development.” 

-Felix Fandoh

Felix Fandoh, our resident French instructor, is passionate about languages. He was born in Guadeloupe, France and grew up in West Africa. He has had the incredible opportunity to teach English in France for 2 years and English as a second language in China. He got his Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Purdue University in Indiana, USA where he then taught upon graduation for 6 years before making his way to Canada. He taught at the University of Saskatchewan before joining the faculty at Augustana where he now teaches all of our undergraduate French courses. 

The Dagligtale: I am sure you get this question a lot, but indulge me, how many languages do you speak?

Felix: [chuckling] I do get that question quite a lot and I always say that I am still learning English. I don’t know if I speak it perfectly; I am still learning it. Well, I speak upwards of 6 languages – French of course, English, Spanish and a little bit of Chinese as I spent 18 months there teaching English. I also speak two African indigenous languages.

Dag: What do you like about the French language?

Felix: I am passionate about languages, not limited to French, because I know the power of language. Among other things, it is a window through which we look at other societies, other cultures. We cannot claim to understand a society or a particular culture if we cannot speak and understand their language. When you speak another peoples’ language, you are more easily accepted and welcomed; they will be happy to have you. Then you have a feeling of belonging because you can now communicate with more people therefore get to learn from all kinds of people.

Dag: So you must love teaching French?

Felix: I love teaching French! As it is my language of instruction, I know all the nitty gritty details about it. Growing up immersed in French from Guadeloupe, France to West Africa, I sort of fell in love with the language and am passionate about sharing it with others. 

Dag: Why should people learn to speak French as a second language?

Felix: You can never go wrong with learning a second language. I believe there are studies out there that say that speaking multiple languages helps fight the initial symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers. It does not prevent or reverse, instead it strengthens the brains’ circuits. It is also the world’s 5th most spoken language with over 300 million speakers. 

Dag: What would you tell a student interested in taking French for the first time ever? 

Felix: First of all, you are more than welcome to take French 101! We call it the complete beginner course for people who have never had the opportunity to take French before. I would tell them to throw all fears and intimidation that you may be entertaining away. Come to the class, do not feel that some people know some words and you do not, therefore this is not the place for you. Since it is a beginner level course, we start from scratch and build up your vocabulary and help you attain a level of proficiency. 

“The more enjoyable the classroom environment is, the more acquisition is going to take place.”

– Felix Fandoh

I also had the chance to speak with some students taking French 101.

Dag: Is there anything you’d like to tell people interested in taking it in the future?

Student 1: My advice to anyone interested would be to have fun with learning it, and not put a lot of pressure on themselves to learn a lot right away.  French is genuinely such a fun language, and is very useful given that Canada is a bilingual country. But it’s also got a lot of verbs and tenses which might not make sense at first. There is this big sense of accomplishment you get from learning a new language when you get to speak it to others and show off what you know. 

Dag: What did you like most about the class?

Student 2: The friendly atmosphere. The way the professor interacted with students, making the learning environment fun and interesting. Felix is very approachable and you can communicate with him easily. He makes learning fun and easy.

Dag: Would you recommend this class to others?

Student 3: Absolutely! I took the intensive 3 week class and it was demanding, but I learned a lot! I would’ve loved taking the class in the 11-week to space out the heavy course load but I would definitely recommend the class. 

Interested in learning a second language in the upcoming semester? French courses are open to all majors!

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