I studied both French and Spanish in junior high school, settling on French when I got to high school. All together, I had two years of Spanish and three of French, and can muddle along in either.
The main reason I wanted to write this article, though, has nothing to do with the languages -- or my first two teachers (Mrs. Marshall for French or Mr. Hall for Spanish). It has everything to do with my high school French teacher, Miss Lois T. Sato, who gave me not only a love of the language, but also for the French culture that she revered.
Mademoiselle Sato was a tiny little Japanese-American lady who retired at the end of my senior year. She wore thick glasses and old-fashioned clothes. She always had a smile on her face, and she lit up a room whenever she walked in. She had been the French teacher at my high school since it opened in 1960, and a lot of my fellow students found her eccentric.
I, on the other hand, adored her. She taught us Christmas carols and folks songs in French, and had auctions at the end of each year using points that we earned for linguistic achievement. Every year, she sent postcards (en francais, of course) to her students from Montreal or Paris; she always went somewhere that allowed her to use the language she loved.
What I didn't know until just a few months ago, when I looked her up, was that Mademoiselle had been interned, along with her family, during World War II. I had wanted to know whether she was still alive (she is, at age 96) so that I could tell her I'm finally going to see Paris myself next year, and to thank her for being such a wonderful instructor. When I learned that Mademoiselle had been interned, I realized how much adversity she had overcome ... and how hard it must have been some days to enter that classroom with a broad smile.
I was blessed to have Mademoiselle for my teacher. Merci beaucoups.
Causes Sharon Cathcart Supports
Shadow Forest Authors, Operation eBook Drop, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS