Graduating with her degree in French, Roisin Elworthy is currently teaching English in Brittany, France.

French, Convocation

Convocation Profile: Roisin Elworthy, French

October 04, 2017

 Although Roisin Elworthy is graduating this Fall with her BA in French, she says she “went back and forth” several times before settling on French as her major.  History, political science, criminology and communications were all possible majors for Elworthy before she took her first French course at SFU. Becoming a teacher was always in her sights, but Elworthy had trouble deciding upon what subject she wanted to teach, wanting to choose something that would sustain her interest. French appealed to her, she says, not just because it was the “most fun” but because it was “most engaging to learn.” “I liked the way that I could see progress the way that I couldn’t with other majors. I loved learning grammatical concepts and then suddenly, two weeks later, use the concept perfectly in an assignment or in conversation. The French courses were practical in an every-day way, and that’s eventually what won me over.”

Elworthy says she enjoyed how studying French challenged her to widen her perspective on language and culture and rethink any "preconceived notions" she had prior to her studies. “As a future teacher, I want to be able to reflect critically on language and the way it’s taught, not just teach grammar.” As a teacher, she says, “the inclusion of history, film, cultural features, is imperative to teaching.” She also notes that, especially for French Second Language Students, “you don’t have to speak with a Parisian accent to be a validated as a second-language speaker or to belong to a language community.”

Currently, Elworthy is in western peninsula of Brittany, France, where she is teaching English to high school students. While teaching English might seem a counterintuitive step for someone graduating with a degree in French, Elworthy says her academic background in French is essential to her job, where she is responsible for helping to contextualize and animate discussion among groups of high school students. When she is leading discussion and “putting an issue into context for the students,” she explains “[a]ny grammar mistakes they make in expressing themselves are all related to their first language, and because I know French, I know why the mistake is being made, and how to remedy it. All the elements of my degree at SFU combine in the classroom.”

Spending a year immersing herself in French culture—reading and writing for pleasure in French and learning new skills—Elworthy says she plans to come back to SFU to begin the teaching program. Given her passion for teaching and teaching practice, she says she would also eventually like to complete her masters in education. When asked what advice she would give current and new undergraduate students in the discipline she says, “Get involved, make friends, make connections, do your work thoroughly and try to actually learn something from the whole experience instead of letting your textbooks collect dust after one semester.” While getting good grades is important, she says, “[e]ducation goes a lot further than getting A’s and B’s: it also means expanding your view of the world and letting your mind be changed.”