Experiencing a New Culture through Language
by Linda Huetinck
“It stimulates the mind”, “ it is systematic learning”, and “it enhances travel” are a few of the reasons the students of Teresa Cortey give for taking French lessons. Dr. Cortey is an experienced educator with 39 years of teaching experience at Glendale Community College and about 30 years as the College’s Chair of the Foreign Language Department. She received her PhD in French Language and Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She considers both French and English to be her native languages.
Madame Cortey and her late husband lived in both Paris and Lyon. Lyon is her favorite city—the capital of gastronomy, the city of Tuscan orange, and Italianate and Byzantine architecture, replete with lion symbolism on doorknobs, doorknockers, and statues. The lion symbols fit right in with her life because she adores all cats, large or small. In fact, she brings photos of her two orange feline beauties Mango and Apricot to class and incorporates them into lessons.
Dr. Cortey believes that a teacher can only be effective in a warm and friendly atmosphere. She asks the students in English at the beginning of each class what they hope to get out of the lesson and then tries to accommodate. She regularly pursues the themes they introduce: their travels, pets, and former or current professions. In addition, they discuss French culture, manners, and film.
In the musical, The King and I, Anna, the school teacher sang: “It’s a very ancient saying but a true and honest thought that when you become a teacher by your students you are taught.” Madame Cortey loves teaching at the Pasadena Senior Center where the classes are small and students are sincere, motivated, and open to learning.
The three levels of Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced French are handled basically the same way. Madame Cortey brings in her own handouts with touristic expressions and basic grammatical concepts. She introduces them orally, then on the whiteboard. She occasionally reverts to English to be certain all concepts are understood. In two levels an optional elementary textbook is used. Poems, songs, DVDs, and “small talk” enliven discussions. Another technique used is to ask each student to respond to a question using words from the current lesson. No parroting of the text without understanding occurs because the question itself applies to the individual student. It is very important to get used to using and hearing French, and thus, as much French as possible is spoken in her classes. Students attest to her excellent teaching methods and fine organization. They are delighted the Center supports such outstanding courses.
One of the glories of France is food. Madame Cortey loves to eat and loves to cook, especially French food. She has made madeleines, the deliciously light lemon shell-shaped cookies, for the class and shares her recipe.
This is all the more reason to come to PSC to study French. You can benefit from her wonderful years of experience by taking one of her French classes this summer. Register at the Welcome Desk or online at www.pasadenaseniorcenter.org.