Connecting Language Students to Culture: Celebrate Holidays in the French-Speaking World!

World languages educators see the engagement that happens when they are able to immerse students in an authentic cultural event. Learning a second language becomes more exciting, more meaningful, and more fun. Within the vibrant context of culture, language comes alive.

Because language and culture are so closely intertwined, every opportunity students have to learn about the social customs, the traditions, the “way of life” of different countries or regions is a rich opportunity for them to build a deeper understanding of the target language.

What better way to connect students to French cultures than through popular holidays? These provide an engaging way to build cultural understanding and help students develop an appreciation for the diversity of those countries where French is spoken.

For the month of October, we share a couple of holidays included in the HMH World Languages Fall French Holiday Calendar, which includes activities for all levels, to help your students explore the French-speaking world.

October 17—Haiti
Dessalines Day

Jean-Jacques Dessalines is considered the founder of modern Haiti. Born a slave, Dessalines played a key role in the revolution that led to Haiti’s freedom from France and reclaiming the country’s original name. On this national holiday, the people of Haiti commemorate his death with a celebration of independence and national pride marked by parades and cultural performances.

Activity: Have students research Dessaline’s influence in Haitian history and create a timeline of his eventful life—a creative opportunity for students to practice the French past tenses passé composé and imparfait.

October 28–November 1—Paris, France
Le Salon du Chocolate

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Every year chocolatiers, cocoa producers, and chocolate lovers from around the world gather for an international event showcasing chocolate and cocoa. This sweet celebration features chocolate sculptures, fashion shows, cooking demonstrations, conferences, exhibits, and workshops from chocolate artisans around the world—France, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, Austria, and more.

Activity: Take your students to the official website for the Paris event—a treat in itself for chocolate fans—and let them choose exhibitor booths they’d like to visit. Then engage them in a writing exercise where they explain in French what exhibits they chose and why.

For more monthly holidays to inspire French language students—all with activity and lesson ideas—check out Le Prof, our new biannual newsletter for French language educators, from which you can download the Fall Holiday Calendar.