Christine Balfa, who was founding director of the festival named after her father, the late musician Dewey Bolfa, says she is beginning to bring back the French language to Acadiana. And she’s starting to do that where it is most successful: with pre-school children.
On April 25, some of Christine’s youngest French language students will show their progress to audiences at the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week at Chicot State Park.
She is directing her teaching at the youngest ages possible because it’s easier for them to absorb the teaching “as their brains are being wired.”
The learning technique was developed by Music Lingua, a company based in Bozeman, Mont. that offers materials for parents and teachers for teaching children to speak French, German or Spanish.
The classes are divided into separate themes, such as “Life on the Farm,” which Bolfa used at a recent session at Danyelle’s Early Development Center. Danyelle’s enrolls children who are three and four years of age. Other themes include “Life in the Ocean” and “Life at Home.”
Each themed kit contains a box of props, a teaching manual with lesson plans, CDs and books. The typical class is held once a week for 10 to 12 weeks.
During the session at Danyelle’s, Balfa first held up a blue background and asked the youngsters the French word for sky. The student with the right answer was allowed to start the game by leaning the felt “sky” against a wall in front of the children.
Then Balfa let students identify, and add to the farm scene, felt buildings, trees, farm equipment, farm animals and other items found on farms. She asked the students what the items were, and almost all raised their hands. If they answered correctly, she called them to the approach her and take the self adhering item and add it to the farm scene.