‘All French, all the time’ for Beauclair

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Jeremy Pope-Levison/THE FALCON
For Michelle Beauclair, professor of French at Seattle Pacific University, sharing her knowledge of language makes the hard studying worth it.

Professor of French Michelle Beauclair began learning French from her grandmother when she was six or seven years old.
Years later, during the first year of her master’s degree program in French literature, she was teaching English to French high school students in Paris.
“[It] put all the fun back into studying French,” she says.
After completing her advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Beauclair taught there and at Pacific Lutheran University and Edmonds Community College before coming to Seattle Pacific in winter quarter 1995. She has taught full time since 2004 and is co-chair of SPU’s Department of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics.
The time in Paris made her a “language-lifer,” she says. Since then, it’s been “all French, all the time.”
After preliminary studies at her grandmother’s knee, Beauclair completed her junior year of high school in Fribourg, Switzerland.
“I got to sing with the Swiss Youth Choir,” she adds. “So it was very good for my French.”
When she returned, Beauclair worked as an intern at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. during her senior year.
It was conveniently across the street from Georgetown University, where she attended for her undergraduate degree in the School of Languages and Linguistics.
“All of our language courses were intensive,” she describes, adding she spent 6-8 hours a day in class.
In addition to French, Beauclair studied German intensively for two years.
“It came in handy because my husband is from the German speaking part of Switzerland, and his family only speaks German,” she says.
Beauclair, who says she would be a tour guide if she wasn’t a professor, loves to travel and has been to 11 different countries.
“I often dream of retiring to France or Switzerland…I would probably need to win the lottery,” she jokes.
Beauclair has led several study abroad trips for SPU and is planning another trip this July as part of a language immersion program. Ten students will participate in museum trips and a cooking class, all in French.
Her own experience in a language immersion summer camp at Concordia College Language Villages in Moorhead, Minnesota, has been influential in her teaching.
“We learned songs that I still teach students in classes today,” Beauclair reveals.
The camps made learning a language seem fun for Beauclair and helped her learn to engage students, who call her “Madame.”
“She’s one of the teachers who understands that as students. We aren’t just drones,” says Cherise Blondefield, a freshman psychology major and French minor.
Blondefield has taken three classes from Beauclair so far and gotten a good sense of more than just her teaching style.
“She is fantastic,” Blondefeild continued. “She’s one of the most kind people I’ve ever met.”
In fact, the students are Beauclair’s favorite part of teaching.
“Most SPU students just have a great attitude, so it makes it very easy to come to work,” she said.
Beauclair says she enjoys teaching at SPU because she can “teach the whole student,” meaning the spirit as well as the mind.
“That has always appealed to me in education, and I have the opportunity to do that here,” she says.

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