Donna Mitchell teaches conversational French with the Non-Credit Languages Unit in the College of Arts and Science.
Donna Mitchell teaches conversational French with the Non-Credit Languages Unit in the College of Arts and Science.

La connaissance est belle

Some people, upon retiring, kick up their feet and let the days pass idly by. Donna Mitchell is not one of those people.

Not long after retiring in 2009 from a 30-year teaching career (of which 26 were spent in Saskatoon), Mitchell started teaching French with the Non-Credit Languages Unit in the College of Arts and Science (formerly as part of the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education). The opportunity to continue teaching part-time, conversational French to adult learners came to her through a friend, she explained, and she could not pass it up.

"I had taught with young adults and teenagers in the high school system, so it was a different group of people," she said. "You don't stop learning, so it was good for me as well."

A College of Education alumna, Mitchell majored in French partly due to timing. The federal government was putting more focus and resources on expanding French language services in Canada. "I knew that if I wanted to get into teaching, it'd be good to do something that there would be a demand for," she explained. "And at that time, that was it."

Mitchell is impressed with the degree of responsibility in her students, something she believes is unique about adult learning. "The level of achievement is on their shoulders," she said. "I don't have to convince them why it's good to have a second language. That focus or meaning makes their learning a little more expedient, because they have a reason why they want it."

That experience is something Mitchell can relate to. After her second year of university, she took a gap year break, and moved to Paris to work and take additional language and grammar classes while immersing herself in the culture.

"I met many Europeans learning French as their third, fourth or even fifth language," she said. "It was a real eye-opener. Some people, at the age of 19 or 20, were already on their fifth language. It gave me a sense of worldliness that I wanted to pass on."

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