This week, intern Isabel Honigman interviewed Nathalie Gorey, a French teacher at Mt. Ararat High School and translator for Amjambo Africa! in honor of International Translation Day, September 30th.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background? What motivated you to become a teacher? What was your journey of becoming a teacher?

Nathalie Gorey with Georges Budagu Makoko, Publisher

Well, I have been a teacher in Maine now for 30 years. I went to college at the University of Angers in France and I majored in Languages applied to International Business, so my major was not to become a teacher. It was more to do something with international relations, you know? Something like that. The last year of my master’s degree I went to Ireland. Part of my master’s program was that I had to do six months in a foreign country with one of the languages I was studying. I studied English, German, and Russian. While I was there, studying at the University of Limerick, I got a part time job at Alliance Française, which is an international school to teach and promote the French language and culture all over the world. So I started teaching there to Irish children and teenagers in an afterschool program and I started really liking teaching, even though it was not something I thought of doing before. I then went back to France and finished my master’s.

Some professors from the University of Maine system came to my university looking for some recent graduates to come teach in Maine for a year. I applied and got offered a position and was hired to teach at University of Maine at Machias. I started the French program there with French 101 and 102 and I built the program all the way up to French 203. I just really enjoyed teaching French to American students and ended up staying there for 5 years. I got credentials to teach in Maine at the school level because I was a Lecturer at the college but could never be a full-time professor since I did not have a PhD. I got a job teaching high school and I love doing it because it is part of who I am. It’s not just teaching the language, it is also teaching French art, culture, music, literature, history, cooking, news, geography and so much more. It is so important to open the horizons of American kids and to teach them about the world. I also love to have students make connections between the English and the French language and see them improve their English vocabulary thanks to the vocabulary influence from French.

How did you get involved with Amjambo Africa! newspaper as a translator?

The Editor in Chief of the newspaper, Kathreen Harrison, used to be the French teacher at St. George Elementary School. She met the Publisher, Georges Budagu Makoko, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they came together with this idea that wouldn’t it be wonderful to create this newspaper to help the African immigrants navigate everyday life in Maine. The newspaper was also a way to teach American people and Mainers about the African immigrants coming to Maine. So she knew that I was a native speaker and had a lot of interest in French Africa because I was born and grew up in Côte d’Ivoire. She asked me if I wanted to translate in French for the newspaper. I started with just a couple of articles but now it’s up to six articles a month. I love translating, working with the language, and also learning about all the stories of African people coming to Maine and settling in our state. When I studied and majored in languages in France, we used to do a lot of translating, and I know I always enjoyed that, and picked up some good techniques from my professors, which I still apply today.

How does your work as a translator inform your teaching and vice versa?

I find myself using my experience as a translator when students are working on reading and writing. I give them tips in order to help with reading comprehension and how the context of a story will help their understanding of the nuances of language and how they may need to rephrase a sentence completely to make it comprehensible in the target language. . If they ask me what a word means, I say, “Well what is the context?” You cannot just translate a word by itself. Being a translator has definitely helped me be a better teacher. Translating is a process: it’s important to revise and proof your own work to make sure that you have not forgotten anything, that the meaning is clear and accurate and that the translated text flows naturally. I like to set the translation aside and revisit it a few days later with fresh eyes…I also use Amjambo Africa! in my classes, when we study Africa and cultural differences. I really encourage all teachers to use this amazing and free resource!

What is a teaching tip you want to share with other educators?

My teaching has changed in the way that I have become more of a global studies teacher. For example, I am teaching students right now about daily routines in French and features kids from all over the Francophone world. When I first started teaching, I would focus on stories and culture about France and maybe Quebec. I am making everything global and I think that is a very important thing to do these days.

Reprinted with permission from Maine Department of Education’s Newsletter – Language Educators News