Competing Desires and Realities: Language Policies in the French-Language Classroom

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Journal Article
Portal Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 2009, 6 (1), pp. 1 - 14
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One of the first concepts I teach a beginner level French language class, in an Australian university context, is that nouns in French have genders: they are either masculine or feminine. Fairly early on in the semester we also look at professional titles. In the first lessons students learn that despite being a woman, I am le professeur, which is the masculine noun for teacher. Yet, while the dictionary confirms this noun is masculine, in everyday language the female version, la professeure, is used by the French to make the distinction between a female and male teacher. Other professional nouns like un écrivain (a writer), un auteur (an author), un ingénieur (an engineer) share similar fates: in popular idiom the female nouns une écrivaine, une auteure, une ingénieure refer to a female writer, author or engineer. As with le professeur, in grammar books or dictionaries written and published in France, only the masculine appears.
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