March is International Francophonie Month, recognizing the 80+ countries of the world where French is spoken. 

Although French is a global language, you don’t need to travel to Paris, Congo, or Canada to find it. There are plenty of communities here in the United States that celebrate French, including our New England region. In NH, over 23% of the population identifies as having French or French-Canadian Heritage. Many families no longer speak the language at home but some still consider it an important piece of their heritage.

One example of a young professional who continues to celebrate his French roots is Dominic Girard, son of Richard and Jennifer Girard, proud Franco-Americans and Lifetime FAC Members. I recently spoke with Dominic about his experiences with the French language and culture. He shared with me stories of his study abroad experience and tales of his childhood. 

Growing up in Manchester

Manchester Mills

In the largest city in New Hampshire, there are many people from many diverse places of the world. Francophone culture in particular is well represented. The largest Francophone influence in the city came from the Quebecois, many of whom ended up there to work in the mills between 1840 and 1930.

Dominic grew up in this city. He told me that French language and culture had always been a part of his life, if only a backdrop at times. His father had studied French in college, and his Nana was fluent. His 8th grade year of school, Dominic was homeschooled, and in that year was taught the basics of the language. He studied French in high school as well, and again in college, where he earned a minor with it. 

Study Abroad in Strasbourg

While in college, Dominic had the opportunity to study abroad. He landed in Strasbourg, France, near the border with Germany. Dominic said this location was an exciting place to stay largely because of its location in central Europe. He could reach just about anywhere in Western Europe in less than 6 hours. 

One of his favorite memories, he told me, was of the Christmas market in Strasbourg. There, he enjoyed vin chaud, a spiced wine drink served warm. 

He said he would highly recommend a study abroad experience in college. Studying helps build familiarity with a language or culture, but traveling helps you truly understand it. 

The Importance of Language Study

Dominic said he recommends studying another language. It helps a person better understand their own culture and language, and learn about other approaches to life. There’s so much more out there that we don’t always see in the US. We are surrounded by an ocean on either side, and only share two borders with other nations. 

He says studying another language is loads of fun, but also very practical. It helps build connections and understanding of every part of our world. 

Dominic’s story is one example of how the combination of a family’s commitment to their heritage and a young person’s desire to keep that heritage alive keeps adding new chapters to the Franco-American story.

Félicitations Dominic et merci!