Julie Frye, OFLA Scholarship Chair
French Teacher, Lexington High School 

You may have seen the question on social media. You may be in the habit yourself. “What question?” you may ask. “What habit?” you might be wondering.

The question is “What is your word for 2020?” Choosing a word to focus on for the year has a number of benefits. It’s different from making resolutions for the new year. A resolution is a goal that can be crossed off a list. A word becomes a mantra for your life. The word you choose can bring clarity and focus to the choices you encounter each day. 

As language teachers, we can encourage our students to think about their own L2 word for the year. We can provide a list of positive expressions in the language they are learning to help them get started. Giving them a starting point can open the opportunity for conversation in the classroom. Another approach might be to allow students to use a dictionary or digital reference tool to brainstorm and create a list of positive word choices. Once students choose a word, they share their personal word and provide an explanation, using the target language. 

Choosing a word for the year and knowing the word your students have chosen can provide a quick way to bring discipline and focus at those times when we may seem to be losing engagement. All we need to do is remind our students of those positive qualities they have selected as their own mantra. Some ideas that can support students “word of the year” include creating a bulletin board of positive expressions, inviting students to make posters in the L2 of their word, giving a writing assignment that focuses on individually chosen words, or researching a person of the target culture that reflects the word. Providing a positive culture in the classroom will foster a positive culture for our students even after they leave our classroom. The vocabulary may be in the language they are learning, but the lessons they learn can become a tool for any part of their lives.

The word I have settled on for this year is ESSENTIAL. The definition of my word is “absolutely necessary, extremely important.” In French, the language I teach, the word is a cognate: ESSENTIEL, and a synonym is “indispensable.” When making decisions or creating a to-do list for myself or my students, I pause and ask myself, “Is this absolutely necessary? Is it ESSENTIAL?” By focusing on this word, my year will become more streamlined, simple and focused. So, I repeat the question I asked at the beginning of this article, “What is your word for 2020?”

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