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Maine French Heritage Language Program

Maine French Heritage Language ProgramKaren Foust is the teacher and coordinator of the Maine French Heritage Language Program--Augusta, and Professor Chelsea Ray is the assistant coordinator.  Doris Belisle-Bonneau and Diane Perron-Pelletier share the coordinator responsibilities for the MFHLP--Auburn at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston. It is an elementary French-only language program based on Franco-American culture. This new program is part of the nationally-recognized French Heritage Language Program, already in place in New York and Miami.

To learn more about the program, here is a brief description and our core principles.

We started our pilot program in January 2012 and we have continued our program through the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic year.  To get a sense of what the program is like, you can browse our newsletters below.

MFHLP Newsletters

English versions

Versions en français

April 2013
March 2013
February 2013

October 2012

March 2012
February 2012

Mai 2013
Octobre 2012

Mars 2012
Février 2012


MFHLP In the News

This program is made possible through our collaboration with the French American Cultural Exchange (FACE)/French Heritage Language Program, the Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques, the University of Maine at Augusta, and the Franco-American Heritage Centerin Lewiston. In addition, Bangor Savings, the Maine Humanities Council, and the Windover Foundation are supporting the 2012-2013 academic year's program.  We are grateful for this generous support for this program that serves the needs of children in Maine!

Click on any slide header to expand that slide.

LePage shares his Franco-American pride with students

Lewiston-Auburn | Wednesday, April 24, 2013

LePage copyStudent Caelen Mcguigan asks Gov. Paul LePage about Franco-American pride while Maine French Heritage Language Program Coordinator Doris Bonneau looks on. The governor visited with students at Fairview Elementary School to share his pride in his Franco-American heritage. The after-school culture and language program for students in grades K-6 is implemented at the Hussey and Lincoln schools in Augusta under the auspices of the University of Maine at Augusta, and at the Sherwood Heights and Fairview elementary schools in Auburn under the auspices of the Franco-American Heritage Center. The primary objectives are to convey a deep respect for North American French, especially as it is spoken in New England, to emphasize the learning of the French language and cultures at the elementary level and to help students understand Franco-American culture and its importance in the French-speaking world.

MFHLP on Maine Watch

Watch Franco-Americans in Maine on PBS. See more from Maine Watch with Jennifer Rooks.

MFHLP Augusta Board of Education Presentation

Benoît LeDévédec and I presented on the program, alongside two parents, at a televised Augusta School Board meeting:

Portland Press Herald Article on MFHLP

February 19 

Juliana L’Heureux: Augusta’s French language program hosts international guests


By Juliana L’Heureux

Elementary school children participating in Augusta’s after-school French Heritage Language Program provided delightful entertainment to two international guests on Feb. 12, with stories and songs.

Madame Suzanne Fournier-LeBelle Hedrick, assistant with the Maine French Language Heritage Program, appears with Benoit Le Devedec, a guest from the French Heritage Language Program in New York, in this Feb. 13, 2013, photo.

A group of about 15 local children ages 6 thru 10 years old attend biweekly classes with Margot Stiassni-Sieracki, and her teaching team of cultural associates from the University of Maine in Augusta. Their guests on Feb. 12 at the Lillian P. Hussey Elementary School in Augusta were Benoit Le Dévédec, the coordinator with the French Heritage Language Program in New York City and Anne Miller, the cultural attaché from Boston, assigned to the Consulate General of France.

Their welcome began with the children singing the French folk song, “Allouette,” led by program assistant Madame Suzanne Fournier-LeBelle Hedrick, with help from 6-year-old Tory Tibbitts.  After singing, the children shared their enthusiasm for learning favorite words like “Bonjour” and “Oui.”

During the conversational segment of the program, the children were given check marks for excellence every time they correctly used a French word.

Miller explained their visit to the children’s group.  “We’re here to support children who want to learn French because we see the program as a way of healing the past while preparing for the future,” she said. Her point about “healing the past” refers to a long-held but wrong-minded emphasis about speaking French with a particular “Parisian” accent.

In the Maine French Heritage Language program, the “Parisian” speaking accent is debunked. Rather, the children are exposed to numerous variants of the language, including the French common to the French-Canadians who came to the area from Canada.

“French is a universal language regardless where it is spoken,” says Miller.

Augusta City Councilor and former state legislator Patrick Paradis, officially welcomed the international guests.

Chelsea Ray, a French professor from the UMA, led a group to help create the after-school French program. She was motivated by her adult French students who took classes at the University of Maine at Augusta who wanted to connect with the language spoken at home by their parents and grandparents.  These adult students said they wanted their children to learn French before the language was totally forgotten.  She also took a personal interest in language learning for children when she began teaching her twin daughters when they were one and a half years old.

In fact, French was the first language of thousands of French-Canadian immigrants who migrated to Maine and settled in the Augusta and Waterville areas to find work during the 19th and up until the middle 20th centuries. They insulated their neighborhoods in communities called “Little Canadas,” where cultural, and Roman Catholic religious practices, with a strong emphasis on speaking French at home, school and in church, were protected.

In Augusta, this particular ethnic neighborhood is still called “Sand Hill,” a neat community of well-kept homes built within walking distance of St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church and parochial school.  Paradis, 59,  grew up living in Sand Hill.  He fascinated the children with personal stories about growing up in Sand Hill, where he was raised speaking French at home and at school.  “My father told me to be proud of my French heritage,” he said.

Enrollment in the after-school program is encouraged by parents who want their children to learn French. Several students said they asked to participate in multiple years after their first experience, says Ray.  Two children, who are sister siblings, also study Mandarin Chinese at a program in Bangor, in addition to participating in the Hussey after-school program.

The purpose of the Maine French Language Heritage program is to bridge the gap between generations of French speaking families and celebrate to Franco-American heritage, says Ray.  All children who want to learn French are welcome to participate.

A similar after-school program is held in Auburn, supported by the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

Contact Chelsea Ray for more information about the Maine French Heritage Language Program at or phone (207) 621-3487.

MFHLP Coordinators talk to Benoit LeDevedec from FHLP

In this video, you will meet Benoît LeDévédec, coordinator of the French Heritage Language Program in New York. The French Heritage Language Program has been a primary supporter of the Maine French Heritage Language Program, alongside the Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques. Benoît LeDévédec speaks to Chelsea Ray, coordinator of MFHLP—Augusta, and Doris Belisle-Bonneau, coordinator of MFHLP—Auburn, about the program. You will see why our teaching teams in the MFHLP are so passionate about teaching French in Maine!

Augusta City Council Presentation


 In this video, Chelsea Ray and Doris Belisle-Bonneau present the core principles of the program to the Augusta City Council (December 2011).

Program Celebrates First Year


Maine French Heritage Language Program Article


The Teaching Assistant program in France offers you the opportunity to work in France for 7 to 9 months, teaching English to French students of all ages. Each year, nearly 1,500 American citizens and permanent residents teach in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion.

For more information, view the brochure, or please visit our website at
The application for the 2011–2012 academic year is available at
Please direct any further questions to Carolyn Collins at
This program is a joint initiative sponsored by the French Ministry of Education and the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C.


Use your English to teach French abroad

French Language Materials for Children
at Lithgow Public Library

PDF #1

PDF #2