Josiane Mariette is the French coordinator for Baldwin, and teaches US French and Arabic. She also coordinates the French exchange program with Notre Dame de Mongré in Villefranche, France. She is the proud parent of Michelle Mariette ’17, who began Baldwin as a kindergartener.
Josiane joined Baldwin in September 2002. She holds an M.A. in French Literature from Bryn Mawr College and an Advanced Diploma in “Didactique des Langues” (French as a foreign language) from the Sorbonne in Paris, France. She was awarded her B.A. in French Literature from Saint Joseph University in Beirut, where she was born and raised.
Josiane recently received a Fellowship to attend the Oxbridge Paris Teacher Seminar in July 2016. During the seminar, teachers discuss select issues arising out of French history, culture, national memory, politics and society. The group provides an accessible introduction to Paris as well as a deeper investigation of French life, history and culture. It is designed for those teachers who wish to enrich their classroom teaching by drawing on this magnificent city’s past and its cultural life today as well as those who seek to improve their familiarity with French society, European cultural life and the opportunities of studying abroad.
Where did you begin your studies in French?
Lebanon is a francophone country and I grew up speaking both French and Arabic at home and at school. I attended an all‐girl private French school beginning in kindergarten. I like to write and have always had a passion for French literature.
How did you end up going to the Sorbonne?
I was teaching at La Sagesse when I was awarded a fellowship to study at the Sorbonne. It was a great honor. A challenge was that I studied teaching French as a foreign language, but when I returned to Lebanon, this was not applicable because French is spoken there as a native language. However, it was lucky and even a bit of a premonition of what was to come because it has served me so well here at Baldwin.
What brought you to the United States?
I lived in Lebanon during the country’s civil war. My mother was born in the United States and I came to live in America in 1991, following in my two brothers’ footsteps. Our cousin was studying at Drexel University and my brother found his first job in Philadelphia which is how I ended up here. My sister and my extended family still live in Lebanon.
How would your students describe you?
I’ve been told that I’m very approachable and warm. I help my students succeed and try to empower them. I make them speak French in class and let them do most of the speaking so that they can master the language. I prompt them so that they lead the classroom.
What’s the most difficult thing about learning French?
Probably the nasal vowels as the pronunciation is sometimes challenging and there are a lot of exceptions to the rules. I always tell my students this story. When I was teaching at the French Alliance, I taught an adult student named Hugh, but I didn’t know English very well at the time so I didn’t know about all the exceptions in the language. I would call him “hug.” My students can relate to this story because when they get concerned about challenges in French, it helps them realize there are challenges in English as well. On the positive side, French is very precise and structured. It’s a beautiful language.
Tell us about Baldwin’s Villefranche French Exchange.
The Villefranche French Exchange is a school‐sponsored trip that takes place every other year with the goal of students getting to experience life in France. Twenty‐five to 30 Grade X and Grade XI girls travel as a school group and live with French families in a total immersion situation and attend classes at our sister school, Notre Dame de Mongré. While there, they have excursions to Lyon, the Beaujolais and Provence, in addition to a three‐day stay in Paris. In the second year, the French students come here and the students stay with the families of the Baldwin girls who they hosted in France the previous year. I love the ties and bridges we create with the school and the relationships the girls develop. This exchange was started in 1989 by Pierette David, and this April we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the program when we once again host Notre Dame de Mongré .
How did Arabic become part of Baldwin’s curriculum?
Baldwin’s strategic plan contains the vision of teaching additional languages to help educate the global girl. Mandarin Chinese was added the year before. Arabic was added as a half credit course, like Greek. Arabic is spoken in the Middle East and Northern Africa. It’s good to learn about the culture of this part of the world and it opens up new horizons for the students.
How did you become Baldwin’s Arabic instructor?
Baldwin’s strategic plan contains the vision of teaching addional languages to help educate the global girl. Mandarin Chinese was added the year before. Arabic was added this year as a half credit course, like Greek. Arabic is spoken in the Middle East and Northern Africa. It’s good to learn about the culture of this part of the world and it opens up new horizons for the students.
Share with us a little about your Arabic class.
The class is taught after hours so I am very impressed by their commitment and desire to learning and by their openness to exploring other cultures. Three of my students know Hebrew and because of this have a good grasp of Arabic. They have beautiful handwriting and are used to “right to left” writing and reading. They are also used to many of the sounds and this gives them a good ear for Arabic. All of the girls are fascinated with the language and I am very impressed with how quickly they learn these intricate concepts. I explain to them that although the sounds might at first sound harsh, it is a very metaphoric language. When we speak it, there are a lot of images. For example, if you want to tell someone that they “have your heart,” the literal translation of the phrase you would say would be that “you have my eye” because your eyes are considered one of the most important parts of the body. You might also say “you have my soul.” This is where the true beauty of the language lives.
People didn’t know you were from Lebanon. What else would they be surprised to know about you?
That I lived through a civil war. It was scary but it made me the person I am today. It made me compassionate and strong. When I think back on my childhood, though, I still think of it as a happy time thanks to the love of my family.
Why did you choose Baldwin for your daughter?
I started here in 2002 and Michelle came in 2004. I didn’t look anywhere else. I said to my husband that this is where I wanted my daughter to come and grow and become an educated young woman. I was very impressed by the students at Baldwin. They are bright, independent, intellectually well‐rounded, open minded, curious and creative.
How would you describe Baldwin?
Baldwin for me is like a microcosm of the world — we are united and diverse at the same time. People come from different cultures, different countries, different backgrounds and different beliefs. We are the world! And we are proud of our diverse community and its richness. It makes me very emotional to say this because it is so true. Our girls are happy, genuine, compassionate, respectful and respected. People who do not know Baldwin do not know what they are missing. It’s an amazing place to be. We live in a very warm, close and vibrant community. I feel very fortunate being a part of this wonderful school.