Fairing well in French

Finishing the last year of French 4 as a sophomore, Harrison Snell started in the class as a freshman after moving back to the United States from France.

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Fairing well in French

Anna Levine, Writer

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A sophomore in an all-senior class, Harrison Snell is taking French 4 despite already being fluent in the language.

Before moving to Overland Park roughly a year-and-a-half ago, Snell and his family lived in France for two years for his dad’s engineering job. Snell and his family lived in the southern part of France in a village near Grenoble, called St. Ismier. In the first nine months of staying in the village, he became fluent in the language.

To become fluent in French, Snell and his younger sister were put in an all-French private Catholic school.

“The first four months were kind of bad, just learning,” Snell said. “By six months, I could understand and started to make some more friends. By nine months, I was more or less fluent in the essence of that’s when I could hear, understand, and speak, all in French.”

Snell is taking French 4, which is a two-year course that Snell started as a freshman, but is finishing up this year. Snell said he is primarily taking the class for the easy A, but also because he really enjoys speaking French.

“[It is] nice to remember the language,” Snell said. “Plus, it’ll help with college credit.”

The class is taught by Catherine Tubbesing, who said Snell is a big help among her and the other students in the class.

“I call on him because he basically understands everything in French whether I’m saying it or it’s on a video or a recording, you know like a native speaker would understand,” Tubbesing said.

Apart from having him in class to help with answers, Tubbesing said Snell has been a pleasure to have in class because the two frequently speak fluent French back and forth. She said Snell has a gift with the French language.

“It’s really rare for someone to learn French at the age that he did and be able to speak it with the accent that he has,” Tubbesing said. “The fact that he was there for only a few years…and he sounds like a native shows me he’s gifted.”

9_camelPhoto courtesy of Harrison Snell

When it comes to speaking the language in class, Snell said he has benefits over the other students. According to him, living in France allowed him to speak and hear everything in French in class now.

“I don’t have to hear [French] and translate it and then understand it, I just understand the French, the same way you’re just understanding English,” Snell said. “So I definitely have that advantage where I can speak a lot quicker.”

Snells’ mother, Genay Snell, said Snell’s ability to speak so accurately is impressive to hear, giving him another edge in class.

“To me, it’s a nice sound to the ear to hear that, and I think it’s impressive,” Genay said. “I mean I don’t want to brag about my son, but I think it puts him on a different level and people look up to him.”

On the contrary, Snell’s father, Doug Snell, said Snell learned French differently than students learn the language here, which can prove to be difficult.

“The challenge I think Harrison has is when he has to break down the grammar by rules, it’s not how he learned French,” Doug said. “[He learned] what would be an appropriate response, not necessarily what is the grammatical structure of the response.”

Both Genay and Doug said they continue to support Snell in class and continue to be proud of him.

“I just want Harrison to perform to the best of his ability and if that meant that he was in a class of all freshman and that was the best he could do, then I’d be very proud of him,” Doug said.

Looking ahead, Snell said does not know what he wants to do with French, but there are a few options he can take. Genay said there is talk of Snell joining a class at Johnson County Community College, but there is no definite plan.

Snell said he may join a different language class, giving him a way to be exposed to even more languages.

“I’ll either stop language and stay in French Club or something, or I’ll take Latin, or for the heck of it jump in as a senior in Spanish 1,” Snell said. “Just do something like that.”

Despite all the unknown, Doug said speaking more than French and English would be great for Snell.

“I hope he uses the gift that he’s been given…whatever he decides to do, I hope he uses it as an advantage,” Doug said.