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Savard, Dubois visit Columbus school to practice their French

Blue Jackets players from Quebec encourage youngsters in another language

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

D'ou venez vous? 

Where are you from? 

For Columbus Blue Jackets Pierre-Luc Dubois and David Savard, the answer is Quebec. And that means the two grew up speaking French as well as English. 

For Dubois, he grew up speaking both languages at home because his mother, Jill, hails from Georgia.  

For Savard, French was the No. 1 language at home and in school, but his parents made sure he knew how to speak English because they knew how well it would serve him in the world. 

"We got pushed quite a bit on trying to learn English," Savard said. "I couldn't really see why when I started. You're learning in French, and everything is in French around you.  

"When you start traveling, you start to see the reasons you're trying to learn. It's a great thing I learned it because it made my transition a lot easier when I turned pro and everything." 

Those experiences made Savard and Dubois perfect entertainers Monday as the two visited Ecole Kenwood French Immersion Elementary to speak to the youngsters in the French tongue. 

The school teaches children in both languages and is modeled after European schools that make sure students know how to speak in multiple tongues, a particularly useful skill in the cultural melting pot that is the continent. To talk to many of the Blue Jackets' European players, English seems to come as naturally to them as Nick Foligno and Seth Jones.  

That's the goal of Ecole Kenwood, which is in the Columbus City Schools district and has nearly 400 students aged through sixth grade. 

"It's pretty spectacular," said Alexandra Miller, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at the school who helped run Monday afternoon's program. "I grew up in Europe and moved to the United States, so I came from that bilingual sort of background. I feel like this school allows children who come from that environment or another country and move to the United States an opportunity to continue to learn that language, and it allows students who are from the Columbus and vicinity the chance to know not just another language but also other cultures. 

"It's just an awesome environment - really diverse culturally, linguistically, ethnically, racially, and socioeconomically."  

About 100 students were present for the appearance, with students called up to a microphone to ask Savard and Dubois questions they took turns answering in French. Afterward, there was an autograph session, at which many of the students conversed with the two players in French. 

The questions were pretty good, too, and asked in either language. They ranged from whether the players have lost any teeth playing hockey to their favorite books to read. 

"The harder ones I gave to Dave," joked Dubois, who lived with Savard as a rookie and spoke French with him at home. "There were some pretty good questions. They're smart kids - smarter than I was. It's fun to come here and see kids who are trying to learn the language." 

About 75 percent of the kids at Ecole Kenwood hail from the Columbus area while the rest have parents who have moved into the area from abroad or speak French at home. It provides a learning environment that is as diverse as it is unique. 

"In Columbus when you turn on the TV or whatever else, everything is in English," Miller said. "We don't always realize the amount of people who are in a professional capacity who speak another language that come from different environments and have a breadth of knowledge. Just knowing that the players are working hard and are being successful here and the value of having that other language as an asset is fabulous." 

The school also takes part in the Blue Jackets' "Book Jackets" reading program and the Power Play Challenge that encourages physical education in Columbus-area schools. 

And for one day, Ecole Kenwood had two new French speakers in its halls who were there to inspire the next generation.  

"Hopefully they see why you try to learn another language and the doors that can open later in life," Savard said. "I hope they really enjoyed their day and they're going to keep pushing to learn more French." 

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