STAFF SPOTLIGHT: SODARY ON MAKING LEARNING FUN AND INHERITING HER GRANDMOTHER’S SENSE OF DIRECTION

French teacher Sodary is a bit of an expert on getting around Montreal—and she can tell you how to do so in at least three languages.

Sodary has been teaching French at CLC for nearly seven years, and she and her signature dresses are a fixture of the morning classes in the French department. She’s also fluent in English and Khmer—her mother tongue—and has dabbled in Spanish and Japanese.

She grew up speaking Khmer with her maternal grandmother, and has her to thank for her keen directional sense.

“From a very young age I was used to translating back and forth from Khmer to French because I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother,” she said.

“I’ve learned how to find my way in Montreal because somehow, without even speaking the language or being able to read anything, she was able to orient herself within Montreal, to know which metro to take or which busses to take. But it did happen sometimes that we got lost, and at that time I would intervene and ask for directions in French so that we could get somewhere.”

Sodary’s grandmother came to Quebec as a refugee and took advantage of the six months of French classes offered to newcomers, but the large group classes weren’t enough to foster fluency.

“She didn’t have the internet, she didn’t have Google Maps, she just knew that oh, this bus goes to this place, you just need to take this bus to go to this metro and take this metro to go to this place, and it was very amazing for me. I mean, we didn’t have the internet, she didn’t have a map. She just looked and observed and learned.”

“Amazing” is a word that many of Sodary’s students would also use to describe her. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys reading, writing, baking, cooking and (perhaps the most off-brand of her interests) listening to metal music. She’s passionate about teaching, and understands that most of her students don’t share her love for the nitty-gritty aspects of language.

“I like teaching through games. I think it makes grammar very fun. I think that especially in French… even French speakers are a bit traumatized by grammar, and I just want to make it fun for students, because I really adore grammar but I know that not everybody will share my passion and love for it.”

Making language fun and taking the fear out of learning are crucial to Sodary’s teaching philosophy. Languages come easily to her, but she has empathy for those that have been turned off of education in the past—especially when it comes to language studies. She’s struggled with Japanese, so she understands her students’ frustrations.

She said that she would tell new students to think of CLC as a fresh start, and to forget the way they’ve learned before.

“If learning has given them anxiety before, try to forget that because CLC is very different and the teachers here will focus on the students’ needs… We’re not there to humiliate them, because I know sometimes the French system is a bit like that. It’s a very positive environment here.

“There’s only improvement to be done. They can only get better and better.”