Jody Ballah is a French professor at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash branch. She has been teaching for twenty-five years and provides a unique insight into the perspective of a passionate French teacher. Ms. Ballah also has interesting and unique travel experiences because of her job, and for personal reasons as well.
Ms. Ballah has been a faculty member of the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash for eight years. She grew up in Canada, where French is a very prominent aspect of their culture. Being exposed to French at such a young age, the sixth grade, fueled a love for the language, culture, film, history, and literature as she grew. Her love for French was also influenced by one of her high school teachers, as well as the bilingualism of Canada. When asked how French has caused her to grow as a human being, she said she believes the French culture and way of life has made her a more global citizen.
Ms. Ballah also says that she learns something new from her students every day. She was drawn to teaching because she gets to work with all different types of people. She believes culture and language are inseparable and that the only way to truly learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture. Jody feels learning a language and the culture are lifelong processes, and she continues this process through her research and travels.
Over the years, Ms. Ballah has traveled to over a dozen French speaking countries, and each time she goes, she learns something new. However, out of all the countries she has been to, France is her favorite country to visit. Jody’s first trip to Paris in 1994 opened her eyes to the culture, language, and literature she had been studying for fifteen years, and so on this first visit, Paris became her favorite. Over the years, she has grown as a French speaker through her travels and experiences abroad. Her experiences have allowed for continuous learning of many different disciplines including French art, history, and film. These trips are not purely for pleasure, as Ms. Ballah also leads a two-week study abroad program to Québec City.
She originally got involved with the trips through UC because she had traveled previously for pleasure, academic conferences, study abroad, and service learning projects. As a professor, the trips appealed to her because it forces her students out of their comfort zone and immerses them in the curriculum. One of the most exciting things that Ms. Ballah says draws her to the trips is the experience of watching her students explore and discover the culture using the language they have been learning. In addition to the trips she has led, she also academically influences the foreign language department at UC Blue Ash.
Over the course of her eight years at UC Blue Ash, Ms. Ballah has been able to contribute significantly to the foreign language department through the creation of new courses, service learning, and study abroad programs. She has also been awarded grants for her research and travel, and regularly receives awards for her teaching and the diversity her classes display. She is also currently in the process of writing research papers about Jacques Tati and Jacques Demy, a 1950s French filmmaker. And, she is also continuing her research on the effectiveness of targeted foreign language instruction as preparation for international service learning trips.
Given the choice to redo everything, Ms. Ballah said she would still choose French because she believes it is one of the most practical, important, and beautiful languages out there. She also believes French provides an entrance into one of the most exciting cultures in the world. Her family is thankful for the contributions French has made to their lives.
The benefits that come from being bilingual are priceless; these skills are practical and can easily be applicable to real-world situations. Learning a language is not only a résumé booster; it can also open your eyes and mind to another culture. Knowing another language is a very practical skill, and it creates a well-rounded global citizen.