Head of the Class

Leblond joins Q&A with French students from New Jersey

Monday, 12.21.2009 / 3:25 PM ET / Features
By Eric Marin
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Head of the Class
Leblond recently traded his hockey stick for a microphone and spoke to a group of French students.
There were fans speaking French after last week’s win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, but they weren't there to cheer for the bleu, blanc et rouge.

Following the Devils’ 2-1 win over the Habs on Wednesday, a group of more than 1,200 area French students were treated to a Q&A session with Devils left wing Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. The event was coordinated with the New Jersey chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF).

“They were pretty good,” Leblond, a Quebec native, said. “Their French was better than my English.”

From the Devils dressing room, Leblond donned his jersey and headed out into the stands to grab a mic. He was asked a series of questions in French, including a few about his favorite team growing up (Quebec Nordiques) and his favorite player (Joe Sakic).

The rugged forward hails from Levis, which sits just across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City, and admitted he was impressed by how polished the students were.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “I thought I would have to ask them to repeat the questions many times, but I got everything the first time. They probably practiced a lot to be that good. It’s good for them.”

Quebec City has traditionally been more monolingual than Montreal, the province’s largest city. That has changed in recent years as English gained more of a foothold in the provincial capital, in part because of the influence from the comparatively more bilingual Montreal.

Leblond counts himself among the younger generation of Quebec City natives that has embraced a command of both languages.

“You go to Montreal, people say, ‘Hi, Bonjour’ – everybody, everywhere,” Leblond said. “The restaurants you have French and English. In Quebec, people speak (some) English and they’re going to try. If you speak English, they’re going to try, they’re nice for that. But most people don’t speak English. If you talk about 25-year-olds and older, those people don’t speak much English at all. But the new generation, they speak English much more.

“It’s good now that kids can do that. You never know where you’re going to end up. Look at me, speaking English all the time.”

Leblond pointed out differences between French as spoken in Quebec and in France.

“They use more slang American words like 'shopping,' and 'parking,' he said. “We don’t use that in Quebec. They use a lot of English words in France, but in Quebec we have our own slang (known as joual).”

Besides taking a class, television can be an easy tool for learning a foreign language. Think children's programming.

“If you watch sports and know what they’re talking about, it’s easy and that’s how you learn,” he said. “Or kids' stuff on TV, that’s the best way to learn. They show you an apple, then they talk about the apple, so you can pick up on everything around it. That’s the best way to learn a language. In the hockey world, I’m perfectly bilingual, but on the street it’s different. I see stuff (in English) that I don’t pick up sometimes.”

Leblond enjoyed spending some time with the students.

“It was a good moment,” he said. “For 30 minutes of my time, I’ll do that every day if I can.”

No Devils Q&A would have been complete without the question that has Devils fans hopeful each season.

“One question a girl asked me was, ‘Do you think the Devils are going to win the Stanley Cup?’” Leblond recounted. “She didn’t say it loud enough into the mic, so I repeated it and the kids went nuts.”