Many Texans are not aware of the extent to which the word “Dallas” resonates in the hearts of so many Europeans… the reason for its fame being a show that many Americans have never even watched, but which has captivated generations of Europeans since the 70s until today: the “Dallas, Ewing Oil” series. My students are always amazed to learn that many Europeans (including myself, as a child, growing up in a former-communist country) learned English out of a passion for all-things-American/Texan inspired, among other sources, by the intrigues of this unforgettable series. In fact, on a recent trip I took to Paris, almost all the conversations I had with French people involved their questions about what it was like to live in Texas, whether things were really “like that” (“you mean they really wear guns in the street?!”) and confidences from French ladies that the only place they’d wish to visit in the U.S.A. would be Texas…
It follows that, if locals and I were to discuss places that I, personally, would recomment to my students, we might end up voicing very different opinions: while most American teachers might proudly point to the Dallas museums and concerts of the moment to be visited first, I would give priority to what differs from the European landscape and is at the same time “extremely Texan”.
First, choosing the moment to visit Dallas on a language & culture field trip is utterly important, because spending time walking outside just for pleasure – faire des promenades — constitutes a pleasant activity to many foreigners, and in Texas that is luxury some can enjoy mostly in spring and in autumn/winter outside the melting-point heat of summer months.
The Dallas–show experience can be felt quite genuinely downtown Dallas around the Main Street and – my favourite area – the Fountains Place, an area of 172 dancing fountains that surround an impressive sky-scraper designed as a multi-faceted prism. From there throughout the area of “Uptown” all through Turtle Creek and up to the core of Highland Park a French or Italian student visiting Dallas can walk to the pleasure of their hearts — as I did when I first moved here: the wildlike in Turtle Creek Park is very amusing in spring and I’ve often organized field trips with my American students to teach them environmental vocabulary while trying to open up their point of views from a European direction. Such a field trip can end glamorously-Texas-style with a rodeo-show — something that is always on the list of my foreign students whom I also teach American folk literature along with English language skills.
Further on, we can practice French at La Madeleine, and Italian at the Italian House, over coffee and croissants or spaghetti, and — again, weather permitting — at the Arboretum, as well as inside the art galeries of Dallas: the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Alliance Française, and, of course, Southfork Ranch. Wherever we go on field trips, I encourage my students to practice their cultural knowledge along with their foreing language vocabulary while describing the various attractions we see or enjoy.
Dallas might be the most wonderful place in the whole Texas for one who would like to learn immersion-style English, French, or Italian lessons, on account of the historical fame of the city and its unique contemporary appeal.