Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz speaks French with Foxboro Elementary students

Wednesday , September 20, 2017 - 5:46 PM

ANNA BURLESON, Standard-Examiner Staff

Editor’s note: Due to a reporter’s error, Ruby Gobert’s last name was misspelled in a previous version of this story. The Standard-Examiner regrets the error.

NORTH SALT LAKE — Students started chanting his name long before Utah Jazz star forward Rudy Gobert entered the gymnasium at Foxboro Elementary School.

Gobert, a native of France and member of the All-NBA Second Team last season, visited the French immersion school Wednesday, Sept. 20. Students in the school’s French Language Immersion Program spoke with the basketball player only in French while the school’s remaining students had the opportunity to ask him questions in English.

“Some of them were a little nervous and some of them I couldn’t understand sometimes, but you can tell they know some French,” Gobert said in an interview afterward.

Foxboro is one of three French immersion schools in the Davis School District, said elementary immersion specialist Rita Stevenson. The district also has five Spanish and four Chinese immersion schools. 

“We want our students to see the connection that French is worldwide,” Stevenson said. “It’s not just in France, it’s not just in Canada but it’s even here in Utah and affects the lives of people here.”

Foxboro Principal Kevin Prusse said about a third of the school is in the French immersion program. 

“They’re very fluent,” he said. “In fact, the other day a third grader was talking to me in the hall. All of a sudden the French teacher came by and he turned to him and asked him a question in French just like that. Not even thinking about it.”

At the assembly, each class came up with one question to ask Gobert and sent one student up to ask it. Questions ranged from his height — 7 feet, 1 inch — to when he started playing basketball — age 12.

Some even asked about Gordon Hayward’s departure from the Jazz and one student asked if Gobert had ever been dumped by a girlfriend.

Gobert started learning English around the same time he started playing basketball. He said most school children in France pick a language to learn around age 12.

“We all learn the basics and I kept learning,” he said. “I just thought it would be great for me to speak English, so I do.”

Gobert said his goal is to be a stronger and better player this season. He has already felt like a team leader and said he’s comfortable being more of a public face for the Jazz.

“Believe in yourself, keep working hard, listen to your parents and good things will happen,” Gobert told the students.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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