French Teacher Speaks 12 Languages

By Sylvie Lister, Staff Writer

FCPS requires students to take at least one language. Imagine learning 12: Bakoko. Douala. Ewodi. French. German. Italian. Japanese. Mandarin. Portuguese. Spanish. And don’t forget night classes in Arabic. For French teacher Rhode N’komba, learning languages comes naturally.

Madame N’komba was born in Cameroon, Africa, with her mother and father teaching her and her two brothers their tribal languages, Ewodi and Bakoko, respectively. “As a kid, you don't hear them as different languages.” She says. “It’s just talking.”

Madame was 10 when she first traveled to the East Coast and educated at Lycée Rochambeau a French international school in Bethesda, Maryland. Students had no choice but to speak French in school, but once they stepped onto the playground the “cool” language changed to English. “That forced me to want to fit in, to learn what they know,” Madame says.

Madame moved continent to continent consisting of nine different countries learning new languages along the way. “Learning a language is like a puzzle,” Madame says. “The more you know, the more you piece together.” She teaches herself with lots of reading, international podcasts, and TV shows. Her and her Japanese boyfriend watch TV in different languages, rarely speaking in English.

She’s taught at Falls Church for five years, making it her objective to learn a new language alongside her students. Every year Madame chooses a new language, learning almost as much as her students. In an equal exchange, she teaches French and in return they help teach her their native language.  

She speaks at least five different languages fluently, which makes Madame a polyglot and places her in the top 1% of the world population. “I'm the type of person who's a figure-it-out junkie,” Madame says. “My motivation comes from my nosiness.”