Celebrating the French Language, Susquehanna Style

Celebrating the French Language, Susquehanna Style
Celebrating the French Language, Susquehanna Style

November 18, 2015

St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Kwanzaa-these cultural celebrations are found on most commonly used calendars. But Journée de la Francophonie, or "French-Speaking Day"? Not so much.  

Associate Professor of French Lynn Palermo and her French Conversation and Phonetics class set out to change that recently with Susquehanna's third annual French-speaking festival. "French is spoken around the world, but not so much in central Pennsylvania," Palermo explained. "The Journée de la Francophonie gives visiting high school students an opportunity to practice speaking French they might not otherwise get. It's good for them, and good for us."

Exposure to the language would be good for anyone, because, according to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, French is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, the official language of 29 countries and one of the working languages of the United Nations.

This year, about 60 high school students from Selinsgrove Area High School, Central Mountain High School and Cumberland Valley High School attended the event.

Chrissy Stoshack, a 1999 graduate of Susquehanna and Cumberland Valley High School administrator who accompanied the students, said the Journée allows students to really engage in French language and culture. "It gives them practice and makes them excited about learning the language," she said.

Evelyn Atwood, a sophomore French and early childhood education major from Portland, Maine, who helped organize the event, said the festival "gives us the opportunity to interact with local high school students, and to share our love of French and our interest in the francophone world with them. This is a great experience for me to put my two majors, French and education, into practice."

During the event students engaged in eight different activities, which included learning a Senegalese dance and improvising a skit in French. The students also played games such as Guess Who featuring various French celebrities and Où dans le Monde? (Where in the World?), for which students were given pictures of famous landmarks or places in francophone countries. Using Google Maps, they determined where the pictures were taken.

Brian LeBlanc, a junior creative writing major from Cogan Station, Pa., who also worked on the event, said his favorite part of the day was "seeing how students come alive and really enjoy the games and activities we have prepared. It gives them a chance to see another side of French, both the language and the rich and varied cultures, and to explore those in a different environment."

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