20 Jan Concours de Français Held in Norfolk
It was my honor and pleasure to serve as Director of the 22nd annual Concours de Français, sponsored by the Alliance Française, Chapitre de Grasse. On May 17, 2014, over 100 anxious middle and high school students converged on Granby High School in Norfolk to demonstrate their French language proficiency. The judges — native French speakers, NATO officers, and French teachers from every local school district — volunteered their time early on a Saturday morning to share their passion for the French language with these courageous students. The Granby Commons was a lively venue for participants and their families to relax and play French board games while being entertained by a strolling accordionist. When not watching French music videos or playing pétanque on the grand lawn, visitors admired the stained glass artwork by artisan, Barbara MEIER, who is also the foreign language department chair at Norview High School in Norfolk. The Awards Ceremony offered a delightful interlude, as students from Warwick High School in Newport News performed, including a lively rendition of Pharrell Williams’ upbeat hit, “Happy“ translated into French by IB French teacher, LaVerne Flowers.
Guest Speaker General Jean-Paul PALOMEROS, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation of NATO, lent an air of pomp and circumstance to the ceremony. It is extraordinary that a dignitary of his stature would carve time from his busy schedule to acknowledge the efforts of the students and to communicate the importance of developing their language skills. His speech, entirely in precise and easy to understand French, described the history of the French language and its continued evolution. Even many of the novice participants could understand and appreciate his remarks!
All participating students were presented with a certificate and ribbon and congratulated individually by the general. The top three winners in each of the five levels of study also received a medal of distinction. First prize winners were presented with a book donated by the general and French flag signed by the general, accompanied by a certificate of appreciation for their accomplishment. The French Navy also donated pens, key chains, and bookmarks, which were distributed to each student. It is my hope that the Concours has energized many of the student participants to continue their French studies and to aspire to become world language teachers in the future.
An event such as the Concours does not occur without an unbelievable amount of planning and effort by many people over an entire year. I exhort all French teachers to encourage their students to participate and to volunteer next year, either as a member of the Concours Planning Committee or as a judge. Anyone interested may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org