National French Week promotes language, culture

Last week UNA students got a little taste of France and French culture from National French Week, sponsored by the UNA French club. The celebration ranged from good eats to a lively tournament and picnic just between Wesleyan Hall and the Annex.

This year was UNA’s fourth annual celebration of National French Week, but it was originally instituted by the American Association of Teachers of French more than two decades ago. This month, AATF recognized UNA’s own professor of French Stephanie Coker as the featured professor. She has been teaching French at UNA since the fall of 2016.

She said a major highlight of teaching French at UNA is getting to take students to Paris and seeing them experience France for the first time and getting to use their French skills in daily interactions with French people. “There’s nothing like seeing France through their eyes for the first time,” Coker said.

UNA French language students welcomed the week early Monday morning with “chocolat chaud et croissants.” There were mounds of delicate, delicious croissants and steaming hot beverages like rich Swiss Miss hot cocoa and coffee to fend off the brisk autumn temperatures.

Tuesday was slightly less tasty but packed with essential information from a study abroad meeting in the morning to a monthly French club meeting later that afternoon.

Every year the foreign language department offers several travel options for students wanting to study abroad. Those particularly interested in traveling to France attended an informational meeting on Tuesday morning regarding the upcoming dates and times for traveling abroad to Paris during the summer of 2020.

For two weeks in June, students will have the opportunity to explore the popular and historical city of Paris, France and will also be able to obtain certain class credits. UNA students interested in traveling to France with the foreign language department should contact either Stephanie Coker via email at [email protected] or Professor Rober Rausch at [email protected] for further information.

The third day of National French Week was a favorite for many UNA students and faculty as well as high school students from Florence High School who have already begun taking on the French language. The crisp Wednesday afternoon was perfect for a day of picnic and pétanque on the lawn next to Wesleyan Hall.

The picnic was laden with sweet and savory snacks like cookies, croissants, fruits and cheeses, and the most popular food item: crêpes, a staple French treat often served with different fillings. Most students opted to add strawberries, whipped cream and nutella to theirs. French minor and historian of the UNA French club Joy Machen aided Dr. Coker by preparing everyone’s crêpes.

As the fun food continued, others participated in the pétanque tournament. Pétanque a is French sport and past-time similar to the Italian game bocce ball. UNA junior Seth Jacobs particularly enjoyed Wednesday’s events.

“My favorite part of French week has been the pétanque tournament even though I’m terrible at it,” Jacobs said. “For those who don’t know what pétanque is, it’s kind of like horseshoes except with metal balls instead of a horseshoe and a stake.”

On Thursday evening ten members were initiated into UNA’s newly formed chapter of French Honor Society. Professor Coker led the ceremony with help from special guest and fellow French professor, Joe Johnson of Clayton State University.

French week concluded with a presentation from Professor Johnson about his professional language experiences in translations and publications. UNA junior and French club vice-president Christina Brown was most looking forward to Friday’s presentation, as working with translations is a career goal for her.

Professor Coker struggled to pick just one favorite part of French Week, but she said she always goes back to the picnic and pétanque and was particularly happy about the weather being favorable during the week of celebration.

Coker said, “I couldn’t do it without the students and the help of my colleagues and even friends and family who pitched in throughout the week, so it was a big help.”