National French Week presents engaging educational events

As designated by the American Association of Teachers of French, National French Week took place from Nov. 4–Tuesday Nov. 10 and was celebrated on the Geneseo campus. It was a week dedicated to celebrating French and Francophone cultures around the world.

Assistant professor of French Kathryn Fredericks played a huge role in planning the campus events that recognized this important week. Fredericks explained that National French Week was developed by the AATF and many college campuses around the country participate in cultural festivities during this week.

National French Week events are not strictly geared toward language students; they are meant to appeal to all students and faculty around the campus. According to Fredericks, you can typically expect to find different events during National French week at Geneseo such as “guest speakers, film screenings, study abroad presentations from students who have recently studied abroad, in the past and this year we have a French spelling bee that’s going to happen and a group dinner to close out the week … sometimes we have alumni speakers come, as well.”

Fredericks revealed that she tends to really enjoy the guest speakers “because we get to invite people from other universities with diverse topics to discuss.” She added that the student study abroad presentations are also really successful.

Despite what people might think due to the misnomer, France is not the only country recognized in French week. “French Week celebrates [not only] French culture, but also Francophone culture—Francophone meaning countries where French is spoken around the world,” she said. “So each year, we try to highlight a different part of the Francophone world—of course focusing on France from time to time—but also Canada, parts of Africa, the Caribbean and this year, we’re focusing on North Africa.”

University of Florida associate professor of French and Francophone literature specialist and guest speaker Brigitte Weltman-Aron visited the Geneseo campus on Tuesday Nov. 10 to present on Algerian writer Assia Djebar. Weltman-Aron explained that Djebar was born in Algeria when it was still a French colony, so she learned to read French at a young age.

Since this year’s National French Week focused primarily on North Africa, hosting Weltman-Aron to speak was both appropriate and insightful as she shared Djebar’s experience growing up in a Francophone culture. “It’s a good example of how things intersect culturally and geographically, as [Fredericks] said,” Weltman-Aron noted.

Regardless of whether or not you have any personal connection to the French culture, it’s still important to recognize and respect the French and Francophone culture. Fredericks herself doesn’t come from a French background, but this has not hindered her from studying French for the past 20 years.

National French Week isn’t just about observing the basics of French culture—it involves looking at various aspects of French and Francophone background such as literature, history, film, philosophy, sociology and geography.

“Trying to teach various aspects of all of those to our students is our goal and something we enjoy very much,” Fredericks said. “It means [trying] to understand how French and Francophone culture is represented today, but also to learn about the histories of Francophone countries around the world and to see what history has taught us about present movements, present societies and present-day situations.”

Over the past decade, National French Week has brought together faculty and students alike to appreciate the many features of French and Francophone cultures around the world.

If you missed the previous events this week, you still have an opportunity to participate. There will be a French spelling bee on Thursday Nov. 12 and you can join other French enthusiasts for dinner at Aladdin’s Restaurant in Pittsford on Friday Nov. 13.