French Spelling Bee celebrates French Week through friendly competition

The Department of Languages and Literatures joined forces with the French Culture Club to commemorate National French Week with an eight-round French Spelling Bee on Wednesday Nov. 9. As the third event of the 2016 celebration, the event was one that participants had arduously prepared for. Beginning 16 years ago, students and faculty have observed National French Week—an invention presented by the American Association of Teachers of French—by honoring the diverse aspects of French culture with specialized programming, as decided by a committee of the French Club.

“While some programs endure from year to year, we tailor the celebrations of National French Week to student interest,” professor of French and western humanities Beverly Evans said in her welcome speech.

The spelling bee began with a performance from Southside Boys, Geneseo’s only all-male a capella group. Pausing between the fourth and fifth levels for an intermission of violin music—including a tribute to “Les Miserables”—the event endured for nearly two hours of competition among the students.

To advance from the current round to the subsequent one, each competitor had to properly pronounce and spell the given vocabulary word, which—as per typical spelling bee conventions—they could ask the judges to repeat, define or use in a sentence.

As the number of competitors dwindled, the regulations governing each round increased: for a final champion to triumph, he or she had to not only spell correctly the word that his opponent missed, but an additional, more challenging word.

Ending the competition after advancing for eight rounds, physics and math double-major sophomore Duncan Ho, international relations major senior Rachel Dobjeleski and international relations major freshman Allie Tatusch ranked first, second and third, respectively. Upon winning the competition, the three champions received their medals and trophies and posed for a commemorative photo before joining their fellow students and French Club members for refreshments.

Celebrating its 17th anniversary this year, the American Association of Teachers of French’s National French Week celebration encourages educators to guide their students in an exploration of several major themes within the framework of French culture. The themes this year include cuisine, STEM advancements, popular careers utilizing the language, arts, leisurely and community events, sports and traditions, as well as music and dance.

By commemorating National French Week, teachers hope to extend their Francophone studies beyond the classroom and to demonstrate the value of learning French, a viable and valuable subject of study that distinguishes itself as one of the major world languages in the 21st century.

In addition to targeting students, the programming of National French Week also invites participation from parents, school administrators and local politicians, whose involvement only publicizes and amplifies the impact of the celebrations.