October 28, 2005
The University of Maine at Fort Kent has long recognized its Franco-American roots, and continuing in that tradition the campus community will spend a week celebrating the French language November 7 through 13.
The university will be in good company as 10,000 French teachers across the United States and their students join in marking National French Week/La Semaine du Français, a national effort coordinated by the American Association of Teachers of French to celebrate the contributions of the French and French-speaking world to literature, art, music, civilization, science, fashion, cuisine and many other areas.
"When I moved here a year ago I didn't realize how many people on campus speak French on a daily basis. It took me several months to identify the many francophones among my co-workers," said Katharine Harrington, UMFK assistant professor of French and coordinator of the university's French week activities. "It seemed strange to me that the French I came to discover all around me had initially been hidden from me. It seemed that many UMFK employees were reluctant to speak French with me at first. That is one of the primary reasons we are hosting several activities during French week that will encourage people on campus to speak French."
On Tuesday, November 8, at noontime, the university French Club will hold La Table Française, which invites all campus and community French speakers to join in conversation en Français in the Bengal's Lair. Participants are welcome to bring their own brown bag lunch or eat at the Bengal's Lair café.
Wednesday, November 9 will feature a "Francophone Celebration" at 2:00 p.m. in the Bengal's Lair, sponsored by the UMFK French Heritage Council. Free coffee and pastries will be available for all French speakers on campus. In addition, buttons reading "On parle français ici" with the UMFK logo, will be given to individuals who attend and speak French.
The Wednesday afternoon event will also feature the debut of a campus-made video featuring various French speakers at UMFK. The video, produced by UMFK student Jules Bodo of Cameroon, is designed to showcase the many university employees who speak French and to bring home the message that speaking the language is something to be proud of.
"I think some people felt self-conscious speaking French with me. As people have gotten to know me however, they realize that we all speak the same language just with our various regionalisms and different accents. I want UMFK to be proud of the French language that is alive and well here on campus. I also want to expose the fact that French exists in many forms here on campus. We have employees and students who are Franco-American, French-Canadian and one of our star soccer players is a French speaker from West Africa. We should celebrate this richness that is often taken for granted," said Harrington.
French week events continue on Thursday, November 10 at 12:00 noon with a musical performance by UMFK student Nathalie Pelletier, who will be performing some of her original French songs in the Bengal's Lair.
Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m., the French Club will sponsor a French movie night in the Bengal's Lair. The film Gaz Bar Blues, a comedy produced in Quebec, will be shown.
A final event on Friday, November 11 at 11:00 a.m. in the Grindle conference room will feature a panel discussion on study abroad opportunities available to all UMFK students.
The informational session will highlight opportunities for study abroad available through UMFK, the University of Maine System and Le Club Français, a local grassroots organization in the St. John Valley dedicated to preserving and promoting the French language.
Featured speakers will include Randy Devost from Van Buren who is currently studying at Université de Laval in Quebec, and UMFK President Richard Cost, who will speak about his participation in a recent official visit to France along with other University of Maine System officials. During that visit exchange agreements were signed between the University System and several French institutions of higher learning.
The event, sponsored by the French Heritage Council, will also include an informational component by Harrington about the logistics of study abroad for UMFK students.
In addition to the series of events planned, Harrington has also spoken with the campus dining service provider ARAMARK about incorporating several French dishes into the dining hall's menu for the week.
French week activities will also extend beyond the UMFK campus. Several of Harrington's elementary French students will be visiting French classes at Fort Kent Community High School, and another student, Jenna Collin, is organizing some French language activities and games that she and several of her classmates will bring to her father Charles Collin's seventh, eighth and ninth grade French classes at FKCHS.
National French Week is planned annually by the American Association of Teachers of French, the national professional association of French teachers founded in 1927.
The UMFK activities celebrating National French Week are free and open to the public.
For more information, contact Harrington at (207) 834-7629.