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The HWS Update

More than a Language

French Brings HWS Community Together

“French is more than a language, it’s an academic discipline,” said Professor of French and Francophone Studies Catherine Gallouët.  As such, it’s also a discipline that finds a venue inside and outside language classrooms. With a common language, French-speaking HWS students, faculty and staff are now able to become even more tightly knit thanks to new initiatives in a course taught in the French and francophone department.

Knowing that French is also spoken by members of the HWS community, Gallouët is adding French dialogue between different academic disciplines to her  syllabus for FRE 226: Parler et comprendre course.

“My goal is to engage my French students in a different way with members of the community other than peers or French professors and show them that French at HWS is not an island,” Gallouët explained. “In fact, faculty in departments as varied as History, English and Environmental Studies are fluent and even native speakers.”

During class sessions, students have the opportunity to learn more about French and its connection to other majors and various cultures. They do so through dialogue with participating faculty members. The settings change every class to add excitement and fun to the academic core of the course.

The French and Francophone studies program recognizes that the ability to speak and function in a foreign culture has become one of the most important skills in today’s complex society. Because of the variety of French speaking cultures throughout the world, the program offers integrated courses in language, culture, and literature that reflect this rich diversity. Galloüet, along with a variety of departments and programs, are embracing the fundamental objective of connecting knowledge of foreign language with other fields.

Gallouët is also carrying out this objective outside of the classroom. Her work in 18th-century studies has led her to organize the 2008 Northeast American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (NEASECS) Conference, hosted by HWS and held in Geneva and on campus last month. The multidisciplinary conference gathered scholars from many academic disciplines and national and international origins around the theme of ‘Ambivalence in the eighteenth century.’ Gallouët is also part of the French and Francophone Studies initiative, “Café Animation”, in which students casually converse while practicing and improving their language fluency; “Café Animation” is one of many ways that the department faculty is finding for students to learn and appreciate the French language.

“It takes great humility to enter into other cultures as a learner, rather than a taker,” Gallouët explained. “At HWS, we teach French not just as the vehicle for French culture, but as the language of various academic discourses and  many cultures all over the world.”