After students and faculty enjoyed homemade croissants, crêpes and other French pastries as they gathered on the floor to watch student performances for Andover’s first Fête de la Francophonie. Also known as International Francophonie Day, Andover’s Fête is an annual celebration of the French language and French-speaking culture hosted by the French Department.
Debra Pickering, Instructor and Interim Chair in French, said during an interview with The Phillipian, “It’s kind of like the [Andover] version of [International Francophonie Day] and also brings together all of the French classes… We wanted to open up the eyes of students, to the existence of these French-speaking countries around the world and the cultures and the differences in the cultures, even though they have one common language.”
French students of different levels participated in the event by performing skits and songs, presenting informational booths, making posters of Francophone countries and preparing French delicacies.
“It is just a nice way of getting everybody involved in some way. If the students were not performing, they are likely to be displaying something on an exhibition table… The students that are not doing any active contribution in French are volunteering to clean up after work and things like that,” said Pickering.
Up until last year, the French Department had hosted an annual poetry recitation competition. With decreasing participation in the competition, the French Department decided to bring the Fête de la Francophonie celebration to campus instead.
“The idea of a Fête de la Francophonie was a kind of a natural way of making [the poetry competition] more of something that everyone can contribute to. You don’t have to be a poetry lover, you can be a singer, you can put a display, you can be an artist, you can recite a poem,” said Pickering.
Pickering hopes that the Fête de la Francophonie celebration will not only bring attention to the importance of the Francophone community, but will also serve as a way to tighten bonds within Andover’s French-speaking community.
“I just think it’s a good way of involving the whole French-speaking community. We have invited francophiles around the school. [Head of School John Palfrey] speaks very good French, we sent him an invitation [along with] several members of faculty that you would never expect that speak French,” Pickering said.
Pickering emphasized the learning opportunity that this event provided to students in all French levels.
“I think [the Fête de la Francophonie celebration] is a great way [to] communicate, in a foreign language, with someone who is better than you and with someone who is not as good as you. The fact of opening the students up to each other and creating a bigger sense of community is perhaps our main aim for tonight,” said Pickering.
Sally Pollard, Teaching Fellow in French, said “I think it’s great for students to come together to celebrate the Francophone world because a lot of people forget how vast French is in the world, and they just think about how it is spoken in France, but they don’t think that 90 percent of French speakers are in Africa. I feel like it is really important to remember when you are learning.”
Natalie Warren ’18, a student in French 320, said she hopes that Andover’s Fête de la Francophonie becomes an annual celebration.
“I think it is good because it has all the French classes come together and celebrate the culture of France and see what the other classes are up to,” said Warren.
Although Yixuan Zhao ’18, a student in French 400, enjoyed the event and agrees that it should continue in the future, she thinks that the event should be inclusive of all students on campus, regardless of what language they take.
“I think it would be cool to have this as an annual thing. I think it would be cool if in the next few years they also invited people who weren’t part of the French Department. This was mainly directed to the French students, so it would be neat if in the next couple of years they would open it up to a sort of school-wide thing,” said Zhao.