French students place accent on excellence

May 22, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

WILLIAMSPORT - Paula Moore projects unmarked maps onto the classroom wall and gestures with the shadow of her pen.

The teacher fires off the names of countries: Belgium, Burkina Faso, The Ivory Coast, Zaire. The students locate each on smaller maps at their desks.

Soon they are walking in a circle, touching the outlined shapes on the wall and naming each aloud: Chad, Luxembourg, Senegal. In a quiz later, they unscramble the words on a page.

"Oh! I forgot Cameroon! Where is Cameroon?" says Moore. "Not bad! Not bad! Is it Monaco or The Monaco?"

This is not a geography class.

It is advanced French, and virtually every word spoken is in that language. The drill helps students identify French-speaking countries.

Their accents vary, but each of the 13 Williamsport High School students understands the teacher and can hold a conversation. Sometimes they stumble and ask, "Comment dit-on..." (how do you say?)


On Monday, three students gave a presentation on Switzerland. They showed a video, discussed general facts about the country and served Swiss food: cocoa, cheese, chocolate and potato cakes.

They forgot the spoons and improvised, using forks to stir the cocoa. "The Swiss are very inventive," said Whitney Duley in English. "We are teaching you to be inventive."

Immediately, Moore scolds her and the student (known as "Danielle" in class) starts over.

"Les Suisses sont tres inventif et nous vous apprenons d'etre inventif," she said.

Moore's students say French class is fun because of the teacher's enthusiasm.

"She's really cool," said Johanna Eckhart, a senior. "She's on our level. We can talk to her."

"I enjoy class a lot," said junior Barbara Spoonire. "It's very energetic. It keeps you going."

French 4 has helped her with other classes such as history and social studies, she added.

Several of Moore's students are members of an elite organization formed to stimulate interest in the French language and culture.

Established by the American Association of Teachers of French in 1949, the Societe Honoraire de Francais is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Moore founded and sponsored a local arm of the society at Williamsport in 1995. It remains the only chapter in Washington County, she said.

Moore said studying a foreign language gives students a competitive edge. It can help their analytic and interpretive skills, and research shows that each year of language class improves verbal and math test scores, she said.

Knowing a second language is also a job advantage as more businesses work together within the global economy, Moore said.

All the chapter's former members went to college and all the current seniors plan to go, she said. Many are exempt from college language requirements because they studied for four years at Williamsport.

"I am very proud of how outstanding my students are in all areas, but especially in French," Moore said.

There are 140 students enrolled in French courses at the school. In order to be eligible for membership in the honor society, one must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, two years of French courses and a 4.0 in French.

On May 25, the society will induct 21 new members at a ceremony in the school's media center. Larry Steinly, supervisor of foreign languages for the Washington County Board of Education, will speak at the event.

The inductees will receive pins and certificates; seniors will receive engraved medals. A lighting ceremony and reception will follow.

For more information, contact Moore at 301-766-8423.

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