Organizers expect more than 300 high school students to attend the fair that was started 10 years ago by the faculty at UTPA and high school teachers of French from Brownsville to Rio Grande City, all members of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) – South Texas Chapter. AATF is the largest professional association of French studies in North America with 40,000 members.
The day’s events include poetry recitation, sight reading, performance of skits (both prepared and improvised), and competitions – Concours Culturel – which require student teams to demonstrate their knowledge of French and Francophone history, geography, art, music, literature and film, customs and traditions, contributions to science and sports, plus French phrases that have made their way into the English language. Competition winners will receive trophies, medals and certificates.
"Every event serves in some way to make students aware of the many components of French language and culture that are within their reach, even here in South Texas," said Dr. Mary Ricciardy, instructor of French at the Military Academy in Harlingen, who with Dr. Stella Behar, UTPA associate professor of French and French program adviser, has helped oversee the planning of the fair.
Behar said the fair not only offers an opportunity to learn and practice grammar and vocabulary, but also the many interdisciplinary connections that make language learning an enriching experience.
"It is proven that the skills developed by learning a foreign language improve scores in other disciplines such as grammatical and writing skills in mother languages, geography, history and mathematics," she said.
UTPA students joined by exchange students from the University of Bordeaux as well as UTPA French faculty and some members of the French Club of the Rio Grande Valley will serve as hosts, mentors and members of the evaluating jury for the competitions, which will be held at various locations in the Student Union and the Communication Arts and Sciences Building on campus.
The day will also include a performance by UTPA French Theatre class students of the play "Paris-Panam," which will take place at 1 p.m. in the Student Union Theater. Filled with dances, songs and theatrical performances, non-French speakers will also be able to enjoy the story. The play is free and open to the public but donations to the "UTPA Friends for French Studies Fund" are welcome. Checks to the fund should include the account #2-11733 and be sent to UTPA Foundation, University Development Center ITT, Room 1210, 1201 West University Drive, Edinburg, TX 78541.
The cooperation between the University and local high schools in organizing such an event encourages the students’ enthusiasm for learning French and to think in terms of continuing their education as well as an opportunity for high school teachers of French to work with UTPA colleagues and to perhaps pursue the graduate-level French classes that are being developed at UTPA Behar said.
"Since UTPA is the only institution of higher learning in the Rio Grande Valley that offers a full range of French courses and a major in the subject, it is vital for UTPA to keep those contacts with local teachers strong," she said.
For more information, contact Behar at 956/381-2106 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.