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French Club puts on multicultural holiday social

For the second year, the Weber State University French Club gathered for a holiday party that highlighted the traditions and religions of French-speaking regions all around the world.

The French Club held its event on Friday night in the Shepherd Union Building, Room 404. There are 55 countries that speak French either as a first or second language. French-speaking communities can be found in Africa, South America, Caribbean islands, the Les Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, New Caledonia off the coast of Australia, in Canada and even in the United States.

“We got together as a presidency and we thought that it might be good to display different cultures’ traditions for different holidays,” said Matthew Kite, the French Club president, “because there are different religions in different French-speaking nations.”

The event featured a performance by Ogden High School’s choir, as well as a magician, and presentations by various speakers who talked about the different religions and holiday traditions of the many different cultures in the French-speaking world. All the while, guests drank cider and nibbled on candy canes and various French pastries, including Buche de Noel.

French professor Cheryl Hansen said this was the focus of the club’s holiday event.

“People don’t realize how many French-speaking countries there are,” Hansen said. “And so we try to teach our students that French isn’t just spoken in France.”

Speakers included presentations about how Muslims and Jews in France celebrate the holidays. Kite said he felt it was especially important for Jewish traditions in France to be highlighted, such as sharing wine and other gifts with neighbors on Hanukkah.

“Christmas is so focused on,” he said. “But I think Hanukkah is a big tradition in France also and it should be highlighted.”

Hansen said she felt her students would take away from benefits from participating in the event, including becoming more open-minded and accepting of different traditions.

“They can practice their language, (and) they can also see how other people in the world live,” she said. “And I think it makes our students more acceptable to other ideas and other cultures if they can learn more about it. To just learn the language I don’t think is enough. I think they need to learn the culture and the different cultures where the language is spoken.”

French is one of three official languages of the European Union, the official language for the Olympic Games, and the official legal language in the world. Highlighting the importance of the French language, Hansen talked about the progress of several dual-immersion programs in Utah for French. Immersion programs are teaching methods in schools that involve teaching every subject in both English and a second language. Several different languages are used in Utah immersion programs, such as Chinese, Spanish and French.

“The French programs are growing at a very, very rapid pace,” she said. “And I can’t graduate enough students to teach dual immersion for our schools because they need French teachers now. So French is coming back. It’s alive and well.”

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