FREN 490: The French Language Today: Exploring French and Francophone Culture Through Linguistics

One of the key goals of the College of Charleston’s academic mission is to provide students with the global and interdisciplinary perspectives needed to address 21st century issues. Additionally, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has ranked CofC as the No. 5 institution in the United States among the Top 40 master’s-level colleges and universities for the total number of study-abroad participants. With study abroad being severely restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, this project will use collaborative online international learning (COIL) / virtual exchanges to fill a void that might be caused in regard to this aspect of the College’s mission.

This particular project is also aligned with an element of the strategic plan that was just recently unveiled by the College’s new president, Andrew Hsu. Specifically, part of the strategic plan towards academic distinction calls to “increase and enhance global experiential learning opportunities and incentivize broad participation.” Even irrespective of what is going on with the pandemic, providing cost-effective options to study abroad can help increase participation, which might be accomplished by conducting this particular project. As has been illustrated by Generation Study Abroad and other similar initiatives, it is important to mobilize increase and diversify the number of U.S. students who have the opportunity to study abroad, which this project hopes to do.

Specifically, this project will use a variety of virtual exchanges to provide a kind of “virtual study abroad experience” to undergraduates enrolled in an advanced French content course (French 490) at the College of Charleston (CofC) in Charleston, South Carolina as well as university students studying English at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CLA) in Besançon, France.

The first part of the exchange entails a series of virtual presentations given by scholars at the CLA to enhance the academic component of French 490 at CofC. These virtual presentations are already supported thanks to funds generously provided by the Global Education Initiative/Global Leadership Institute housed within the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs at CofC.

The second part of the virtual exchange is still a work in progress and would greatly benefit from support from the “Transitioning to Virtual Exchange Covid-19 Relief Fund.” In order to foster opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue on a more individualized level, the French 490 students at CofC will also participate regularly in tandems linguistiques with students studying English at the CLA. The development phase of this project will expand on these tandems linguistiques so that students complete “mini-projects” similar to what they would do if they were studying abroad. For example, a mini-project expectation might be that students “visit” a monument or a tourist site in Besançon or Charleston or attend a local event in one of the two cities (respecting COVID-19 social distancing policies at all times, of course).

In some ways, these expanded tandems linguistiques might simulate the “homestay” or “extracurricular” component that would be part of a traditional study abroad program. In other words, students studying French at CofC and those studying English at the CLA will have their regular academic instruction in the “classroom” (whether that’s online or face-to-face) and it will be via the tandems linguistics that they can explore the culture “outside of the classroom” and on their own time. And just as opportunities for individualized exploration outside of the classroom are often supported in some way by traditional study abroad programs, that is precisely what will be done with the funding to support these virtual exchanges.

 

Participating actors:

Margaret Keneman, Project Leader and Coordinator at CofC, 50 hours total (5 hrs. / wk.)

Florian Chapey, Coordinator at the CLA, 20 hours total (approx. 2 hrs. / week)

Sébastien Touchard, Technical Support at the CLA, 30 hours total (approx. 3 hrs. / week)

Assistant to Margaret Keneman (TBD), 30 hours total (approx. 3 hrs. / wk.)

Technical support at CofC (TBD) 20 hours total (approx. 2 hrs. / wk.)

 

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