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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

French at Colgate: A Program of Community and Connection

Printed with permission of Clementina Aboagye

The French program at Colgate University may not be the most popular, but it plays an important role: building a community and fostering an environment where students become confident communicators. Junior Clementina Aboagye, an International Relations concentrator and French minor, spoke to the often overlooked value of the program. 

“I’ve been taking French since my freshman year of high school and I’ve always enjoyed it,” Aboagye explained. “I have kind of a love/hate relationship with [French] because it’s so difficult. I stay with it because I have a personal connection to French and in the future I see myself doing humanitarian work, especially in western Africa where a lot of countries that were colonized speak French. I find that in order to do that work and do it well it’s important that I know French so I can communicate with those communities. That’s the biggest reason why I’ve studied French throughout high school and continue to study it at Colgate.” 

French and other languages’ critical role in communicating and working effectively cannot be understated. Aboagye, who plans to work in international law, emphasized language’s importance in her future endeavors.

“Languages are a pivotal aspect of being able to bond with people,” Aboagye said. “In order for communities to trust you and give you work as an attorney, language can’t be a barrier. A translator can only do so much; you need fluency.”

Aboagye’s passion for the language is, in part, fueled by the program offered by Colgate University. The program first emphasizes learning the language and later turns to studying French and Francophone literature in small, seminar-style classes. 

Hélène Julien, professor of French and Women’s Studies and chair of the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, explained the philosophy behind Colgate’s French program.

“Engagement with literature in the classroom is a dialogue. It isn’t just a dialogue with the literature but between the various people in the class and their interpretations,” Julien said. 

Many French students, like Aboagye, also have the opportunity to go abroad to French speaking countries and further develop their ability to communicate and connect with the world.

“I am studying abroad next semester in Geneva, Switzerland,” Aboagye said. “That’ll give me the opportunity to learn about culture and speak French in a French speaking country. I’ll also have the opportunity to go to France and become even more fluent and gain more cultural diversity that I think will help me become better with the language.”

While many non-language majors are also able to study abroad, few students have the opportunity to constantly experience what they are studying in every interaction and encounter they have. French majors who study abroad are constantly living and learning both culture and language.

“When students study abroad, the most important thing is that they lose their apprehension. They don’t have to think about what they say before they say it. Being abroad, students’ minds are always stretching and learning,” Julien said. 

Every day, we connect to others through language. It gives us the ability to relate to others and share our stories. The Colgate French Program and Aboagye exemplify this. Classes are all about creating a dialogue, one that inspires the passion in students like Aboagye who will go on to use French to connect with others.

“There is a preciousness in interacting with people,” Julien said. “This is deeply connected to our classroom experience and the community we build in the French program.”

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