French students prepare for Texas French Symposium

Tehreem Shahab, Staff Writer

They gave her a picture. And she had to describe it in French. She was nervous; she was afraid she would say something wrong or miss something easy. It only took her a few minutes to say everything she had to, but she was still not satisfied.

The Texas French Symposium, taking place in Pasadena, Texas on April 5 and 6, consists of competitive events that include reciting poetry, performing dramatic solos, folk dancing, art and music. Based on the amount of French the competitor knows, the competition has six different levels of difficulty. Last year, junior Maria Muhammad’s French teacher at Jasper, Jane Shea, asked her to participate. Muhammad did a prose called “The Petite Prince”, performed a solo and participated in guided speaking, sight reading and Baccalaureate, which is a group trivia against other high schools.

“I think I did okay, but I never reached the finals,” Muhammad said. “I enjoyed the experience but I didn’t have as much practice as I have had this year. Now I practice a lot by meeting with my teacher in mornings or after school to work on my events.”

Muhammad previously participated in Fete Français which is a small competition that takes place between high schools centered around the Collin County area. She performed a dramatic scene with her group and placed second. Now she plans to perform “Page d’ectiture” by Jacques Prévert, a prose called “Le Petit Coq Noir” by Marcel Ayme and a dramatic scene from the play, “La Guerrero de Trois”. She will also participate in guided speaking, sight reading and Baccalaureate.

“My teacher tells me that when I’m practicing I have to practice with the same emotion as the real thing,” Muhammad said. “She listens to me practice and tells me what I’m doing wrong and right to make me better. I have listened to her before and started practicing with more emotion.”

Similarly, junior Shannon Mulvey is participating in the symposium. On March 2, 2013, she participated in the haute couture competition and designed a dress using only French designs and patterns. She placed first.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” Mulvey said. “I learned to kind of use my frustration and keep working to accomplish the end goal. I also want to go into theater later in life and I’m really into costume designing, so participating in haute couture was a good experience.”

For the symposium this year, Mulvey is memorizing two poems written by French poet Jacques Prévert. She is performing a group vocal named “Voir Sur Ton Chemin” which is French for “See your way,” and is singing a solo called “J’avais Rêvé D’une Autre Vie,” which is the French version of “I Dreamed a Dream,” from the musical “Les Miserables.” She is also submitting her drawing based on this year’s symposium’s theme, “Le Maghreb” or French Africa.

“I’ve learned from prior experience that I should never leave it until the last minute,” Mulvey said. “For haute couture I actually waited until the last week, although we were given months to finish our projects. Our teacher keeps telling us to work really hard and practice until we can basically do our lines in our sleep.”

French teacher Jody Lubbers believes time is precious and students should not waste it.

“The good thing about this year was that we started preparing early,” Lubbers said. “I always tell my students to just keep working, strive for accuracy and to come in and work with me or with their groups. I tell them to divide their tasks so they have a certain amount each week.”

According to Lubbers participating in the symposium is to her students’ advantage.

“It gives them a chance to get familiar with French,” Lubbers said. “They just build up on so many skills because as they prepare for things that are spoken their pronunciation improves, they gain more vocabulary knowledge and they earn many grammar points.”

Muhammad said that even though she is gaining learning experience from participating, she feels overwhelmed by the pressure.

“I have felt under pressure many times,” Muhammad said. “But I usually just take a break and remind myself that I can do this and meditate for a couple of minutes then get back to work.”

Lubbers thinks students have the tendency to panic under pressure if they leave their work till the last minute.

“I think it can get overwhelming mostly for the students who put it off,” Lubbers said. “You can’t memorize things like monologues at the very last minute, and when I’m judging my students on their events I can always tell if they haven’t prepared. I always tell students to work hard and break it down in bits and that kind of advice goes for everything in life.”