Independent Minds, Working Together

College of Wooster Seniors Capture Top Honors at French Language Competition

Chris Hanson and Frances Flynn take first and second at annual event in Cleveland

April 20, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Seniors Chris Hanson and Frances Flynn carried on a College of Wooster tradition by capturing the top honors at the Concours de la Maison Française in Cleveland (a contest for college and university students of French in northeast Ohio) earlier this month. Hanson, a French major from Westlake, Ohio, won the $750 first prize, while Flynn, a French major from Holliston, Mass., won the $600 second prize.

Hanson, who spent the fall of his junior year studying abroad in Paris and returned in January of this year to continue conducting research for his Independent Study project (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed senior capstone experience), credits Wooster for helping him to build a strong foundation in the French language. “I was extremely fortunate to have the support of such a strong French department at Wooster,” he said. “Working with Professor (Carolyn) Durham on my senior I.S. project was an invaluable experience and has definitely strengthened my knowledge of French language and culture.” After graduation, Hanson plans to attend Université François Rabelais in Tours, France, before completing a master’s degree in French at Bowling Green State University.

Flynn, who studied abroad in Paris in the fall of 2010, also credits Wooster for her proficiency in French. “I have always been interested in French, but studying (the language) at Wooster has taken my interest to a new level,” she said. “Rather than focusing on mechanics, my courses at Wooster have taught me to think critically in French. They pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to try new things. My professors reignited my desire to progress in the language and motivated me to excel.” After graduation, Flynn plans to teach elementary school students, either in the U.S. or abroad.

Durham, the Inez K. Gaylord Professor of French at Wooster, said that she and her colleagues are very proud of this year's winners. " I had the great pleasure of directing both Chris's and Frances’s senior theses this year, and I am not surprised that after completing 80-100-page papers in French they were able to finish first and second in the competition,” she said. “Our students have done so well over such a long period of time that the French Department has begun to worry that undue pressure may be placed on each year's candidates, but that clearly was not the case with Chris and Frances. The Maison Française competition not only honors outstanding academic and linguistic achievement, but it also evaluates and challenges students by asking them to write a timed essay in French without prior knowledge of the subject and to hold an extemporized conversation with native speakers of French."

The Maison Française de Cleveland is an American non-profit organization in greater Cleveland that promotes Franco-American cultural activities, including French conversation. In order to compete in the Concours Annuel, students must be recommended by a member of the French faculty from the educational institution they attend. Each college or university may nominate up to two contestants for the competition. The annual event brings together students of French from colleges and universities throughout northeast Ohio. Contestants are judged on both oral and written expression by a panel of native French speakers.