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Poetry contest spotlights French language and culture

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Written by: Montha ThachMarch 17, 2017

The IPFW Department of International Language and Culture Studies will host its annual French poetry contest, Concours de Recitation de Poesie Francaise at 6 p.m. March 20 in Rhinehart Recital Hall.

During the contest, participants will recite a French poem of their choosing from memory. The poems have to be at least 10 lines long, said Nancy Virtue, French professor and one of the coordinators of the event.

Before the contest, the competitors will be divided into five categories based on their skill level, Virtue said.

Concours de Recitation de Poesie Francaise is a wonderful cultural experience, Virtue said. She likes to encourage students to participate because she thinks it is a good confidence booster and a great exercise in performance and pronunciation.

“I think there is some real value in having to memorize in general, but also to memorize poetry,” Virtue said. “It helps you internalize the meaning of the poem — the beauty of the poem — in a way that normally you wouldn’t.”

Hallie Nowak, a sophomore English student, competed in Concours de Recitation de Poesie Francaise last year simply for extra credit. Yet, she ended up gaining more from the experience than she expected to, such as a boost in her public speaking skills and in her appreciation for the French language, she said.

In last year’s contest, Nowak won two awards, one of which was for reciting an original French poem.

“Everyone did such a good job and even when people messed up it wasn’t awkward or bad,” Nowak said. “It was just a really encouraging environment.”

Reciting French poetry is difficult, said Laurie Corbin, French professor and another coordinator of the contest.

Students often leave Concours de Recitation de Poesie Francaise with a sense of accomplishment and pride. They are often eager to return to the even in the following years, Corbin said.

Corbin said she likes the way students often personalize the poems they bring in.

“There’s a lot of diversity in this community,” Corbin said with a smile. “But where do you see events where people are standing up and using another language other than their native language to say something beautiful?”

Concours de Recitation de Poesie Francaise is free and open to the public, Corbin said.