‘Chez les Napoléons’ brings French culture, language to Tri-Cities

By Kellen MacGregor

“Chez les Napoléons,” the Delta College French Club’s official moniker, means “house of the Napoleons,” which perfectly summarizes the French Club’s recent endeavors in and out of Delta.

Founded seven years ago, “Chez les Napoléons” has adhered to its values through its soirées, philanthropy and education of the French language and culture. Such values include the preservation, spreading and appreciation of the Francophonie, which collectively live up to its Napoleonic title.

Current board members of the French Club include:

– President: Alyssa Shaughnessy

– Vice President: Abbey Kuhns

– CAB Representative: Taylor Simpson

Typical club meetings, which occur every last Wednesday of the month from 4 to 5 p.m., require no prior French experience and are open to the public. French-related games, film screenings, music appreciation and book readings are often the center of meetings, with pupils from all proficiency levels assisting the novice French learners.

The French Club’s adviser, adjunct instructor Ann De Corte, has been teaching for 28 years. Originally from Waregem, Belgium, De Corte began to teach French at middle and high schools in Ghent and Brussels, then at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University, where she presently teaches.

“My vision is to passionately enrich my students in the French language and culture by leveraging my European heritage,” shared De Corte. “Coming from Belgium, where multilingualism is the norm, I felt a great need to stimulate my American students in using their knowledge and power of a second language.”

“Chez les Napoléons” has partaken in several outings in the past under Ann De Corte’s advising. In May of 2015 De Corte organized a trip to Montreal with Delta’s French Club and SVSU’s Alpha Mu Gamma chapter. Recently, De Corte has taken students to the Detroit Institute of Arts to explore francophone art firsthand, which has proven itself entertaining and educational each time.

For the club’s community service projects, bake sales, donations to local homeless shelters and French education sessions have allowed club members to give back to the community by using their French skills beyond the classroom.

Friday, Nov. 10, the club taught a French course to fifth-graders at McAlear-Sawden Elementary School for the third time. Though this was the third time the club has taught at McAlear-Sawden, “Chez les Napoléons” has taught French a total of eight times at local elementary and high schools, such as Herbert Henry Dow and Midland High Schools.

“It made me incredibly happy to have taught fifth-graders French,” said Club President Alyssa Shaughnessy. “The kids were open to learning and made teaching enjoyable. I’m glad to have been able to spread the French culture and language to such open-minded youngsters.”

During this particular teaching opportunity, students ranging from beginner to intermediate levels joined together to create and play French-learning games with the children. With such a diverse group of French knowledge, the young teachers not only taught the fifth-graders, but also each other. In fact, half of the teachers were dual-enrolled high school students in their first year of French.

“In a way, I was also refreshing my French while teaching the students,” said Club Vice President and dual-enrollee Abbey Kuhns. “It’s a great thing when students learn by teaching each other.”

All who participated in the McAlear-Sawden instruction session, including their French levels, are as follows: Lauren Hutter (FR 112), Alyssa Shaughnessy (FR 211), Noah Gerhardt (FR 211), Abbey Kuhns (FR 211), Nathanael Michon (FR 111), Jess McQuinn (FR 111) and Taylor Simpson (FR 111).

“Watching young adults interact in a foreign language with 10-year-olds is one of the greatest joys in my life,” shared De Corte. “I couldn’t be prouder of my students who are true leaders and will be great advocates for a multicultural society.”

For more information about “Chez les Napoléons,” future club meetings or enrolling in a French course, visit the club’s Facebook page “Chez les Napoléons” or email [email protected]

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