Carlmont takes a break from the National French Contest

Students+participated+in+the+National+French+Contest+remotely+in+2020.+This+year%2C+however%2C+Carlmont+decided+not+to+participate.

Rebecca Von Tersch

Students participated in the National French Contest remotely in 2020. This year, however, Carlmont decided not to participate.

Carlmont will not be participating in the National French Contest (NFC) this year due to distance learning challenges. 

Last year, students taking French participated in the contest virtually. It was administered over Zoom, and students accessed the website under supervision by their teachers. 

For 20 years, Carlmont has participated in the NFC. This is the first time that Carlmont will not be administering the contest. 

“COVID-19 has placed a lot of unexpected demands on everyone.  Moving to distance learning a year ago, literally overnight, forced the entire school community to learn new ways to support students both academically and emotionally,” said Katya Burton, one of Carlmont’s two French teachers. 

The hurdles of distance learning pushed teachers to condense their curriculum since classes were held only twice a week. Carlmont’s language department faced the same challenges. 

“[Condensing the curriculum] took — and still requires — an enormous amount of collaboration and planning time, curriculum adaptation, and ongoing technical learning in order to be successful,” Burton said. 

Students have been able to participate in years past. Anyone who entered the French program last year had a different experience with the NFC than most since their first introduction to the contest was virtual. Leena Wang, a sophomore in French 3 Honors, took the contest for the first time last year. 

“I feel like the NFC wasn’t as interesting as I had expected. I feel pretty neutral on whether or not we would have it this year,” Wang said. 

The contest itself is an hour-long test meant to challenge students and test how much they learned over the year. Based on their scores, students can win different levels of prizes

According to the contest’s website, students in grades 1-12 “in all 50 states and abroad take a written test and compete against students with similar educational background.” There are multiple versions of the contest, split between grades and level of mastery. 

In past years, Carlmont placed a lot of importance on the test.  Teachers set aside time to prepare for the contest, especially in the weeks leading up to it. 

“The World Languages program at Carlmont has a tradition of offering the best instructional and extracurricular opportunities possible to our students. The National French Contest is part of that tradition… We built time into our curriculum to prepare our students for the contest, in which many have excelled,” Burton said.

Since distance learning brought challenges with last year’s contest, Carlmont has decided to forgo administering it this year. 

“Keeping in mind that the NFC is an entirely voluntary program, separate from Carlmont’s language curriculum and not tied to students’ grades, and given our reduced instructional hours, it made sense this year for the French program to focus our energies on teaching and reinforcing language skills,” Burton said. 

Every year, students show high levels of achievement on the test. The contest has been used as a resource to help mark progress as students learn. 

“The contest was a great tool to see how my French was developing and what I retained. However, [taking the test] was a bit nerve-wracking,” said Erica Tam, a sophomore in French 2. 

The contest was a great tool to see how my French was developing and what I retained. However, [taking the test] was a bit nerve-wracking,”

— Erica Tam, sophomore.

Wang said she felt prepared for the test and did not face many challenges, even with distance learning struggles. Other students shared this sentiment.

“The most challenging part of the contest was narrowing down what I needed to prepare for. We have learned a lot over the course of the school year, so it was unclear what my main focus should have been,” Tam said. 

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Burton hopes that the contest can be held next year and that students will continue to perform well. 

“I have mixed emotions on the cancelation of the contest this year. It was overall a useful experience, and I would definitely participate in it again,” Tam said.

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