Sonoma State University

Language Festival



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Invitation | General Information
Concours de diction française
Poésie personnelle
| Scènes de groupe |
Cabaret |
Advice from a veteran
| Sponsors

Letter of Invitation

The French faculty of Sonoma State University, Professors Christine Renaudin and Suzanne Toczyski, have the honor of inviting you to the 6th annual Sonoma State University Language Festival, which will take place on Friday, April 18, 2008, from 10am to 3:30pm in the Cooperage on the campus of the university. As you may already know, this event, which brings high school students of French, German and Spanish, their parents and teachers together with the SSU language community, includes morning language contests, followed by an entertaining Cabaret in the afternoon. There will also be an opportunity for your students to showcase some of the other work they are doing in class, either by reading a poem they have written themselves, or by showing a brief videotape of a class skit or other dramatic project. Teachers are also invited to participate in this part of the morning by reading their own favorite poems in French. Mark your calendars and begin planning for the Festival by preparing your students for all of these exciting events!

The French Program's Concours de diction française will begin at 10am. Please recommend that students who choose not to compete in the formal concours consider reading a poem in the less formal "share-your-work" portion of the program, as a "practice" before next year's competition. Prizes for the Concours, generously provided by local francophile individuals and organizations (see below), will be awarded at the end of the morning session, before the brown-bag (bring-your-own) lunch. The Cabaret, which involves all languages, will follow the morning's contest activities and brown-bag lunch, with musical events sure to entertain. Bay Area students of all levels of French are invited to demonstrate their skills in one or both of the Concours, the poetry-sharing or video-sharing sessions, or the Cabaret, or all of these. We anticipate participation by Sonoma State students and faculty as well.

Please note that pictures will be taken throughout the day. If you do not want your picture to appear on the SSU website, please send us a request in writing. Thank you.

Our judges this year will be:

  • Yvette Fallandy, Emerita Faculty, SSU
  • Anne Prah-Pérochon, Alliance Française de Santa Rosa
  • Finaritra Ramialison, French Consulate

We look forward to welcoming you and your students at the Concours and the Language Festival Cabaret!


General Festival Information

Fees: As with last year's event, there will be a small fee of $5 per candidate for the diction competition. This fee covers participation in the morning competition and attendance to the afternoon Cabaret for the candidate and one guest. Other guests will be charged $3 at the door for the cabaret. This fee is waived for teachers and anyone performing in the Cabaret.

Registration for language contests: Any teacher whose students are interested in participating in the Concours should contact Suzanne Toczyski at, or at 707.664.4177 as soon as possible. If possible, we also ask that participants send a signed, computer-generated roster verifying the level of the students in question to Suzanne in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928-3609.

Cabaret Proposal Form: Any teacher or student interested in proposing a Language Festival Cabaret number should contact Suzanne Toczyski at by early February.


Morning Activity #1: Concours de diction française

Format: The Concours will follow our now traditional format: each student will prepare one poem from a pre-selected group according to his or her level.


Choice of texts: This year, we have decided to feature autobiographical poetry!

Prizes: Note that prizes will be awarded to winners of the diction contest ; in addition, all students who participate in the morning activities will receive a certificate of participation.

Texts for beginning students:

Texts for advanced students:

Suggestions for preparing students to participate in reading contests:

  • Make it part of the curriculum: choose poems from the list to include in your semester program;
  • Model the reading for them, paying attention all the items listed in the rubric;
  • Analyze the texts carefully so they have a good understanding of what they will be reading;
  • Give extra credit to students willing to participate in the contest, whatever they level of success;
  • Remind them that it looks good on college and scholarship applications;
  • Make sure they pick a text that matches their proficiency;
  • Have them practice in groups and individually;
  • Organize a mock contest in the classroom or, if you can, in the school auditorium;
  • Have students take turns judging each other's performances;
  • Make sure that the whole school is aware of your competition and that you get the same publicity and recognition that school athletes get for extramural games (make it part of the morning annoucement);

Judging criteria: Students will be judged individually and exclusively on criteria of diction, clarity and expression.

    • voyelles
    • voyelles nasales
    • e muet
    • semi-voyelles
    • consonnes
    • R
    • liaisons
    • son final
    • enchainement
    • intonation
    • volume
    • contact visuel
    • gestes
    • presence
    • comprehension du texte
    • versification
    • creativite



    Morning Activity #2: La poésie personnelle

As was the case last year, students will also have the opportunity to showcase their work in the classroom in two more non-competitive events. We have called the first of these, "la poésie personnelle," and we encourage students who have written their own poetic compositions in French to share them with us by reading or performing them in front of the festival audience. Students who hesitate to share their own work might also choose to share a favorite poems. Teachers are strongly encouraged to particpate in this segment of the program as well, thereby providing a strong model for their students!


    • Morning Activity #3: Les scènes de groupe

Also, as was the case last year, students are also invited to prepare in advance videoclips (on videocassette or dvd) of a skit they have worked on in class. Skits are part of virtually every language classroom, and our students frequently do truly remarkable work. Have them put those creative juices to work and prepare an amusing sketch to show off their French learning. We know there are fine actors out there who are just longing for a chance to perform in this fashion! Please note that (1) pre-recorded pieces are limited to THREE MINUTES in length; (2) it is imperative that you inform us of advance of your technology needs so that we can plan accordingly and/or advise as to the best form in which to bring these presentations with you.



We are very pleased to augment our traditional Concours with an exciting multilingual Cabaret event, which gives the different language communities of the Bay Area an opportunity to stage a multitude of creative performances in various languages. Once again, we are hoping to attract both students and faculty who can perform as musicians, dancers, etc. If you and your students would like to be represented in this part of the Language Festival, please contact Suzanne Toczyski by February 15, 2008. Proposals will be evaluated by the SSU Language Clubs who are organizing the cabaret, and candidates will be informed as soon as possible thereafter, if they have been selected to perform. We welcome participation by students of all language levels of language and performance.

A note about performing: We encourage you to present a piece that fits well into a cabaret. We are looking for performances that are lively and that members of the audience who do not understand the language you use will enjoy watching, too. Please consider songs, dances, traditional cabaret numbers, or other kinds of performances that are fun, clearly acted out, and full of energy. We want to see you enjoy your performance! Please note that performances should not exceed 5 minutes in length.

Ideas on how to get your students interested in developing a cabaret proposal and performing:

  • Start with what your students know: do they sing, dance, play music, etc. ?
  • Make sure they get credit for it: extra credit, or make it part of a semester project.
  • AP or literature students could stage a text they've been working on
  • Beginning students could sing simple songs
  • Any students, or a heterogenous group could put together a trivia contest in the target language
  • Lip sync or karaoke could be a fun exercise for diction and a fun thing to watch
  • For any of the above, remember to:
    • Practice using a mike;
    • Face the audience or learn how to cheat;
    • Know your upstage from your downstage;
    • Project, or use a mike;
    • Ask about your venue (stage, floor covering, etc.);
    • Bring your props if you have any;
    • Think costumes, easy ideas can go far;
    • Think make-up;
    • Have fun!
  • Have participants fill out a proposal form;
  • Read them out;
  • Have them evaluate them and look for pitfalls.


Advice from a Veteran Participant

Greetings all!

My name is Sarah Wadsworth, and I am the department chairperson of Foreign Languages at Petaluma High School where I have also taught French (as well as English and Drama earlier in my career) for the past nineteen years. Having been a teacher participant in the Concours since its "birth", I thought it high time that I share my experiences with other teachers in Sonoma County who might not yet have decided if such a diction and pronunciation contest was a good activity for their students. I asked both Suzanne and Christine if they would allow me to write an explanation of my process for students at PHS. I hope my ideas and methods will convince you to participate in this event on a yearly basis. The work is minimal and the reward is great. Isn't that really the combination we are all looking for with language students!

First, let me assure you that the time taken with this exercise is a wonderfully valuable one for everyone concerned. Most importantly, your students will get a fantastic sense of achievement in what they accomplish. Often, it is the catalyst which finally brings a student full circle away from embarrassed, nervous communication in French. Once they see they can actually manage such an accomplishment as memorizing and reciting/performing a French piece of poetry, the sky suddenly seems to be the limit.

A Timeline Approach

Eight weeks before the competition's date (this year March 18, 2004), I copy off the poetry packets which can be downloaded from the Internet. In each one of my classes (and I teach French One all the way through French Five Advanced Placement), I take about fifteen minutes to describe the competition's format, the subject matter of the poems, our rehearsal time frame and the like. I generally read certain stanzas out loud to students so they can get a general image of what they might be doing for others. I also explain that participation will be linked to required semester Culture Point projects* and thus explain to all students that participation will actually earn them credit. I explain that this credit is not only in the form of a grade in my class, but also makes for an excellent resume booster for all of my students who plan to apply to competitive universities.

(Note: *Culture Point Projects are presented with an expansive packet of ideas and guidelines. If you'd like a copy of this, please let me know via e-mail; again I'm happy to be of service.)

Two weeks later, approximately 12-15 students usually come to my room at lunch to audition for the limited spaces available at each level. They do not need to have memorized the poem, but they must be familiar with the words, their correct pronunciation, and the poem's overall meaning. I am looking at something which is largely unrehearsed and unprepared, but I'm also looking for the student who clearly has put thought into how he/she will interpret and present the poem. Usually, I have at least two of my Alliance Francaise (French Club) officers who join me as judges. Together, we come up with the two candidates at each level.

Rehearsals should then begin about two weeks after the selection has been made. Why such a gap? Students must come memorized to the first rehearsal. I am adamant about this step and feel that (like many a French student in France would attest) the process and language success that comes from memorized poetry has always been an empowering experience for the performer/ language student. Once memorized, all rehearsal time can now be spent on rhythm, on accent, on meaning, on treating French as a musical achievement! I urge you to require memorization.

Rehearsals are at lunch (or can be during a tutorial period if you have one) and are generally about 4-6 weeks in length. Most participants meet with me about six times each. You'll see that does not take up too many lunches when you rehearse two people each lunch. What you'll probably find is that you will need to take two lunches a week for these six weeks. It's a very enjoyable experience for everyone. Students, remember, are getting credit for their time. I break these rehearsal days up by language level. I ask that both participants agree to sit and watch while I work with one of them at a time. I find that even though they may not be doing the same poem (and I try to persuade them not to do the same work), each student gets a lot of guidance and concept from just watching and listening.

Voila, our day arrives; the Concours always goes very well for everyone involved. I'm proud of my contestants and more than anything, I've gained an awful lot more than just a Saturday at Sonoma State! Teaching becomes goal-oriented and reality-based. Bravo to all of us who can make our teaching work to this end.

Beyond the Diction Concours, SSU has added an afternoon Cabaret of performances. At my school, I do not focus on rehearsal of students who choose to perform at the afternoon session. However, I do typically have two to three performers. They present their selection choice to me; generally their choices come from an area outside of school (i.e.: opera singing, piano recital, tap dance etc.). If the piece seems reasonably polished, I leave them to their own devices on preparation. You should take your own cue from what is presented to you.

I look forward to seeing new faces this year. I'd be more than happy to help you with any specific questions you might have. Please feel free to use my contact e-mail.

Sarah WADSWORTH, Petaluma High School, E-mail:



The SPONSORS for the French portion of the Language Festival (including both Concours and the Language Festival) are:

We thank them all for their generous support of this grand occasion!

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Page last updated: March 10, 2007