Ana-Maria Garniceanu has always believed that learning another language is important because it enables you to learn a part of a culture. In her case, having been born in Romania and immigrating to Canada as a baby with her family, acquiring French has allowed her to tap into part of her own family’s culture and Canadian culture.
“Romania is a francophone country — the capital, Bucharest, is known as Little Paris,” explains Ana-Maria, a third-year student at Dalhousie. “On my father’s side of the family, the French language was always appreciated, so an effort was made to pass it on to the next generation.”
These efforts on her part have recently been recognized and rewarded by the Alliance Française Halifax, a local chapter of an international organization dedicated to the promotion of French language and culture in more than 130 countries.
Throughout the year, the Department of French at Dalhousie collaborates with Alliance Française Halifax to promote and organize cultural, intellectual, and literary events — including the awarding of Excellence Prizes to local French language students each year as part of a March 20 ceremony marking the Journée Internationale de la Francophonie/International Francophonie Day. The prize recognizes students who have been successful in their studies and demonstrated a keen interest in the French language and cultures; students such as Ana-Maria, one of four award recipients from Atlantic Canadian universities for 2020.
While recipients are typically awarded their prize on the aforementioned date, the ceremony was postponed last year due to the pandemic, and so winners were announced in December instead.
As a recipient of the prize, Ana-Maria receives a one-year membership to Alliance Française Halifax, as well as a registration for the Diplôme d'Études en Langue Française (DELF).
Ana-Maria was also the recent winner of an Atlantic inter-university essay competition. Organized by Alliance Française Halifax, the Consulat général de France (Moncton) and the FrancoForum (Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon), the competition comes with a much-coveted prize: participation in a one-week language training program at the Francoforum, a French-language school, in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.
“Winning these awards mean a lot because I’ve been passionate about French for a long time now and I’ve always been fascinated with its culture and its language,” says Ana-Maria. She adds that it would be very exciting to get to travel to Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon this summer. “However, I’m patient and I’ll use this opportunity wisely when Covid-19 restrictions will allow it.”
Communication and connection
A Bachelor of Science student at Dalhousie double-majoring in Biochemistry and French, Ana-Maria has a goal to get into medical school.
“This double major combination allows me to develop my linguistic abilities in one of Canada’s official languages. Being able to communicate with others is essential, no matter what career I choose, and language is one of the most effective ways to communicate.”
Patricia Lee Men Chin, a University Teaching Fellow in Dalhousie’s Department of French, has taught Ana-Maria and praises her commitment to her studies.
“She is the typical science student who shares an equal passion for French and sciences,” says Dr. Lee Men Chin. “We are truly grateful for students like Ana-Maria who are passionate and curious about the language and the culture. Frankly, I have met very few students who are in love with French grammar as Ana-Maria is.”
Dr. Lee Men Chin notes that for the essay competition, the competitors were asked to submit an essay about what Francophonie meant to them. She says the jury members praised Ana-Maria’s essay for its quality, its originality and for the humour and emotions expressed.
“Indeed, Ana-Maria wrote a very personal essay about her connection with the French language and culture,” says Dr. Lee Men Chin. “Her essay was at the same time entertaining and emotionally engaging. In her own words, her Francophonie is an incoherent tale filled with eccentric neighbours, cartoon characters and little moments of happiness — all of which that granted her a sense of belonging to a community.”
Raymond Mopoho, chair of the Department of French adds, "My warmest congratulations to Ana-Maria. This is a well-deserved award in recognition not only of your brilliant academic performance, but also of your genuine commitment to the promotion of the ideals of Francophonie. The French Department as a whole is very proud of you!"
Ana-Maria notes that as secretary of Dalhousie’s French Society, she along with the other executives work together alongside their department faculty liaison to host fun events (this year, online) that all students can participate in, no matter their proficiency in the French language. Aside from speaking English and French fluently, she speaks Romanian and is studying Spanish in her limited free time.
“There are also health benefits to learning another language and it opens up future opportunities,” she says. “Speaking any additional language means more open doors, so why not open more doors for yourself?”
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