by Heather Fors

Snippets of French phrases rose above the laughter and chatter of about 750 students who gathered Thursday for a statewide language competition in Coffman Union.
Students from 25 Minnesota junior high and high schools spent time talking to walls, singing in costume and conversing on unplugged telephones at the all-day French speaking competition.
Students participated in theater, song, poetry and prose competitions.
“A Vous La Parole,” or “Your Turn to Talk,” has been an annual event since 1975. Organized by the American Association of Teachers, it takes place at various colleges throughout the state.
“It’s wonderful to see so many young people gathered in the same place with a common interest,” said Patricia Mougel, one of the judges at the competition. She is also the first-year coordinator of the University’s French program. “It’s a good way for the University to establish links with the schools.”
University language officials hope hosting such events will encourage students to consider their programs after graduation, Mougel said.
Unfortunately, the hope of connecting students through the common thread of language did not completely materialize.
Students from the Minnesota Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, Minn., said they had no real interaction with students from other schools. They said no one at the competition spoke French when they weren’t practicing for their competition.
“We don’t really relate. Our school is so different from all these other high schools,” said Travis Erickson, a senior at the arts high school. He said his school is much more liberal than the others in attendance.
But the conference provided an opportunity for some talented students to receive acknowledgement they normally wouldn’t.
“Some of these students aren’t necessarily students that are recognized at pep-fests,” said Ann Hedahl, a Hopkins High School French teacher.
Amid the hustle and bustle of practicing performers sat a small group of students playing cards. The students from the arts high school said the competition wasn’t worth stressing about. “It’s kind of just for fun,” Erickson said. This is why they weren’t practicing with one another.
“I kind of figured if I don’t have it down now I won’t have it down at all,” added Krissti Sinn, an arts high school junior and first-year French student. Sinn was excited about her poem for the competition — it was about a cat.