Seniors Organize, Host State-Wide French Competition

annual French fall competition brings grammar, vocabulary and verbal test to Texas students


Photo Courtesy of Sandra Simmons

Two seniors coordinated the Le Concours du Texas competition in which students from across Texas joined together to test their French language skills at HPHS from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 2.

Le Concours du Texas is a competition for students in grades seven to 12 who are enrolled in a French language class and wish to test their knowledge in French grammar, vocabulary, culture and dictée- a translation of spoken text.

The competition was created by two senior girls at HPHS in 2016. At that time, there were only French competitions in the spring, so the girls put together a competition for the fall. Since then, two co-directors are chosen to organize the event each year. Seniors Ella Carroll and Nikita Nair are this year’s co-directors.

“[The girls] wanted something to show their French skills and talent during the fall, so they wouldn’t be unmotivated at the beginning of the year, and so they had something to look forward to,” Carroll said.

Other French competitions that are in the spring differ from this one because they require a high admission fee, and only a few schools are invited to participate.  

“[Other tests] are very heavily culturally based, but I feel like our test presents a very even ground for students to present their skills in French without having to worry if they fit into that particular group or culture,” Carroll said. 

French teacher Sandra Simmons is the adult sponsor for the French competition. She helps secure the date of the event and reserves the rooms they will use. Her main job, however, is to choose the two co-directors each year.

“I have to accompany the co-directors without actually doing the work myself because I have to get them to learn how to create a competition and contact people,” Simmons said. “I try to just encourage them and help them through different obstacles they might have.”

There were numerous jobs the co-directors had to take on to prepare for the event, many of which forced all-nighters on Carroll and Nair. The responsibilities ranged from communicating with different schools to getting things sorted out for the event. 

“It was a lot of stuff,” Carroll said. “We had been working on this competition, just getting everything set up, since the end of last school year, and we still aren’t done.”

Due to conflicting math and science competitions that some schools in Texas were participating in the same day as the French contest, the number of students was lower this year compared to others. 

“We had a lower turnout this year, but I know we still had over 100 kids from different schools that participated,” Carroll said.

Freshman Justine Choi started taking French in seventh grade to be able to communicate with people in West Africa when she goes to visit her cousins who live there. She participated in the competition last year and decided to try it again this year to see how much her French had improved. She ended up being awarded third place individually.

“I think that it is very beneficial to participate in competitions with other schools’ French students because I am motivated by the other people to do well for my school and I get to meet new people who have the same interest as me,” Choi said.

In Choi’s opinion, the grammar and vocabulary tests were pretty straight forward, but the dictée and culture parts weren’t as easy.

“All the tests were somewhat hard because French 2 – what I’m in – was combined with French 3,” Choi said. “I didn’t know the material well because it hasn’t been taught to us yet.”

On the day of, the co-directors, Simmons and additional volunteers spent most of their time running tests through the Scantron machines and grading by hand, as well as averaging and calculating final scores for the awards. Simmons oversaw the grading operation to make sure everything was fair. 

“I oversee all of the grading of the tests to make sure the tests are kept secure and help with the different volunteers,” Simmons said. “A big part is correcting the dictée which is all in French, so we have to correct all the spelling and grammar.”

Photo Courtesy of Sandra Simmons
The co-directors borrowed the teacher’s lounge for the event to grade tests.

At the end of the competition day, there was a ceremony where students received individual awards by level, and the top three schools with the highest average scores were revealed.

“If you get an award out of all the students who participated, that is a pretty big deal, and if your school wins, that might encourage other students to stay in French or join French or help encourage their love for the language and the culture around it,” Carroll said. 

Now, even though the competition is over, Carroll is putting together a “how-to” guide for next year’s co-directors. In addition, she is compiling student’s scores to send to the individual schools.

“Now that all the teachers want the scores, I’m having to go through and digitize every single individual score in a way, so it’s easy for the teachers to understand how their students did,” Carroll said.

Overall, the competition is a way for students from all across Texas to meet each other and bond over a language they enjoy. 

“It is really exciting to see the community come together to share their love of the French language,” Simmons said. “Hopefully the competition will last a long time.”